EMPATHY by Sarah Schulman


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 The hyper-observant, gritty-honest voice that characterizes all of Schulman's lesbian protagonists (People in Trouble, 1989; After Delores, 1988) is now cooler, steadier, and more refined- -here, ``Anna O.'' meets ``Doc,'' post-Freudian analyst to the denizens of the doomed Lower East Side, and she finds love and a measure of peace in the process. Jilted by a woman in white leather, and adrift in a world that rejects psychoanalysis, Marxism, all the good Jewish intellectual skills, Anna O. turns to Doc--a short, slightly pudgy Jewish guy who looks amazingly like Anna as a man. Funny about that. Anna is instantly helped by Doc even if he does live in a ``basic'' East Village apartment with no TV and barely any electricity because- -observing this benign, slightly potbellied male--Anna feels liberated from two lifelong fears: ``I feared being told `You want to be a man,' and I feared being told `You hate men.' '' Doc tells Anna that she's empathy-less, that she suffers above all from an almost extinct ability to listen and care about other people's feelings--even the treacherous feelings of the woman in white. Anna confesses that in her whole long bumpy ride as a lesbian she's always been involved with ambivalent bisexuals or wannabe- straights. Finally, however, thanks to Doc, Anna has one last stormy scene with ``white leather'' and breaks through to a new level of self-acceptance--and to a brand-new love. Schulman, as always, peppers her novel with some wonderful raw insights straight from the edge of the world on the Lower East Side. But such a smart, uncompromising protagonist as Anna deserves a little dramatic momentum and a stronger plot.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-525-93521-5
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1992


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