cover image A Mouth Like Yours

A Mouth Like Yours

Daniel Duane, . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24 (189pp) ISBN 978-0-374-21732-7

Duane (Looking for Mo ) tracks the emotional meanderings of Berkeley grad student Cassius Harper in this meticulous study of the ambivalence and romantic bewilderment of privileged American 20-somethings. Harp is half-involved in a sparkless relationship with a fellow grad student when he falls for Joan Artois, a magnetic neurotic familiar to anyone who's seen a Woody Allen film. Though Joan's self-knowledge results in statements like "I'm surprisingly immature for my age. I'm only just starting to realize it," Harp finds her irresistible, and his occasionally claustrophobic first-person narration offers a second-by-second account of his affair with this "most exquisitely sexual and vulnerable girl-woman." Harp's other lover, the politically correct Shauna Rose, is mostly left to pine for him, keeping pots of vegan soup on the stove, stocking seminal postmodern theory texts as bathroom reading, and waiting futilely for him to decide to be with her "for real." With much time spent on Harp's vanilla sexuality and Joan's considerably wilder desires, the novel could be read as a kind of sexual coming-of-age tale—but the plot is slim, and the character development slimmer still, though Duane offers moments of keen observation and emotional lucidity. (Aug.)