Christopher Lehmann-Haupt

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 241

Women are the "savage people" in the title of Bette Pesetsky's effective first novel, "Author From a Savage People"—at least according to the book's epigraph, which reads "'You're savages,' the politician said. 'Women are savages. I've always known that Civilization has never reached women.'"

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As for the "author" in the title: it obviously refers to the story's protagonist, May Alto, who is both a writer and a woman, and thus an "author from a savage people." But it also could refer to an author that the "savage people" as a class are addressing—a male writer, possibly, who, the women might feel, was exploiting them and thus would need to be petitioned in a letter sent to the "author from a savage people," as it were.

These ambiguous meanings of "author" are mostly captured in Mrs. Pesetsky's novel, which follows by about a year the publication of her impressive collection of short fiction, "Stories Up to a Point."…

[The plot may] sound a bit far-fetched, especially the idea of awarding the Nobel Prize to a two-book author who sounds like a cross between Kahlil Gibran and Lewis Mumford. But in the world created by Mrs. Pesetsky's mordant, hallucinatory prose, such extremes seem not only possible but also downright plausible.

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, in a review of "Author from a Savage People," in The New York Times (copyright © 1983 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 18, 1983, p. C15.

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