cover image Sex & Other Sacred Gms

Sex & Other Sacred Gms

Kim Chernin, Kim Cherin. Crown Publishers, $17.95 (271pp) ISBN 978-0-8129-1676-8

Humorless and overwrought, this discourse on modern female sexuality reads more like a relic from early populist feminist literature than the latest bulletin from the front. Written in alternating chapters by Chernin ( The Hungry Self ) and Stendhal, a German journalist, it wages psychological arguments by telling the story of two women--one American and heterosexual, the other European and gay--who meet in a Paris cafe and explore their sexual identities through dialogue and letters. Chernin and Stendhal try to generate a great deal of heat, intellectual and sensual, through the device of this quasi-fictional, highly rhetorical partnership, but it is not engaging. The American character, ``Claire Heller,'' is self-im portant and self-dramatizing, while her counterpart, ``Alma Renau,'' fares better only because her Teutonic aloofness imposes less gratingly on readers. What passes for feminist thinking between them is only the stalest of sexual woolgathering: ``Shall I say we are all, each one of us, in a body we've chosen? The body matches up with us. Everything else is a lie, daydream, mere ambition.'' (June)