Trailing clouds of continental glory, a French success warmly welcomed in England, “Women” may be the first pointillist post-feminist novel. Eschewing complete sentences as a dreary bourgeois convention, Philippe Sollers uses triple dots as the all-purpose punctuation mark. At an average of, let’s say, 125 per page, that idiosyncrasy adds up to approximately 80,000 for a book of this length.
Dots . . . Of course, Seurat used dots to create spectacular neo-impressionist paintings, so there is a definite precedent for this artistic experiment. Writers have been slow to follow suit, perhaps because the technique requires that the work be viewed at a distance of at least 10 feet–easy enough when one is looking at a painting, considerably more demanding when reading a book. Perused from a mere foot away, even a masterpiece like “Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte” turns into confetti.
Read in the usual way, “Women” splinters into frank pornography. Considered in perspective, it’s easily the most ferociously misogynist tract since John Knox’s “First Blasts of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women” in 1558. Unlike Knox, who was merely inveighing against Mary Queen of Scots, Sollers is attacking the entire sex. Arrogant, emotionally frigid and pathologically self-indulgent, the narrator continually marvels at his own sexual prowess and its magical effect upon the women he treats with such contempt, loathing his conquests for adoring him.
The protagonist of this first-person diatribe is Will, an expatriate American journalist living and working in France. His sexual odyssey takes him all over the world . . . a paranoid Priapus compulsively jetting to his own destruction.
Women; Sollers, Philippe; Rupa and Co; Rs. 395