Picks and Pans Review: Group Sex

updated 10/06/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/06/1986 01:00AM

by Ann Arensberg

The title of this comic novel makes the book an embarrassment to read in a public place (unless you turn the book jacket inside out), but like some pretty young women, the whole thing is a tease. It always seems to be hinting at revelations that never materialize. The heroine, Frances Girard, is an editor at a New York publishing house. She sees herself as a worm, good for nothing more than to serve others. Her best friend pushes her around; her landlady uses her as a cleaning woman and servant. When Frances meets a theater director who is outsized in every way, she decides that he is a genius, and so she tries to serve him, too. He is ruthless in his money raising, in his manipulating of actors, in getting what he wants, but "without Paul, Frances felt like a story with pages missing." There are several odd, funny characters in walk-on roles. A poet whom Frances edits carries around his bedroll. She thinks of him as her "poet of Manhood." A mystery novelist is all integrity; Frances has to accept his awards in his place because he disdains them. Nothing in the book prepares the reader for the conventional ending. Indeed this all seems very much an insider's book. People in publishing and the theater may find more in it than the rest of us. Arensberg is the author of Sister Wolf, a much darker novel published several years ago. (Knopf, $15.95)

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