cover image Lady Who Liked Clean Restrooms: Chronicle of One of the Strangest Stories Ever to Be Rumoredabout Around New York

Lady Who Liked Clean Restrooms: Chronicle of One of the Strangest Stories Ever to Be Rumoredabout Around New York

James Patrick Donleavy. St. Martin's Press, $18.95 (132pp) ISBN 978-0-312-15563-6

The author of The Ginger Man ventures into new territory but retains his caustic wit and instinct for outrage in this short ""modern-day fairy tale,'' whose protagonist is a discarded wife trying to make her way in a male-dominated culture engaged in a feminist backlash. Jocelyn Guenevere Marchantiere Jones, 42, accepts the news that her husband is leaving her for a 22-year-old with the stoicism of a Southern-born woman now residing in upper-crust Scarsdale, N.Y. But Jocelyn soon learns that independence comes with the side effects of loneliness and money worries. She's mad as hell and increasingly desperate: a bottle of vodka leads to an incident involving a shotgun and a TV set; later, she toys with the idea of prostituting herself to the husbands of her old social circle--she slept with only two of them while she was still married. Donleavy's impression of a Westchester matron's voice brims with profanity and scatological references. Yet Jocelyn tries to remain true to her ladylike principles, one of which is ""only go to the cleanest of places to take a pee.'' As her circumstances become more grim, the gradual diminishment of the number elite establishments where she can access a ladies' room is the yardstick of her social downfall. Recounting her increasingly eccentric behavior, Donleavy paints a wryly compassionate portrait of the plight of rich women dumped in their middle age and left at the mercy of male real estate agents, lawyers and philanderers. Jocelyn's case reflects the death of a generational philosophy that assured women that if they went to the right college and used the right fork they were set for life. Her nick-in-time rescue via the posthumous generosity of a man who was her social inferior (Jewish, self made and reclusive), an act that occurs in direct relationship to her need to use a ladies' room, is in tune with Donleavy's irreverent but heavy-handed satire. When he accords his narrative an additional mordant twist, readers will recognize the hallmarks of a writer who holds no illusions about human nature. (June)