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KINFLICKS, by Lisa Alther.
Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
503 pp., $8.95.
By JEFFREY SELBST
A SPATE OF books by women
and about women has sprung
up from the events and experi-
ences of the last twenty years.
The quality has ranged from the
philosophical perceptiveness of
Doris Lessing in The Golden
Notebook, to the merely vulgar
and dishonest Fear of Flying by
Erica Jong. Most of the rest fall
somewhere between-honest ef-
forts limited only by the literary
failures of their authors.
But Lisa Alther, with her firstj
attempt, has produced a funny,
occasionally f I a w e d, moving
novel, Kinflicks. This is no
mean achievement. It seems
that to succeed as literature in-
stead of mere "statement,"
these novels must explore not
just femininity or womanhood,
but how that womanhood re-
lates to the structure of society
That is what Lessing does in
The Golden Notebook-and Al-
ther tries for the same thing.
Mostly, too, she succeeds.
THE NOVEL is about 27-year-
old Virginia Babcock Bliss,
who returns to her native Hulls-
port, Tennessee to attend her
dying mother. As she encount-
ers her mother's (and her own)
The mood of th
wistfulness. It is a
mer afternoon, ru
on toward evenir
mortality, she simultaneously
has to deal with old spectres
from her past - her first two
boyfriends, one a high school
jock-cum-high school coach, the
ist-preacher, and other friends
Between the days of watching
her mother die, she reviews her
life in wacky and poignant epi-
sodes that reel past her mind rebellion of'the child toward the noon soap opera, while through
like home movies, or "kin- parent, then the only true "wo- the wall blares the voice of
flicks." man's novel" in this genre will Ginny's old foe - the possibly
Each encounter with the past deal with the relationship of schizophrenic ex-coach of the
has a Joycean quality of epi- mother to daughter. high school blaring away in-
phany as well. Each involves And Kinflicks is about just structions to a phantom football
some measure of her identity as that. Ginny muses from time to team. Or the scene where Ginny
yet uncompleted; each closes time that she was sloppy be- and her conservative Vermont
an old wound. cause her mother was impul- husband, in pursuit of the Ulti-
sively home - loving, and her mate Orgasm, handcuff them-
mother was so in reaction to selves nude to the rafter in
k is o e her mother, and so on. Turge- their rambling mansion home,
e book is one of nev's Fathers and Sons would and drop the key on the floor.
seem a male equivalent to this But she has a fatal double
late golden sum- novel-and all-embracing view vision. For every time Alther
of behavior and life as seen constructs one of these scenes,
shing too quickly through the eyes of one who is she brings in a horrifying after-
struggling to escape the domi- math, or follows it up with a
nation of the one whom Ginny powerful bit of drama, to re-
9." calls "the leading lady in my mind you that the story is no
life script." laughing matter.
But the mood of the book is
Ginny's main concerns are, RUT THE TONE of the novel one of wistfulness. It is a late
her dichotomous feelings-ma- isn't so deadly serious as golden summer afternoon, rush-
ternity vs. freedom, radical po- all that. Each conflict lays ing too quickly on toward eve-
litics vs. reaction, and free will sloppily beneath the surface, ob- ning. Ginny's mother, in the
vs. knee-jerk contrary behavior. scured by the comic situation in end, accepts death peacefully,
And to whom is Ginny acting which it is revealed. Alther, but she must accept it alone,
contrary, but her parents? Spe- with a few more tries, will be rejecting Ginny at the last.
cifically her mother, of course. a true master of offbeat humor- Ginny then realizes that her
For if the whole of self-revela- ous scenes. For example, Ginny decisions are hers alone, and
tory literature from Voltaire to and her mother are watching that if she continues to act in
Philip Roth is dealing with the "Hidden Heartbeats," an after- rebellion to one who is no longer
there, she will waste her life.
She doesn't know what to do,
but she now knows what she
can never do. She cannot give
Kinflicks says more than can
be related here. It is a huge
story, but it is a woman's story.
As a man, I believe I cannot
have gleaned everything from
the book that is in it. Yet for
men and women alike, it is a
human, compelling story, and a
few good laughs. Read it and
Jeff SiIbst is a night editor
and staff writer on the Arts
IF YOU MAILED A POSTCARD
TO EACH OF THE MICHIGAN DAILY'S
Telling them of your business,
or your next sale,
or your group s latest project,
IT WOULD COST YOU
FOR POSTAGE ALONE
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WITH AN AD THIS LARGE FOR JUST
And we'll deliver it in something
they won't throw in the wastebasket,. .
THE PAGES OF
THE LATEST DEADLINE IN THE STATE
City Dogs: Imaginative writing
redeems standard slum story
CITY DOGS by William
Brashler, Harper & Row,j
N.Y., 277 pp., $8.95.
By BILL TURQUE
THERE ARE certain dogs
roaming Chicago's Uptown-
city dogs-that William Brash-
ler describes as "emaciated,:
worm-ridden hounds that ate
garbage and mounted bitches in"
intersections without regard to
race, color, or size." True to its
title, Brashler's second novel,
City Dogs, introduces us to the
down and out human hounds!
that scavengeythe fleabag ho-
tels, the alleys, and the streets
of Uptown Chicago.
Brashler points a harsh, un-
forgiving light on the world he:
knew as a police reporter for a
Chicago - area suburban news-
paper syndicate. Life is cheap
Uptown, as cheap as the white
mountain port with which Harry
Lumakowski, the book's wine-!
soaked protagonist, rots the lin-
ing of his stomach.
perverts, and junkies."
A SOMEWHAT standard plotj
revolves around the brutal'
murder of a young Puerto Rican
call girl, and the subsequent po-
lice investigation. The action
switches back and forth be-
tween the viewpoints of several
of Uptown's inhabitants, all fu-
gitives from the police blotter:
the hardbitten homicide detec-'
One character who seems to
transcend this cops and robbers
one dimensionality is the aging
winehead and hustler who calls
himself Harry Lum (short for
Lumakowski). Harry's fortunes
in life have sunk to the bottom
of a bottle of hooch, and he has
not had a good feeling about
anything since Lon Warneke
was mowing down batters for
the Cubs in that last, glorious
pennant-winning year of 1932. In
an occasionally belabored meta-
of "thieves, hookers, ministers, turf intimately, it would be
sheeny landlords, palm readers, little more than grist for an-
gypsies, faggots, worms, spics, other episode of Police Story.
tive who is actually a bleeding phor, Brashler fuses Harry's de-
humanist; the mean, harebrain- solation with the abject medio-
ed Kentucky hick who comes to crity of the Cubs, who charge
the city to make it as a big time into first-place in the spring,
thief; his greasy accomplice and only to falter and stumble back
part time pimp, who was living into oblivion by late summer.
with the deceased at the time
of her death; and Lumakow-
ski's long-suffering stepsister, IFE FOR HARRY is an
who tries to run a "respectable" eternal morning after-cot-
boarding house amid this moral tonmouth from his boozing and
cesspool. a mound of dogshit on his shoes.
A hopelessly inept thief, he
There are others in Brashler's
Brashler's vision of Uptown Uptown, dumb cops; tough,
comes to us without the slightest streetwise prostitutes; all the
hint of possible redemption for ants under the rock of any city.
his harctes. hos tht ty iThey, are pat, perfected stereo-
his characters. Those that try types, and were the book not
fail miserably. They remain so skillfully written, by some-
little more than a sordid pack one who obviously knows the
the prostitute's murder, he finds
hii rin nr vtccrad in
takes the rap twice for botched " is U dIZaawitness aeaa in
jobs devised by Donald Ray and an abandoned building, his blad-
der finally corroded from one;
Jimmy Del Corso, the hick and bottle too many.
the pimp. Released by the po-
lice after his first arrest in ex-
change for a possible lead in
Established by U-M Institute for Social Research
An ingenious allegory about a man's odyss
countryside. Moods shift from comedy to to
poraches the edge of reality. Widely acclai
finest films. In Spanish and Quiche. With subt
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Vidor's GILDA (at 9:0
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The latest film from one of the great, and
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Vni--ri- Anr aw Cnrric . "Thn+ mildMv I
In the true spirit of the bicentennial, the faculty of
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the right to cast their vote on any committees on
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He takes a brief stab at nor-
mality, drying out at his step-
sister's, eating regular meals
and doing odd jobs. But driven
by thirst, boredom and con-
tempt for her straightlaced life-
style, Harry falls into another
abortive heist with Ray Del
Corso. Fate has put a cork on
Harry's bottle of hooch, and
in the novel's last scene as he'
rubs wine through a bullet
wound from one of his estranged
partners, we see that he will
never be more than "the cow-
ard, the thief, the fuck-up who
lined the alleys, gutters, and
ithe shadows of the old neighbor-
hood, who shifted and drifted
with middle age like adstagnant
pocket of air, stumbling, leech-
ing, panhandling, copping."
While suffering from a for-
mulaic plot and the shallowness
of some of its characters, City
Brashler's sharp, imaginative
use of the language. Combined
with his feel for life among the
down and out,it is the book's
"He tried to swallow, first
things first, and he felt only the
carpeted folds in his throat.
With his left hand he wiped his
mouth, the crud on his lips, a
slight turn of his wrist 'and the
letters f a c e d him: L-U-M.
Tatooed in purple across the
back of his hand, personal neon
over the tendons and knuckles
It was him all right, Harry
Lum, all fifty-seven s k i n n y
years, and looking straight into
the fat-faced innocence of an-
other Sunday morning."
While City Dogs is by no
means a particularly startling
or visionary piece of fiction, it
bodes well for Brashler's fu-
ture, and establishes him as a
ayoung American writer from
whom we can expect work of
substance and resonance.
Bill Turque is The Daily's
ey through the Mexican
error and experience ap-
med as one of Mexico's
Dogs is largely redeemed by Co-Editor-in-Chief.
WANT TO GET "HIGH" ON
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Michigan Jewish Graduate Students invite you
to a NEW HAPPY HOUR Wednesday, March
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THIS AIN'T THE SAME OLD THING!
TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY
YOU CAN EAT"
at OLD ARCH. AUD.
9:05 Admission $1.25
ENGLISH STYLE FISH 'N CHIPS
includes unlimited trips to our famous salad bar and hot
loaves of our home baked bread.
Sun., March 28-MACARIO
THE DIRECTOR IS ROBERTO GAVALDON
Nominated for the best film. "A film of rare
photographic beauty, the production is elegant,
the writing poetic, and the performances and
direction of the highest quality."-Cue mag-
A remnrkle drnma involvinn the little known
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