Rameaus Niece CL

Cathleen Schine, Author
Cathleen Schine, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $19.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-395-65490-3
Reviewed on: 03/29/1993
Release date: 04/01/1993
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-452-27161-6
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-88380-2
Paperback - 284 pages - 978-0-547-52188-6
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-547-54836-4
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In this gem of a novel, Schine ( To the Birdhouse ) combines a lucid, witty sendup of academia with an artfully contrived love story. At age 28, Margaret Nathan is famous: her book, The Anatomy of Madame de Montigny , has become a surprise bestseller, adopted by feminists, deconstructionists and even the French. But Margaret is ill-prepared for the resulting press of admirers: forgetful and socially maladroit, she depends on her husband, the patient, sociable, pedagogical Edward, to guide her. Margaret would rather be working on her next project, an analysis of an 18th-century manuscript entitled Rameau's Niece . Schine has woven throughout her text an admirable pastiche of a ``philosophic'' (in the parlance of the time, synonymous with pornographic ) dialogue by an anonymous hack who owes whole passages to Helvetius, Condorcet, Locke and Kant--and, of course, Diderot's Rameau's Nephew and Les Bijoux indiscrets . As in A. S. Byatt's Possession , too close study of her subject leads Margaret to imitation. After a solo trip to Prague, she begins a ``philosophical'' investigation of her love of Edward, questioning how she can be sure of her judgment in the absence of points of comparison. The plot proceeds with the same dizzy abstractedness that marks Margaret's erotic perambulations, but the book's greatest charm is Schine's smart and very funny observations of a postmodern ``cultural elite,'' made up of those who toast ``. . . the liberation of the signifier,'' and of 40-year-olds still boasting about their SAT scores. (Mar.)
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