AFTER SHE LEFT by Richard P. Brickner


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Brickner follows his opera-as-life-style Tickets (1981) with an artful re-creation of 50's New York in the person of one haute bourgeois, smart, screwed-up girl, Emily Weil, and her boundless capacity to see her own life as a theatrical second act to a one-act play. Daughter of a Park Avenue stockbroker and a mother who died in Shanghai in the 30's (trying to help out Jewish refugees from Hitler), Emily is glamour-infused, holding in her secret heart of hearts the terrible wound but aching mystery of her mother's death as well as a yearning for significance that's never really satisfied. No Marjorie Morningstar, though, Emily seeks in men an objectified changelessness, the kind of special zone only a Broadway play offered her in adolescence. Not surprisingly, no man measures up--not a genius young composer and pianist, not a college-friend librettist, and finally, most wrenchingly, not husband Steve Farkas, heir to his father's toy business who eventually throws it over to go to medical school. At which point Emily throws him over--the change in Steve's perception of himself being just too threatening. Though Brickner writes a few fine scenes (most concentrated into what resemble stage-dialogues)--Emily's disillusionment with an idiot actor in summer stock; her funny, sympathetic first appointment with a mensch of a psychiatrist--the central impression is of Emily's spoiled, self-pitying need. All reaction, she's a born audience of one--with promise in her soul never translated into action that's anything but whiny. Brickner seems to want us to identify with her passive self-destruction, too, her peevishness that people's lives are not as goldenly fixed as magical nights on a Broadway aide. He's made her (and the book), however, finally mostly a trial of our patience.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Publisher: Henry Holt