The 1990s seems to be the decade of revelation. What used to be private is becoming increasingly public. All is aired on talk shows whose guests are no longer celebrities hawking their latest film, book, or album, but ordinary citizens selling their personal traumas. Mothers Who Sleep with Their Daughters' Boyfriends; Men Who Wear Their Girlfriends' Clothes; People Whose Families Have Been Murdered Before Their Eyes--no subject is too salacious or too shameful for public consumption.
And now here comes a true story about A Woman Who Slept with Her Father--prime fodder for the TV talk show feeding frenzy. Certainly it would be easy to lump Kathryn Harrison's new memoir, The Kiss into this same category of titillating topics, but that would be a mistake. There is nothing remotely titillating about Harrison's book; instead, it reads like a slow descent into hell--one that compels and repels in almost equal measure at times. Harrison, who did not really meet her father until she was 20, takes the reader on a difficult journey into her loveless childhood, her bouts with anorexia and bulimia, and, eventually, the incestuous 4-year affair with her father. Her prose is deceptively simple; her choice of present tense to describe events that occurred many years ago forces an immediacy--almost a complicity--upon the reader that heightens both revulsion and compassion.
The Kiss is not for everybody. Some readers will be outraged by its subject matter; others will find it just too painful to read. But for those who make it through, this harrowing tale promises the reward of a life reclaimed and a tragedy transcended.
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From Library Journal
The reading experience doesn't get much better than this: a literary author whose fiction has flirted with incestuous leitmotivs (e.g., Exposure, LJ 12/92) writes a true confession, and in the present tense, of her several-year "affair" as a college student with her handsome father, absent most of her life growing up. Instigated by a French kiss in an airport?like the "transforming sting" of a scorpion that the father "administers in order that he might consume me"?their tentative rapprochement explodes into an "unspeakable" passion: he, an ex-theologian, worships her long hair; she is captivated by his ardent attention. She is also enraged at her mother, of course, and the cruelty the pair inflict behind her back is stunning. "Whatever passions we feel," Harrison extols in her psychoanalytically corrected, rather blank prose, "we call love." Indeed, there is a great deal missing here, namely, the sex, which Harrison claims she can't remember. It's hard not to approach this publishing sensation cynically; and Harrison, with foresight, has turned it instead into a rueful coming-to-terms with her mother, concluding with her death (the book is dedicated to "Beloved"?her mother, not her father). Whether it's a brave or brazen effort, readers will want this.?Amy Boaz, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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