SMILES ON WASHINGTON SQUARE by Raymond Federman

SMILES ON WASHINGTON SQUARE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In his fifth novel in English, Federman (The Twofold Vibration, 1982) gives us an example of that anomalous genre, the ""experimental"" narrative that has become routine, much like a magician's tricks, once remarkable, now old hat. In an effort to derive energy from his rather insubstantial narrative, Federman talks often to his readers, reminding them that life and fiction are different. His two lovers, the young ne'er-do-well Frenchman Moinous and the American Sucette, have a story that ""should be told, one way or another."" Just how, though, remains a question. They first bump into one another (literally) at an anti-HUAC rally in Washington Square (the book is set in the 1950's), where, instead of speaking, they merely exchange smiles. But they meet again, ""at the Librairie Francaise, in Rockefeller Center."" Or do they: ""It is probably there, since it is destined, that one afternoon, let's say two weeks after the mutual exchange of smiles, Moinous and Sucette will meet again."" And yet even then, things aren't all that certain. It turns out that Sucette is writing a short story (she's taking a writing course at Columbia University), and in the story she includes a young Frenchman whom she names Moinous (""moi"" plus ""nous,"" a name, she tells him later, that enables her ""to have a sense of togetherness with you""). Well, does it all work out? Yes and no. They have plenty of sex, but not until 42 days have passed, that being the time it takes Sucette (her name means lollipop in French) to finish her story (or to ""create"" Moinous?). And even then? At book's end: ""But even if Moinous & Sucette were to meet again, at the Librairie Francaise. . . It is quite probable that things would not work out for them in the long run. Or at least not for Moinous, whose luck always runs out too soon."" A story, then, that both happens and doesn't happen, and does so at the same time (see this hat? see this rabbit?). With its share of bawdy satire of things repressed and things American (especially when Sucette takes Moinous to meet her arch, snobbish family), and with some pleasant flavor of the city streets, the novel remains at best a minor curiosity for the literary-minded, and curiously dated.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1985
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth--dist. by Persea