Judith Rossner Rossner, Judith (Vol. 9)

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Rossner, Judith (Vol. 9)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Rossner, Judith 1935–

An American novelist, Rossner has been stylistically compared to Joyce Carol Oates. She is best known for her successful novel, Looking for Mr. Goodbar. (See also CLC, Vol. 6, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 17-20, rev. ed.)

To The Precipice … remains Ms. Rossner's most ambitious novel. It is a Bildungsroman, a psychological novel, a Jewish novel, a woman's novel, a luminous period piece, and a family chronicle with a large, complex canvas that displays many of the author's principal themes and preoccupations. Ruth Kossoff, the gritty, sarcastic heroine-narrator of the book, is shrewd, attractive, thoroughly problematic….

Ruth's journey, psychological as well as material, from the Lower East Side to … Fifth Avenue and 96th Street, provides To The Precipice with an ethnic axis that affords humor. (p. 661)

In a sense Ruth has successfully coped…. She has accomplished this through a series of jolting confrontations, which scarcely conceal a radical, if not militant, feminism, embodiment of the contemporary rootlessness and restlessness of the "new" woman….

Any Minute I Can Split … depicts Margaret McDonough Adams, a heroine in the painful process of liberating herself from a father, who has rejected her, and a husband, who has abused her. The novel, told from Margaret's point of view, deals seriously enough with the problems created by parents, marriage, childbearing, sexuality and suicide. However, it has a much lighter touch than To The Precipice, which was slow-paced and somberly naturalistic in many long passages of description that were almost Dreiserian. The action of Any Minute I Can Split, on the other hand, is essentially conveyed through sharp, epigrammatic dialogue—indeed, some of the best moments in the book are elaborate wisecracks—and the major setting is a commune in Vermont that supplies an airiness and spaciousness which the Manhattan of To The Precipice could not. (p. 662)

Important questions are asked and discussed: What cements the standard suburban family, and what makes it split? Is the communal family an alternative? Is sex a more reliable binder in the presumably free conditions of a commune than it is in the nuclear family? To what extent is Women's Liberation legitimate? Is the concept of life style, esteemed by the communards, any more meaningful than the concept of taste, revered by wealthy suburbanites? Finally, does money—always an important element in a Rossner novel—influence the people who form communes more than the ideals that led them to such experimentation? (p. 663)

Nine Months in the Life of an Old Maid … is a subtle psychological study of a family in conflict, where the hostilities are great and yet where mutual affection, however neurotic, still holds. The novel, sensitively describing parental egoism and the alienation of children, attempts to find a delicate balance—grounds for conciliation and reconciliation—among very dissimilar, often disagreeable, people….

This novel of human relationships is a triumph of style. Like Any Minute I Can Split, plot and character are essentially conveyed through dialogue. And, one feels that, without much effort, because the dialogue is lively and witty, the book could be turned into a successful play. Themes dealing with marriage, the family, the role of women and the tensions between generations are as evident as they are expected. Still, Ms. Rossner has broken new ground with this novel as she has done with each of her other works. After the phenomenon of Mr. Goodbar, she appears to be only in the middle of her stride. She is a writer to be watched with expectation. (p. 664)

Edward M. Potoker, "Judith Rossner: Daughters and Lovers," in The Nation (copyright 1976 by the Nation Associates, Inc.), May 29, 1976. pp. 661-64.

In her earlier novel, "Looking for Mr. Goodbar," Judith Rossner anatomized the rootlessness of males and females shuffling in and out of their little urban hutches, like rabbits on the run. The writing seemed...

(The entire section is 2,561 words.)