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September 22, 1988 - Image 9

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-09-22

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ARTS

P
Page 9

The Michigan Daily
BY MARIE WESAW
"WOMEN," states Ellen Lesser,
author of The Other Woman,
"especially of this generation, aren't
naturally going to take to the
nurturing role of motherhood."
Lesser is not attacking motherhood.
Instead, she is defending Jennifer
Gold - the main character of her
debut novel The Other Woman.
The novel opens with Jennifer's
realization that what started as a
casual relationship with her lover
Richard is becoming more complex.
Not only does she start longing to
be a bigger part of Richard's life, but
when Richard does move in, Jennifer
also has to learn to cope with
Richard's wife and children.
In showing Jennifer's difficulty in
dealing with the responsibility of
being a possible stepmother to her
lover's two young sons, Lesser por-
trays Jennifer not as a stereotypical
"other woman," but rather as a
young woman that grows in her
understanding of her relationships
with others and in her understanding
of herself.
Lesser also attacks the stereotypes
of the "unfaithful husband" and
"hurting wife." Instead she portrays
her characters as genuine people
who, each, during different times of
the novel, arouse several emotions
in the reader.
Jennifer, for example, according
to Lesser, is "over her head" in her
new position. "She doesn't have the
conception of herself as the evil
'other woman'," states Lesser.
Jennifer has to learn in the novel
that "people are not always going to
see you as you see yourself."
Jennifer's ni ivetd is shown in the
novel before she meets Ruth Ann,
Richard's wife. She has little idea of
the problems that will come up. She
realizes that Richard's wife does not
see her in a good light: "But Ruth
Ann only thought those things
because she didn't know Jennifer,
because her grief demanded a
scapegoat. The side of Jennifer that
has always been a good girl clung
stupidly to the conviction that Ruth
Ann had only to meet her, to talk to
her; that if Ruth Ann only gave her,
have the chance, she'd be swayed.
Jennifer nursed a fantasy of running
into Ruth Ann, of sending her a

Thursday, September 22, 1988

The

Other

0

an: iI

Author avoids stereotypes

main reason she wrote the novel.
She took the theme of "making a
relationship with someone who has
two kids, and learning to love kids
that aren't your own," and "height-
ened the tension" in the novel to
express Jennifer's own experiences
and to force the readers to leave
through these awkward experiences.
What comes through in Jennifer's
struggles is, of course frustration,
but also humor which, Lesser states,
"is another aspect that people don't
expect" in a novel about "the other
woman." In her attempts to try to
show Benjamin that he can't always
win, she ends up pelting him in a
snowball fight. When, while she is
alone with David, she relaxes with a
homemade joint that was given to
her as a gift , she realizes "that she
should smoke it outside ... But she
didn't want to consume this
uncommon treat like a fugitive.
What she wanted was to sit and
smoke it in bed. Granted, it was
rather close to where the baby was
sleeping. But maybe a little smoke
wafting in there would be a good
thing; maybe it would keep him
asleep longer."
Jennifer does grow to learn what
she wants. This idea of a young
adult "looking to connect but afraid
to," is threaded also in Lesser's col-
lection of short stories The Shop-
ifter's Apprentice which will be
published next May.
According to Lesser, the stories
are "a tremendously varied group of
stories in voice and style," that focus
on the "failure of friendship." The
stories, which took five years to
complete, have either a New York or
a small town setting. Both settings
have been important in Lesser's own
life. She grew up on Long Island,
and moved to Vermont eight years
ago. The slower pace of Vermont
allowed her to become "connected to
her writing," because New York
"hyperstimulated" her.
Despite Lesser's realistic por-
trayal of the non-traditional family
of the '80s in her novel, it is
because of a traditional family
connection that Lesser is excited
about her visit to Ann Arbor - her
father and brother both attended the
University.
ELLEN LESSER will read from
The Other Woman today at 4 p.m.
in the Hopwood Room as part of the
English Department's Visiting
Writers Series.

... the experience of stepparents in fiction has not
been explored. It is a situation that yields a lot of
rewards if you take the time and endure the pain to

get to the other side"

- Ellen Lesser

heart-melting, forthright, woman-
to-woman gaze across their shop-
ping bags and purses and those few
feet of pavement."
Jennifer is brought to the
realization of Ruth Ann's refusal to
be "swayed" when she does meet her
and finds Ruth Ann to be a
manipulative woman. But she is
also the mother of the children
whom Richard wants her to love,
and the victim of health problems.
And Jennifer must also come to
terms with that.
In her portrayal of Richard, Lesser
tries to confront the stereotype of the
husband "running away from
responsibility." According to her,
"Richard loves his kids, does not
want to abandon them, and he loves
Jennifer. He just really doesn't
understand Jennifer's point of view."

Richard is portrayed as a man who is
trying his best in, his respons-
ibilities, but has, according to
Lesser, "a few blind spots."
A rich, part of the novel is
Jennifer's struggles in her rela-
tionship with Richard's sons,
Benjamin and David. Lesser has
taken great care to portray these
struggles, and this portrayal comes
out of Lesser's own experiences as a
stepmother of her husband, Roger
Weingarten's, two sons.
"Stepparenting is so much a part
of American life at this time. Yet
the experience of stepparents in
fiction has not been explored. It is a
situation that yields a lot of rewards
if you take the time and endure the
pain to get to the other side."
Lesser accounts her own
experiences as a stepmother as the

Bigfoot pleases
inqirngminds
BY MARISA ANAYA
ALL right, admit it. I've seen you glancing at the tabloid headlines
while you're in line at the supermarket. You try to be inconspicuous
because you're embarrassed to be reading an article titled "Four-year-old
gives birth to a yellow Labrador puppy!"
Then you put the tabloid back on the rack, pay for your groceries and
leave. But don't you ever wonder if there's a grain of truth to all those
outlandish stories?
Well, here's a chance for all you inquiring minds out there to find
out.
Ann Arbor's Civ-ic Theater provides some answers to one of the
biggest mysteries since Elvis moved to Kalamazoo in BIGFOOT
STOLE MY WIFE, written by Ron Carlson and directed by Cassie
Mann.
Is there really a Bigfoot? If so, just how big are his feet? Is he an
evil hairy monster or a big fluffy teddy bear? Come to the AACT and
meet the one and only Bigfoot as he comes forward to answer these
questions and more.
Bigfoot's willingness to appear in front of Ann Arbor audiences has
encouraged others to step forward and spill their guts in such vignettes
as "I Ate My Best Friend's Brain," "The Tablecloth of Turin," "Baby
Born With 2,000-year old Bracelet," and others.
£IGFOOT STOLE MY WIFE should be an eye-opening and fun-
filled evening. Come on - aren't you the least bit curious?
BIGFOOT STOLE MY WIFE will be performed at Ann Arbor Civic
Theatre, 1035 S. Main, on Sept. 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, Oct. 1, 6, 7, and 8
at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5; two for $5 on Thursdays. For ticket
reservations and information please call 662-7282. Tickets are available
at the door.

GE

T IT!
UAPE'1N

. a

The Personal Column
MICHIGAN DAILY CLASSIFIED ADS
NEED MONEY?
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HOUSING!
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Food Service offer
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NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY
Phone or stop by the Food Service
Office of any Hall.
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Couzens Hall ...........................764-2142
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