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 It's easy to see why Stefan became a German feminist icon after the 1975 publication of the novella ``Shedding,'' and equally easy to see why her influence has waned with stories like those collected under the title ``Literally Dreaming.'' ``Shedding'' paints an intimate portrait of a woman learning to exist without men. That idea must have seemed shocking at its inception, and even today the fluid prose exerts a strong pull through its laid-back, unnamed, first-person narrator. She outlines her sex life, beginning with a painful ``first time,'' but is primarily concerned with what women do and how they act when they no longer need to serve as emotional intermediaries for men. Eventually, a loving, almost maternal bond develops between the narrator and a woman named Fenna, who grope desperately for language to express what is happening between them. Not a single word of this tale of one woman's consciousness being raised sounds dated almost 20 years later. The short stories, however, are pale, ineffective repetitions of that powerful exploration of nascent feminism. They inhabit the world that the narrator of ``Shedding'' aims for--women living together out in the country without men--but lack the natural structure and tension provided by the novella narrator's sexual evolution. In an interesting essay appended here, ``Euphoria and Cacophony,'' Stefan recalls that ``Literally Dreaming'' was unpopular in Germany because ``nothing sensational happens; there's no action, no sex scenes, no struggle against men''--however, the interchangeable stories' endless nature scenes and incomplete sentences may also have had something to do with the negative reaction. With the exception of Stefan's essay, which is cluttered with lines like ``But I'm anticipating myself,'' the translations are solid but overly cautious. An afterword by Levin provides useful background on international feminist literature and Stefan's place in its spectrum. Experimental writing with a 50% success rate.

Pub Date: Dec. 30th, 1994
ISBN: 1-55861-081-2
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Feminist Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1994