Rosalyn Drexler Drexler, Rosalyn (Vol. 6) - Essay

Drexler, Rosalyn (Vol. 6)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Drexler, Rosalyn 1926–

Ms Drexler is an American playwright, novelist, painter, sculptor, singer, and wrestler. Arthur Sainer notes that what is done, in Drexler's plays, is done to the spectators rather than the characters: "the spectator is battered by the epigram, the pun, the metaphor, the obsessional song that comments on and rises above the action. The characters shrug and sing their way off…."

To Smithereens is a high-camp comedy about lady wrestlers set in contemporary New York. The novel is in two first-personae, written in the rough underworld slang of the 1930s back-room boys. It is a short book that rattles along with such speed that by the time you get to the end you feel like Rosa Carlo, lady wrestler, who after her tour says: "All that travelling around and I haven't been anywhere."

The strength of Miss Drexler's writing is in the energy of her prose: every joke is clean-cut. And yet she refuses to go inside, to go deeper into her characters' psyches. She has a natural eye and ear but her mistake is in assuming that the number of empty gaps, the things not said, will indicate, or evoke, the emptiness of the lives she has created. Everyone plays cool, acts hard, and packs those punches, but the "smithereens" of the novel are the fragments of their world. (p. 1045)

The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd., 1973; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), September 14, 1973.

Rosalyn Drexler is a stand-up comedian-novelist whose word games, wisecracks and freely associated fancies are underpinned by an eccentrically astute sense of people, places and peccadilloes. At her best, as in her first novel, "I Am the Beautiful Stranger," a fictionalized diary of a girl plagued by sex, acne and adolescence, the performance is complex and funny. At less than her best—and her next two books teetered—one seems to be watching a series of improvisations over which the actor is fighting for control. Drexler's new novel, "The Cosmopolitan Girl," balances, precariously at times, but successfully. (pp. 75-6)

Using dog-loves-girl as a wacky metaphor for a time in hot pursuit of revised relationships, Drexler becomes a cartoon Kafka of disjointed urban life…. Drexler speaks for the intelligently paranoid city dweller, the moving target in a fun house of absurd perils. (p. 76)

Margo Jefferson, "Puppy Love," in Newsweek (copyright 1975 by Newsweek, Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), March 10, 1975, pp. 75-6.

Drexler's novels have an edge like a jagged tin can meeting a bare foot. There is no mugging and soft-shoe from her characters—"look how funny I suffer"; they take themselves seriously with no effort to be engaging, and so have a tough attractiveness rare among fictional females today. Instead of demanding sympathy as a right, they lie in the lumpy beds they've made. Life's tough all over, yes? (p. 4)

The raunchy and the ridiculous are Drexler's home territory—you feel she spends a lot of time in all-night cafeterias. Her word-play is like swordplay—with rubber swords that still deliver a stinging slap. Her set pieces—newspaper clippings, radio interviews, beauty advice—are among the delights of ["The Cosmopolitan Girl"]; her one-liners are memorable: "Most of Daddy's friends were young and in an advanced state of inner peace." She weaves a seamy web of parodies that covers the situation perfectly. Moving back and forth between the absurd and the everyday, Drexler puts both in their place—on the same plane. "The Cosmopolitan Girl" is a send-up and send-off for the New Woman: "Be well. (Fat chance.)" (pp. 4-5)

Sara Sanborn, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 30, 1975.

This very crazy and funny book [The Cosmopolitan Girl] is Rosalyn Drexler's immoderate version of the modern novel in which a woman struggles toward a sense of her own place in the world. Helen Jones is unnervingly perfect as the heroine: an entirely contemporary young woman, attuned to the ideas in the air, the daughter of a psychic mother and a healer father, who enjoys a full erotic life, who lives very close to newspapers and magazines and talk shows on the radio; whose lively aggressiveness and relaxed drifting attitude belie her persistent anxiety about who she is. (p. 35)

Not surprisingly, the jacket of The Cosmopolitan Girl describes the story as "zany" and full of "madcap humor," which I suppose it is; it isn't normally zany and madcap. It is also wonderfully satirical about fine art and popular culture; stylish feminism and standard versions of femininity and masculinity; the occult, herbal cures, crankiness between the generations, psychological self-help, the sexual revolution, Las Vegas, and other signs of modern life. I have been asked to say what, exactly, Rosalyn Drexler is doing with all of this. Merciless Rosalyn Drexler is giving us the elbow. (p. 36)

Jane Shapiro, "Making Woof-y," in Ms. (© 1975 Ms. Magazine Corp.), July, 1975, pp. 35-6.