Susan Cheever Christopher Lehmann-Haupt - Essay

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In "Looking for Work," the story of a clever, ambitious young woman punching her way out of a soggy paper bag of a marriage, Miss Cheever shows considerable promise. She strikes a note of amusing rue that manages to avoid self-pity. She produces occasional sentences that only a born writer could achieve: "On Fifth Avenue, our countrymen, our colleagues, our good friends and lovers-to-be marched with a grim and conscientious step."

Her book is full of evocative fragments…. (p. 22)

And—not to be lightly dismissed—Miss Cheever takes a common set of circumstances and makes it sound almost like a story.

But "Looking for Work" is not really much of a story. It might have been had Miss Cheever found something fresh to say about contemporary female consciousness. But since her protagonist is more confused over whether to be a coddled baby or an autonomous grown-up than she is over the conflict between freedom and responsibility, she does not even rate as a legitimate contemporary heroine. Nor has Miss Cheever found a metaphor to tie her narrative together…. She has a voice, all right. But it will not be clearly heard until she finds something more to sing about. (p. 23)

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "Two Novels: 'Looking for Work'," in The New York Times, Section III (© 1979 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), December 17, 1979 (and...

(The entire section is 451 words.)