A VERSION OF LOVE

Millicent Dillon, Author . Norton $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-05216-9

Novelist and biographer Dillon (Harry Gold; You Are Not I: A Portrait of Paul Bowles) has written a probing, intense examination of a corrosive affair between a psychoanalyst and his needy patient. Set in "1959 or 1960," the novel opens with Edmond and Lorle on a road trip across California's gold-mining country. Their affair is illicit and furtive; she has been seeing him (as a patient) for three years, and he has diagnosed her as a hysteric. The romantic relationship, a chilly affair in which they find each other alternately loathsome and enticing, is a new development. Both Edmond and Lorle are haunted by their concurrent divorces. As they drive along (mostly in silence), the two reflect on the paths that have led them here. The self-contained, aloof Edmond reconsiders the consequences of their fling, and he decides to give Lorle her walking papers. Prepared for an outburst, he is stunned and deflated by her subdued response to his rejection. Lorle exults in her brief moment of power, as Edmond sinks further into dejection. The third character in this dance of desire is Vern, a gold-panning recluse whom Edmond and Lorle meet as they pass through the Sierra foothills; Vern later shows up at Lorle's doorstep unannounced and proposes a trip to Mexico. Dillon's cool, detached style perfectly captures the couple's clinical, Freudian view of relationships, as well as the laconic argot of the 1950s. ("This wasn't love and couldn't be. In the final analysis, it was nothing but transference, he knew that.... He had to admit his own complicity in this, his own failure. What a damn fool he had been.") Her novel is a crisp, intelligent snapshot of an era in which men and women struggle against each other in isolation. Author tour.(Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/07/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
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