The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, April 20,1993-Page 13
'Venus': a distant miss
"Venus Envy," the title of Rita Mae
Brown's latest novel, is not merely a
play on words of the Freudian theory
"penis envy" but is the mind set of the
Diagnosed as terminally ill, Mary
Frazier Armstrong (Frazier for short)
writes letters to her family and her
closest friends telling them what she
Rita Mae Brown
really thinks of them and basically
signs the letters with, "by the way, I'm
gay." After writing the letters, Frazier
finds out that she is not really dying.
Rather, a computer confused her file
with that ofa terminally ill patient. She
simply had bronchitis.
The ensuing six chapters consist of
reproductions of the actual letters writ-
ten by Frazier. This wouldn'tbe so bad
if the letters weren't so boring. More
importantly, all of the informationpro-
vided in the letters could have been
included elsewhere in the text. In many
cases, the letters just serve to make a
long-winded novel even bulkier.
Because she reveals that she is gay,
Frazier is forced to resign from nearly
every committee of which she is a
member, herbrothercontinually mocks
still speaks to her. As a result, Frazier,
town, must at the age of thirty-five
reevaluate her life.
Despite all that happens to her,
Frazier, because of her honesty, claims
to be happier now than she has been in
her entire life. I didn't buy it. And even
ifshe was happier, itdoesn't change the
fact that my overriding sentiment
throughoutthe story was, "Who cares?"
To add to the monotony, Brown in-
cludes chapter after chapter of "Greek/
Roman Mythology" and art apprecia-
While Brown's work is
usually insightful and
"Venus Envy" is boring,
repetitive and didactic
in a condescending
tion data which is unnecessary even
though Frazier is an art dealer.
While Brown's work is usually in-
sightful and thought-provoking, "Ve-
nus Envy" is boring, repetitive and di-
dactic in -a condescending manner.
Brown reaches the height of her self-
indulgence by making the last three
chapters of the book basically a
fantastical orgy. After being hit on the
head, Frazier imagines that she is on
Mount Olympus with the gods, who are
all vying for her attention. This is her
dream. She, like Venus, can have sex
with whomever she likes, without con-
Of course, Frazier's inevitable re-
turn to humankind comes all too soon
for her. But, alas, she awakens to behold
the countenance of the beautifulMandy,
the one person on whom she has been
able to rely since she entered the hospi-
Although it is apparent that Brown
is hard-working and dedicated to her
craft, in uncharacteristic fashion, her
novel this go around is a distant miss.
Perhaps Brown says it best herself,
"Commitment by its very nature un-
masks us. Tune does the rest."
The Digable Planets have sidestepped the rules of rap and hip-hop to turn pop music on its head.
Digable Planets do it deftly
by Scott Sterling
When the Digable Planets (Butterfly, Mecca theLadybug
from,' there's more knowledge being dropped than just a
travelogue of their home base of New York City. It's a state
of mind where Harlem, Detroit's 'Black Bottom,' and other
legendaryhotbeds ofAfrican artandlife still thrive to the beat
of Coltrane and Baldwin. A mindset void of 'crossover
appeal' or House of Pain. A place where Sartre, Camus and
Marx sit alongside Ellison,'Morrison and Cleaver on book-
shelves. Where the full and diverse range of African expres-
sion is unfettered by 'mainstream' media or industry expec-
On their brilliant debut album, "Reachin' (A True Refu-
tation of Time and Space)," Digable Planets have turned a
key in the stronghold lock that is rap music, and opened it up
to infinite new possibilities. Completely sidestepping the
'sanctioned rules' of what is considered hip hop music, the
Planets are the latest in the progression of true Black art
pioneers. Juxtaposing classic jazz grooves, mid-70's funk
andthebright-eyedintellectualismof 1990'sBlack bohemia,
"Reachin' ..." is muchmore thanjustanotherpost-De La Soul
"wacky alternative rap" act.
Which, unfortunately, seems to be how the media is
attempting to pigeon-hole the D.P.'s. Cute, non-threatening
and happy-faced. What has been ignored are the mind-
expanding messages thatlienot so far beneath the surface of
their music. What I call "Arrested Development-itis."
Maybe it'sbecauseofthe subversivemannerinwhichthe
D.P.'s lay down their thoughts. No need to shout here ("My
throat doesn't feel like Sam Kinison's after a show," they
smirk at one point); With a decidedly new style of speak,
Digable Planets prove that you don't have to be a clean-
pated, angry-faced Carhartt gangster to deliver powerful
While critics still marvel at the way Digable Planets
incorporate jazz into their sound (as if Gangstarr didn't
exist), their credo of the linear continuum of Black music (
Max Roach toJimi Hendrix, Billie Holliday to the Sugarhill
Gang), their approach towards pro-lifers ("Life doesn't end
atbirth," Butterfly reminds us on "Femme Fetal"), or the way
they challenge their listeners to actually refute the rigid
restrictions of socialized thinking are barely mentioned. Or
their mad skills.
Butterfly himself says it best towards the end of the joint:
thought is, that it does. Now hip somebody else. Now hip
somebody else. Now hip somebody else. Now..."
Consider yourself hipped.
DAIAL E PL AN E TS are playing at INDUSTRY (15 S.
Saginaw at Pike Street) tomorrow night with the way hip
GROOVE GARDEN opening the show. Doors are at 8:00
p.m., and tickets are $12.50 (in advance). 18+ welcome.
Call 334-1999 for more info.
Subscription info for 1993-1994
U.S. Mail Subscriptions: Campus Mail
Fall/Winter $160.00 Spring/Summer $10
Fall only $90.00 Fall/Winter $35.00
Winter only $95.00
Deadline for Fall Subscriptions is Monday August 16, 1993.
All Subscriptions must be prepaid.
i cYY8 '
JEWEL HEART AND WDET
MUSIC AND DANCE
An Intimate Portrait
MAY 2 7:30PM
tickets catl: 994-3387
w4 C 645-6666