cover image The Truth about Lorin Jones

The Truth about Lorin Jones

Alison Lurie. Little Brown and Company, $18.45 (328pp) ISBN 978-0-316-53720-9

In her wry, ironic manner, Lurie ( Foreign Affairs ) integrates two themes into this diverting novel, one a comic send-up of radical feminists and the other an exploration of the relationship between an artist's life and her art. The two issues coincide for protagonist Polly Alter. Having separated from her husband rather than follow him to his new job in Denver, Polly has taken a leave from a New York museum where she is an assistant curator to research a biography of an unjustly neglected woman artist, Lorin Jones. Though Lorin died 20 years ago, Polly feels many affinities with the artist, who was, she thinks, a victim of the male establishment. But as she interviews the people in Lorin's lifeincluding her former husband, a distinguished art critic, and her elusive former lover, a poet-turned-contractorshe receives widely contradictory versions of what Lorin was like. Polly's confusion is heightened when Jeanne, a lesbian friend with whom she now shares her apartment, convinces Polly that she too is a lesbian. But Polly's real trouble is that she is a wimp, foolishly letting herself be exploited by Jeanne in much the same way that feminists claim women traditionally have been abused by men. Miserable because her image of Lorin has been tarnished, and guilty because she feels herself falling in love with Lorin's erstwhile lover, Polly finally throws off her emotional blinders and acknowledges that the ``truth'' about both Lorin and herself must encompass all of their contradictory traits. Written with a light but wicked touch, this is an engaging read. (September)