cover image The Laws

The Laws

Connie Palmen. George Braziller, $18.5 (196pp) ISBN 978-0-8076-1329-0

In Dutch writer Palmen's thought-provoking debut, a discourse driven more by ideas than plot, a young philosophy student defines herself through her interactions with established, intellectual men. Over a period of seven years, Amsterdam-based narrator Marie Deniet deliberately seeks out seven male companions, most of whom are considerably older than her 20-something years. Each contributes to her worldview, and at one point she even calls her dalliances ``field-work''; tellingly, although she admires her conquests' minds, she never fails to expose and analyze their flaws. Marie makes a plausible case for her own behavior: she desires powerful men because she believes they, not women, control ``the laws'' (art, science, etc.). The question remains whether readers will blithely accept this conclusion or see it as a psychological stumbling block common in otherwise capable women. The latter is suggested--after Marie seduces numerous men, writes a highly praised (though, she admits, derivative) thesis and boldly claims an artist as her true love, she breaks down and goes to the seventh and last man, a psychiatrist. However, women may still feel a justifiable aversion to her admissions of neediness and longing for male approval; they may also question the suitability of a male translator for this necessarily female voice. (July)