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[whitespace] Reviews by Simone Stein

book cover The Revisionist
Helen Schulman
Crown; 256 pages; $23

The protagonist of Helen Schulman's deeply sad, darkly funny new novel, The Revisionist, recalls Saul Bellow's Moses Herzog, minus Herzog's manic anger. David Hershleder is a brilliant but withdrawn and miserable neurologist on the cusp of 40. He's been thrown out of his house by his beloved wife, he can hardly bear to touch his patients and he doesn't particularly like his best and only friend, the son of a Holocaust survivor. Hershleder grows obsessed with a French ex-Holocaust denier named LeClerc, author of an engineering study purporting to offer final, definitive proof of Nazi genocide. Hoping that a meeting with LeClerc will trigger an epiphany about how a man can utterly change his beliefs, he tracks LeClerc down in Paris. The writing in The Revisionist is spare and subdued and, despite its explosive subject, often very funny, full of insights about forgetting and denial.

book cover Stigmata
Phyllis Alesia Perry
Hyperion; 259 pages; $21.95

Phyllis Alesia Perry's Stigmata treads much the same literary ground as Toni Morrison's Beloved, mixing fictional slave narrative with the gothic and supernatural. As the book begins, Lizzie DuBose is being discharged from a mental hospital after 14 years. She was committed after becoming convinced that she was the reincarnation of a slave ancestor--when she wakes up covered in blood, apparently from whip marks and welts left by shackles and chains, her parents mistake it for a suicide attempt. Though she claims to be "cured," she still believes that her ancestors live inside of her, and she sets about trying to convince her mother that she's isn't merely crazy. Unlike Beloved, Stigmata has little moral ambiguity, and Lizzie's love interest is underdeveloped and a bit too convenient. But the story is compelling as a family saga from Africa, through slavery and into upper-middle-class respectability, and it has the compulsive readability of a ghost story.

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From the September 7-20, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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