UPSTATE by Sallie Bingham


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 Bingham's blistering, high-voltage portrait of a woman tantruming through a life-crisis-within-sexual-obsession lacks the icy control of the shrewd Small Victories (1992), but, still, her latest has a wayward fascination. The story begins at the clean-out auction of all the furnishings in Ann's upstate New York home, where she lived until five months ago with husband David and their three children. Now, divorce is in the works, and Ann is plotting for psychic space, planning this auction in order to rid herself of everything--even the children's possessions, except for one chosen item, must go- -that suggests dependency. There is a sickness in dependency and connection, and Ann (who narrates) declares, ``My roots have filled all the available space.'' Husband David, polite, decent and kind, is also slippery as an eel; he had offered accommodating sex but withheld his money. Meanwhile, Ann, change-hungry, savors an obsession. For some time she has been having an affair with neighbor Edwin--``the only man in the world who exists independently of my love and attention''--who earlier announced, ``No marriage. No divorce,'' as they'd settled down to their first earthshaker in a meadow. Edwin is married to Flora, an imposing, powerful housewife and mother and a friend to Ann. Yet Ann is desperate to be more than just a sex interlude. (Flora has told Ann that Edwin has affairs when he's ``bored.'') In the present, as the auction winds down, Ann gets the inevitable message from Edwin--and makes a (literally) flaming retort. Bingham's canny, acidulous portraiture gives point and clarity to what could have been (and comes dangerously close to being) a highly risible view of an odd lady--part Boadicea, part loon- -booming after her randy Heathcliff. Disappointing, in the light of Bingham's other work, but diverting.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-877946-33-8
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993


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