Gael Greene Essay - Critical Essays

Greene, Gael

An American novelist and journalist, Greene has written Don't Come Back without It, Sex and the College Girl, and A New York Restaurant Strategy. She is currently a restaurant critic and contributing editor for New York Magazine. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 13-16, rev. ed.)

Though this novel has been touted … as an erotic zinger that "makes Fear of Flying look sick," it's not lust so much that the book seems intent to incite but envy of the Beautiful Life. The sex scenes are a trifle overcooked à la potboiler ("Floating, tumbling, exploding, coming apart again…. His cock is steel battering into me"). And the dialogue is dabbed with purée of cliché ("I am thinking what you would be like in bed," says Kate's rich, sexy cattleman, Jason, "no mask, no veneers, the makeup rubbed off, everything exposed"). (p. 44)

There's a lot of tonic self-mockery between the lines of Gael Greene's restaurant reviews. But that very irreverence is what's missing in her novel. Perhaps this is a conscious bid for paperback buyers in the heartland. Perhaps you need a lovable loser, not a lovable winner, to yield the bite of parody. The tone of Blue Skies is peculiarly self-impressed, the wit more coy than lancing.

Which just goes to show that pulp can be ground even from imported bonsai trees at Bloomingdale's garden shop. And that, as Greene herself knows, there's as much schmaltz in pâté de foie gras as in the humblest can of chicken soup. (pp. 44-5)

Sheila Weller, "A Glutton for Sex, or: A Bad Case of Heartburn," in Ms. (© 1976 Ms. Magazine Corp.), October, 1976, pp. 42, 44, 47.

Gael Greene, who writes about food for "New York Magazine," now writes about sex for the readers of "Cosmopolitan." It will take sex a while to recover.

"Blue Skies, No Candy" is fantasy unleavened by art. Beyond that it is a recurring rather than a serial fantasy; the author simply keeps returning to the same basic dream, with virtually no narrative complexity. The fantasy is this: I am a tall, slender, bright, extremely attractive woman, a famous screenwriter who dines with David and Helen Gurley Brown, who is wanted by Ingmar Bergman, who is being considered for the cover of "Time," and who is in bed with a fantastically erotic man not my husband.

This is the old Olympia Press formula, in which a woman has sexual relations with a series of men, sans plot development. Each man in turn is a better, more varied lover than his predecessor; he is bigger, lasts longer, performs more often and introduces the heroine to a greater variety of stimuli. And of course there are the obligatory lesbian and masturbatory scenes. According to this book, not only are women's sexual fantasies as banal and repetitive as men's, they are men's.

Except for the brand names. It isn't her pants Miss Greene's heroine drops, it's her St. Laurent pants. Out of the boutiques, it's directly to the fun places of the world…. Seldom have so many backgrounds been used to such ill effect. A consciousness-raising session among Manhattan West Side ladies (a stock set-piece in the current measles of Sisterhood books) is an intermittently good sequence, and the only hint that the author is capable of observing anything beyond merchandise labels.

Mostly, though, observation is at a minimum, and a craven craving for status reeks through the pages. Following this year's fashion, real people are mentioned en passant, thousands of them, in tones of unearned intimacy. It's a slender line that separates the tacky from the gross, and Miss Greene has crossed it. (p. 20)

Donald E. Westlake, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1976 by the New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 10, 1976.

[For] a while I thought my trouble getting through [Blue Skies, No Candy], or even into it, might indeed be sexism. The novel is frequently devoted to celebrating (sometimes criticizing) the male body as a sexual object from the viewpoint of a presumably liberated woman, and it's been suggested that male readers cannot cope with that. Bother-some. I'm accustomed to being susceptible to porn, and not totally exclusionary in such tastes. The erotic focus in Blue Skies is even refreshing—after all those bouts of lesbianism that seem requisite to proper feminist fiction. (Sexism still does prevail: Male homosexual eroticism remains pretty much a no-no outside of books for gays.) But here, even the dirty parts failed to intrigue; I found the book confusing however I tried to get into it, and thus lacking a reason for caring, found it boring. Still, the hideous possibility of prudishness nagged—until I asked an acquaintance who had read Blue Skies how he had gotten through it.

"Oh," he said, "you've got to know the people. It's a roman à clef, and the fun is figuring out who is who."

"Are those famous people, the characters in her book?"

"Oh, no. You probably wouldn't know them. I just happen to, some. But I can't see anyone who doesn't know them being very interested."

Ah, I thought so that's what friends are for. Capote could have told me.

Eliot Fremont-Smith, "What Are Friends For?" in The Village Voice (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice; copyright © by The Village Voice, Inc., 1976), November 29, 1976, p. 92.