Venus Envy

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

There are few among us who have not contemplated on occasion a circumstance in which we might inform those we love and hate of the exact nature of our feelings toward them and the extent of the secrets we might otherwise carry to our grave. Learning that she has not long to live, Mary Frazier Armstrong determines to tell family and friends the whole truth and nothing but the truth in a series of posthumous letters. Each letter is a labor of love, constructive criticism if you will, and each missive informs the reader about Frazier Armstrong’s darkest secret—namely, the fact that she is gay. In the event, Armstrong learns that the diagnosis was wrong, and although the letters are delivered, she remains very much alive!

VENUS ENVY is thus the tale of what happens to an individual and her relationships when “civilized” subterfuges are stripped away. Frazier learns that while some friends are indeed true, and some are not, those she viewed as enemies do not disappoint her in the least. Still, despite everything, she remains resolute that the unexamined life she led before she put pen to paper is not worthy of consideration or continuation.

VENUS ENVY has an edge to it that Brown’s readers have not seen since RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE or IN HER DAY, and some of the passages maybe viewed as pornographic in the extreme. But if those who still treasure SIX OF ONE and BINGO are dismayed by this work, it is far more than a lesbian polemic, nor should it be dismissed as such. Mayhaps this world would be a better place, if the real-life Mary Frazier Armstrongs were viewed as individuals and not merely as representatives of a category. If VENUS ENVY contributes to that eventuality, Brown will have performed a useful service indeed.