Bette Pesetsky The New Yorker - Essay

The New Yorker

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Author From a Savage People" is a] darkly humorous novel about a brilliant ghostwriter who is other than overjoyed when an eminent client of hers wins, with "his" first book, the Nobel Prize. The ghostwriter could easily expose the fraud—she larded the text with scenes from the lives of her mother and her aunt—but she would prefer to see the book praised and reprinted rather than discredited and remaindered. Mrs. Pesetsky's novel, which covers about three weeks of tense negotiations before the ceremony in Sweden (the ghostwriter wants the prize money and a hefty monthly stipend; her client wants to buy her silence with one lump sum), is larded with some telling scenes from the life of the ghostwriter, a victim turned victimizer. It begins in a hospital emergency room, where she has just been patched up after a mugging; she returns home to cook and clean for a batch of bratty children; and her second ex-husband drops by for free meals and for money (he has already made off with her car). These scenes are effective because Bette Pesetsky makes them move; and they help explain the ghostwriter's edgy glee, which peaks in a concluding scene that will appease all but the most vengeful readers. (pp. 135-36)

A review of "Author from a Savage People," in The New Yorker (© 1983 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), Vol. LIX, No. 8, April 11, 1983, pp. 135-36.