Well known for her nonfiction books on human sexuality, Hite has written a sophomoric first novel, a fantasy in which she is thinly disguised as a semidivine figure, Ariadne. Bored with heaven, Ariadne travels to Earth with her dog Jupiter, where she is appalled by poverty, oppression of women, environmental destruction and the slaughter of animals. What might have been a trenchant sociopolitical satire becomes a colossal ego trip as feminist author Ariadne Rite (read Shere Hite) settles scores with TV hosts and newspaper critics whom she feels have misrepresented and abused her. Back in Heaven, Ariadne seeks guidance from the shades of Simone de Beauvoir and Harry Truman; goes yachting with Cleopatra; debates with Marx, Lenin, Tocqueville and Jefferson; and meets Marilyn Monroe, George Orwell and Hannah Arendt. Intermittently this is wicked fun, but characters emerge like pop-ups in a child's storybook and ideas are bandied about like placards. Shuttling to Earth, Ariadne makes rhapsodic love to Friedrich, a dashing pianist. Finally, with help from Isis and other deities, Rite/Hite sets forth an ecofeminist program for Earth's renewal, featuring redistribution of wealth and public scrutiny of multinational corporations that control the mass media and pollute the planet. (May)
The first novel by famous sex researcher Hite sends up American manners, mores, and media--sometimes delightingly as her Ariadne, sort of a female Candide from heaven, and Jupiter (Ariadne's dog) visit Earth; sometimes dullingly with its long passages of astringent, get-even media-bashing. Sequences set in heaven are the most amusing, as when Ariadne rubs shoulders with Truman, Lenin, and Cleopatra and her pet asp, Jennifer: Gertrude Stein keeps trying to impress Ariadne's Innocent Abroad with the appropriateness of wearing sensible shoes, while Cleo scoffs, reapplies makeup, and proceeds to sleep with George Orwell, all the while lamenting her lost Antony. On Earth, Ariadne catches hell from media critics representing their powerful, moneyed bosses. Her crime: having written "The Meaning of It All", a book of social criticism demonstrating the destruction of the environment and the fact that women, according to her research, are unhappy and dissatisfied with their husbands. The last, of course, is what draws the press attacks; meanwhile, Ariadne finds love and happiness despite it all.