Alix Kates Shulman Shulman, Alix Kates (Vol. 2) - Essay

Shulman, Alix Kates (Vol. 2)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Shulman, Alix Kates 1932–

A Jewish American feminist, Ms. Shulman is best known for her fine novel Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32.)

In "Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen," the familiar, bouncy voyage from mattress to mattress takes place through the looking glass where grudges are reckoned in female terms.

The publishers announce this angry little book as the first feminist novel, a claim that can be quibbled about indefinitely. (For starters, what was last year's small, polished gem of rage, "Up the Sandbox" by Anne Richardson Roiphe, if not a cry for liberation from stale sex roles?) This, though, may well be the first novel by a member in good standing in the current feminist movement. Earlier, Alix Shulman seems to have drawn pique from Norman Mailer … [and anyone] who pricks the crocodile skin of Mailer—that boring boor of fearful knighthood—deserves more than a faint round of applause. These "Memoirs" scale no lyrical or imaginative peaks, but they rate a bravo as a consciousness-raising attempt. Yet as a fictional sequel to Kate Millett's attack on literary male chauvinism, it doesn't quite succeed.

Marylin Bender, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 23, 1972, pp. 34, 36.

I want to praise this novel [Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen] for its intentions, which are to give a straight, obviously autobiographical portrait of the oppressive aspects of growing up as a white, middle-class female in America, lightened and relieved by the inclusion of all the self-flagellating humor that goes along with it. But until the very end of the book, where Alix Kates Shulman gives us a devastating picture of her heroine as wife and mother that will arouse everything from enormous empathy to rage and panicky denial from every woman reader, this novel is a smashing disappointment. And that is chiefly because it is actually more a memoir of a middle-class Jewish girlhood than it is a book about being female and thus tracked into American Womanhood.

Sara Blackburn, in Book World (© The Washington Post), May 14, 1972, p. 13.

This remarkable first novel [Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, by Alix Kates Shulman] is in many ways a break-through book, innovative both in its rendering of the feminine experience and in its quite perfect marriage of thesis to art. In giving us the story of narrator Sasha Davis, the ex-prom queen of the misleadingly self-deprecating title, the author has incorporated all the points of the Women's Liberation movement and given them rare fictional life. The story is an original, artistic marking of certain of the key turning points of emotion, biology, and intellect in a woman's life. The identification for women here should be strong, but the insights bridge the gender gap. One can read Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen without thinking of the movement. Moreover, a woman can read it with the keen pleasure and astonishment that comes from seeing what one believed were her own private thoughts and secret experiences set down on paper.

Lucy Rosenthal, in Saturday Review (copyright © 1972 by Saturday Review; first appeared in Saturday Review, May 20, 1972; used with permission), May 20, 1972, pp. 76-7.