cover image Truth and Consequences

Truth and Consequences

Alison Lurie, . . Viking, $24.95 (232pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03439-0

Lurie's various academic romances, set against the backdrop of a thinly veiled Cornell University, point in a straight line to tragicomic double-think relationship writers like Lorrie Moore. This latest foray begins promisingly: Jane MacKenzie fails to recognize her own husband, Alan, as he approaches their house from a distance, so bent and changed is he by his aching back. He's an architecture professor (expert on Victoriana); she's a university administrator. When visiting poet Delia Delaney takes up residence, it's Jane who has to attend to her diva-like demands, while simultaneously trying to cope with an incapacitated Alan. Once he's up and around, though, sexy and selfish Delia toys with, then seduces him. The affair gives Alan a midlife lift, and, on discovery, gives Jane a reason to leave him, perhaps for Henry, Delia's ombudsman husband and Jane's highly organized mirror-image. The problem is that Lurie, whose Pulitzer Prize–winning Foreign Affairs is everything this isn't, doesn't seem much interested in fleshing out her characters' romps. Remedial repetitions of basic facts, character descriptions and plot points throughout give the proceedings a strangely clinical feel, as if her characters' reactions were too base to engage with fully: they are reported almost dutifully, though not without offhand flashes of crackly brilliance. 5-city author tour . (Oct. 10)