Stephen's Reviews > Mating

Mating by Norman Rush
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Sep 20, 14

A 55 year-old man writing as a 32 year-old woman is a conceit that seems destined to fail. But the narrative voice overwhelms you with its startling combination of neurotic insecurity, hyper-literary pretension and genuine academic insight. About a third of the way I began to wonder if I hadn't stumbled across some sort of post-Nabokovian masterpiece.

Then begins the heart of the story, which details her infatuation and love affair with a boring, quasi-messianic, intellectual narcissist. At this point I started to lose interest. The next 200 pages were a slog, and I kept thinking to myself "Honey, you could do better."

But then came the story's denouement, in which the narrator's total supplication and abasement seemed so grossly out-of-character that I wanted to throw the book across the room (I would have too, except I finished it on an airplane where this wasn't really an option). I suspect it may have been the author's intention to provoke this sort of reaction, but still it seems a shame to degrade and humiliate this brilliant character he just spent 450 pages building up.

Anyway, it confirmed my suspicion that no, a man can't really write as a woman in the first person. But for all that, the author is a major, major talent.

Edit: Two years later, I find Rush to be my favorite writer, but oddly I still don't really "like" either of his novels in a conventional sense. Maybe every great, ambitious book has to be flawed like this, like Moby-Dick or Huckleberry Finn. Not changing my 3-star rating, but read this book.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Joanna Baymiller hey stephen, i just joined this site, encouraged by my friend the poet sharon olsen (and apparently still under the high school influence of e e cummings' punctuation and (yes!) disdain for capital letters) and came across your review which, damn!, i admire.

- joanna

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

What about, Memoirs of a Geisha? I feel that narrative, denouement or no, was well done, perhaps making Nabokov quite proud.

Seriously though, I'm sure I would have lost interest myself, at the same or a similar point as you.

Lolly LKH Wow, so does this mean you like it or hate it. Have a love/hate relationship to it? I am about to read it, but now I have misgivings.

message 4: by Kae (new) - added it

Kae Wow. I definitely am going to read this sucker. :)

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