CLOSE RELATIONS by Susan Isaacs
Kirkus Star

CLOSE RELATIONS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the uneven Compromising Positions (1978), Isaacs combined breezy suburban satire, a so-so murder mystery, and the dubious sexual awakening of a not-very-convincing heroine. Here the satire is even better (outer N.Y.C. instead of Long Island), there's political campaigning instead of murder (an improvement). . . but again the fly in the ointment is Isaacs' half-unlikable, never-quite-credible narrator-heroine. This time she's 35-year-old Marcia Green, speechwriter for a N.Y.C. official who runs for governor when the campaigning incumbent chokes on a knish and dies. (The Heimlich maneuver fails because the gov is wearing a corset.) Marcia, long-divorced from doctor-husband Barry (""We were two very bright people who loved to fuck. We certainly never fucked to love""), has gone through a period of reckless promiscuity and now is living with epically handsome, Irish, 47-year-old campaign-manager Jerry--who has no intentions of marrying her. Which is fine with Marcia, who seems to be living her life chiefly in reaction against the conformist demands of her Jewish close relations: unloving widow-mother Hilda, rich Aunt Estelle, and blissfully married Cousin Barbara. So this is bound to be a rocky relationship--especially when Jerry's position on the campaign is threatened by the arrival of slimy politico Lyle LoBello (from the late gov's staff), a former Marcia bedmate; selfish Jerry, bedridden with back trouble, insists that Marcia choose sides. Then--enter Prince Charming: rich, suave David Hoffman (nephew of a primary-campaign rival of Marcia's candidate), who's kind and gentle and Jewish and has ""the biggest penis in the world."" Will Marcia let herself accept this ideal man even though he happens to be the man her nagging family has always dreamed of? This is a neat formulation, perhaps. But in fleshing it out, Isaacs has made Marcia too much a neurotic clinical case, too much a patchwork of trendy preoccupations: there are definitely problems with a light comedy like this when a) you get the feeling that Marcia wouldn't go for David if he didn't have ""the biggest penis in the world,"" and b) you think he's much too good for her anyway. Still--Isaacs' presentation of the world of ""northern Queens chic"" is superb, frequently hilarious, complete with gross matchmakings and emotional blackmail and wild prejudices (Aunt Estelle on Irish boyfriend Jerry: ""He could wander off to a bar and grill one night and never come back""). And the political hijinks, though milder stuff, are also engaging. A lively diversion, then, that only goes astray when trying to take on psychological weight.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1980
ISBN: 0061735310
Publisher: Lippincott & Crowell