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Feminist Fatale

Because I well remember reading some of the pieces Mary Gordon has assembled here, I had no reason to wish to reread them and no cause to want to read the ones I'd been lucky to miss the first time around. What I think about Mary Gordon's writing reminds me of a favorite malapropism: "Do I have to spell it out for you in four-letter words?"

The first thing that disgusts me about Mary Gordon's literary screeds is their phony tone. Her "voice"—because she hasn't really got one—is a chalksqueak of false notes. She sounds like a feminist drug addict who overdosed on Virginia Woolf, with the result that everything annoying in the arch breathlessness of Bloomsburian preciosity is magnified. Reading Mary Gordon is exhausting, because of all the cringes she provokes. The repeated use of "one," to cite an example—the third person substituting for the first and second—isn't American usage, but the artsy-craftsy hoity-toitiness makes for a "literary" air, does it not? "If only one had the Ford of A Man Could Stand Up at one's side to tell one, in the most beautiful sentences imaginable, why men need women and women need men!" Oh yeah? If only one had the Benny Hill of the syndicated TV show to demonstrate to one, in the rudest way conceivable, why one doesn't need Mary Gordon for anything, then one's feelings (those little dears)...

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