Descent of a Woman
Iris Owens's darkly comic tour de force returns
After Claude (New York Review Books Classics)
by Iris Owens
$14.95 List Price
"I left Claude, the French rat."
This opening salvo in the verbal barrage that is Iris Owens's sublime 1973 snarkfest After Claude is as good a first sentence as American fiction of the '70s offers, right up there with "Fame requires every excess" (Great Jones Street) and "Nobody knows, from sea to shining sea, why we are having all this trouble with our republic" (Ninety-two in the Shade). Mincing no words, Harriet, the laceratingly funny and thoroughly deluded antiheroine, launches her daisy-cutter diatribe with perfect economy. And, as she does throughout the book, she gets things exactly wrong. For in reality it is Harriet, a sexpot layabout and serial houseguest, who has been given the heave-ho by Claude, a reporter for French television, from his West Village apartment. She has long ridiculed his video dispatches to the mother country, but the last straw for the exasperated Claude is Harriet's loudly expressed disdain for the film they've just seen in that now sadly extinct Upper West Side temple to the cinema, the New Yorker—a film that, though never named, is transparently Pasolini's exercise in New Testament neorealism, The Gospel According to Saint Matthew. "Some skinny guy schlepping a hunk of wood that weighs a ton up a steep hill for the express purpose of getting nailed to it, that was beautiful?" So exit Harriet, but not before she mounts a determined guerrilla campaign to remain in Claude's Morton Street floor-through, if not his good graces.
With its eye for the offbeat and the unjustly neglected, New York Review Books has added Owens's harrowing comic
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