Picks and Pans Review: Surrender the Pink
Since her first novel, Postcards from the Edge, Fisher seems to have had the literary equivalent of cosmetic surgery performed on her fiction style—a tone lifted here, a few of the excess wrinkles straightened out, maybe an irony implant or two.
This story of Dinah Kaufman, a soap-opera writer who's 20 and struggling with a futile attraction to playwright Rudy Gendler. is not a total makeover. Fisher still lapses into frenetic streaks of joke making and simile strewing: "With Josh, she felt that she had been given a stay of execution, a governor's pardon. An affair that was more a haven than her usual hive. When her mind moved to make him a mouse in the enemy workshop of her head, she held it at bay."
She also has a tendency to make odd comparisons: "Rudy's hands grabbed Dinah's around his neck, his suntanned face livid, his eyes like boiled fruit." (Blueberries? Kiwis? Applesauce?)
And, perhaps because she acted in the film, Fisher has a touch of When Harry Met Sally...disease, acting as if it's normal for bright adults to be obsessed to the saturation point with relationships or their absence. Dinah is flummoxable in the extreme on this point, especially in stream-of-consciousness ruminations on rotten Rudy: "I don't care, it's over, how dare he, I'm worth more, what ego, well,—him, it's over. I'll miss him, he can't miss, not able, so shut down. I'm better now, what's so bad, he's not so, his hands, can be so cute, but sometimes, he's so cold, that time that, and when he, he's selfish, he loved me. I blew it..." (this rambles on, but you get the idea).
The novel's virtues lie mainly in the fact that Fisher makes some of her punch lines pay off: "She had no resolve. Willpower was not her middle name. Rebecca was." And at times Dinah's self-absorption does seem touching: "She had never believed she would be anything but disappointed. She went into everything disappointed, so she could never be unduly let down, could only be surprised. It was her best defense and it did not always keep her safe."
Little happens, though, except for Dinah's attempts to wrestle romantic impulses to the ground, which can't sustain a 270-page novel. While Fisher has written a focused book with a glossy, soap-opera surface, if approached with any serious concentration, it quickly loses its charm. (Simon and Schuster, $18.95)