Picks and Pans Review: Bedrock
Imagine being cornered at a cocktail party by the most pretentious, obnoxious couple in the room. That should give you an idea what it's like to spend 325 pages with Clea and Turner Shawn, the odious pair at the center of Alther's pointless new novel.
Clea, a photographer, and Turner, a womanizer (yes, of course, he has a job; it involves brand-name products and much travel), have hit a rocky spot in their "open" marriage. Clea, restless after the departure of her grown children and recovering from a mugging, is now so out of sorts she can't even find the energy for another affair.
Instead, she falls for Roches Ridge, Vermont, a picturesque spot brimming with slow-speaking lunatics. (There's even a grave-robbing psycho living next door!)
Hunkering down in Roches Ridge—the subject of her photographic essay in progress, The Town That Time Forgot—Clea tries to keep her mitts off a young, slow-speaking sculptor, while recalling the glory of her almost-affair with her best friend, Elke. Elke, daughter of a Nazi, has quite a story herself, not that you'd want to hear it.
Things progress at a small-town's pace, until all major and minor secrets are bared. Clea and Elke, after "20 years of foreplay," hit the sheets. Clea faces the fact that she's, yes, a superficial jerk. Turner is dumped. And Alther—who has been declining since her first novel, Kinflicks—tries a raucous, Gore Vidal—style ending and miserably fails. (Knopf. $19.95)
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