The Skull of Charlotte Corday: And Other Stories

Leslie Dick, Author Scribner Book Company $23 (240p) ISBN 978-0-684-83439-9
Witty and unabashed in their sexual and psychological explorations of the female soul, the eight pieces in this unconventional collection of short stories arose, in the author's words, ""out of a conjunction of feminism, psychoanalysis and theoretical work."" Traditionalists be warned: these are not free-flowing narratives but blocks of prose divided by subheads; a few resemble nonfiction studies rather than short fiction. The title entry weaves the tale of the beautiful young virgin who slaughtered the French revolutionary Marat in his bath with that of Princess Marie Bonaparte, one of the first female psychoanalysts, who years later inherits the guillotined Corday's skull. ""Dysplasia"" chronicles, with a combination of fear, nonchalance and surprising humor, the endless gynecological examinations endured by a young woman whose mother took the drug DES, which caused malformation of the sex organs of female children. A cleverly framed and lazily erotic computer-sex dialogue, ""Minitel 3615,"" removes the physical elements of sex and reveals much about two Parisians who wish to hide concrete information about themselves. Dick often combines dialogue, notes and narrative to lively but also distracting effect; in general, the more diluted her structure, the less successful the story. There are exceptions, particularly the suspenseful and funny ""Generosity,"" which interweaves the Canadian Indian custom of potlatch with a young woman's tale of thwarted love. But tedium and excessive psychologizing defeat the artfulness of some of these tales. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-7432-4605-7
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