cover image In Search of an Impotent Man

In Search of an Impotent Man

Gaby Hauptmann. Ecco, $24 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-06-019603-5

This first novel by Hauptmann, a German screen and TV writer, is a lighthearted sex farce that hinges on an unusual premise. An alluring German career woman posts this ad in the personals section of a local newspaper. ""Wanted: Clear-thinking male. Attractive, successful 35-year-old woman seeks man for good times, days out, nights in, companionship. Must be intelligent and impotent."" Insurance agent Carmen Legg, who sports long, luxurious red hair, a willowy figure and fashion-model outfits, is glamorously beautiful, prosperous in her business life and vibrant in every way. Yet she has a major complaint: ""I'm fed up to the back teeth with men who are randy all the time."" So she seeks a cozy, nonerotic romance. Her ad elicits a number of replies that interest her: she meets Frederic (a sulky James Dean type), Stefan (a gracefully aging Anglophile, living in the baronial splendor of a country estate), Oliver (a classic chauvinist jerk) and David (a hip young architect with the tanned good looks of a California surfer). Indeed, they are all well tanned, good-looking and rich to varying degrees. We characteristically find Isabella, Carmen's consulting psychiatrist, on the job in ""a tight-fitting dress and elegantly applied make-up... as though she had sprung from the cover of Vogue."" In fact, a principal difficulty of this novel is that the main characters seem to have been cloned from familiar magazine, movie and television images. Carmen, in her inevitable high heels and body stocking, resembles a cross between Murphy Brown and a Barbie doll. Curiously, her three main love-interests--Germans all--have distinctly non-German personas: Beach Boy, Rebel Without a Cause and a would-be English lord. Which cardboard cutout will she choose? It's hard for the reader to care. (Jan.)