cover image Ice and Fire

Ice and Fire

Andrea Dworkin. Grove/Atlantic, $14.95 (181pp) ISBN 978-1-55584-025-9

One can understand why this first novel by the noted feminist author ( Woman Hating; Our Blood and anti-pornography crusader was published to acclaim in England last year, although it had earlier been rejected by more than 20 publishers in the U.S. The book, an account of growing up female (and, less importantly, Jewish) in America, is tough, gritty, often powerfully insightful; it contains some strikingly good writing and some that is bad. But it can also be difficult to read, not because of its somber, essentially accurate, portrayal of the violence to which women are subjected, but as a result of its fragmented, idiosyncratic, modernist style, its near-total lack of dialogue and its monotone world view. The unnamed narrator, writing in the first person, begins her story in Camden, N.J., where boys who play the most popular street game, ""witch,'' try to catch, cage and string up a little girl. The scene shifts to a New England college, the setting for a platonic affair with a woman friend and a sexual one, resulting in pregnancy and abortion, with a man. In the '60s, she leads a ragged existencea mixture of indiscriminate sex and drugs, poverty, hunger, humiliation and fearon Manhattan's Lower East Side, before fleeing to European hippiedom and marriage to a man who brutalizes her. Back in New York, she writes to redeem herself, only to find that the one editor who wants her book insists on her body and soul too. This is not an easy novel to read, but is an interesting and provocative one. (March 16)