Venus Envy

Venus Envy

3.6 14
by Rita Mae Brown
     
 

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At thirty-five, Mary Frazier Armstrong, called "Frazier" by friends and enemies alike, is a sophisticated woman with a thriving art gallery, a healthy bank balance, and an enviable social position.  In fact, she has everything to live for, but she's lying in a hospital bed with a morphine drip in her arm and a life expectancy measured in hours.&

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Overview

At thirty-five, Mary Frazier Armstrong, called "Frazier" by friends and enemies alike, is a sophisticated woman with a thriving art gallery, a healthy bank balance, and an enviable social position.  In fact, she has everything to live for, but she's lying in a hospital bed with a morphine drip in her arm and a life expectancy measured in hours.  "Don't die a stranger," her assistant says on her last hospital visit.  "Tell the people you love who you are."  And so, as her last act on earth, Frazier writes letters to her closest family and friends, telling them exactly what she thinks of them and, since she will be dead by the time they receive the letters, the truth about herself: she's gay.

The letters are sent.  Then the manure hits the fan in Charlottesville, Virginia, because the funny thing is, Frazier Armstrong isn't going to die after all.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Frothy fun from the queen of southern sexual farce."
—Kirkus Reviews

"Hilarious and touching."
—Ms. magazine

"From tear-jerking hilarity to Kleenex-level sadness."
—Daily News, New York

"Witty and tender."
—Los Angeles Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The risible title is arguably the best thing about Brown's latest comic novel, the tale of a woman who unwittingly comes out of the closet in midlife when she is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Under the impression that she is on her deathbed, wealthy North Carolina art dealer Mary Frazier Armstrong mails a series of brutally candid letters to her kith and kin, only to discover that she isn't dying after all. Brown delivers some nicely sketched southern characters: Mary Frazier's imperious mother, Libby, whose long-simmering anger has poisoned her daughter's life; her sensitive brother, Carter, an alcoholic redneck whose lifelong self-destructiveness is partly a response to Mary Frazier's success; her closeted lover, Ann, who is made uncomfortable by their claustrophobic secret life; and her dazzlingly outrageous gay friend Billy Cicero. But this gallery of character sketches cannot save the story from predictability and a deeply unconvincing resolution. Arch dialogue, lack of plot and an overall inattentiveness to nuance are the distinguishing features here. Fans of Brown's previous books ( Bingo ; Rest in Pieces ) may enjoy this story, but first-time readers are bound to be disappointed. (Apr.)
Marie Kuda
Glamorous Mary Frazier Armstrong--definitely on the "A" list, with a pedigree stretching back to 1640--has run a successful art gallery in Charlottesville, Va., since leaving Sotheby's some years ago. When medicos tell her she's got only days to live, she fires off a batch of letters telling relatives and friends she's gay. But before they can reach their destinations, she learns she's been--oops!--misdiagnosed. When the missives land, the southern manners and graces of a cast of deliciously drawn characters splatter, and only wise, widowed Aunt Ru and gallery employee Mandy stand by Frazier (as she's familiarly called). The climax of Frazier's self-outing comes at the Dogwood Festival. While her mother plays social martyr and her ne'er-do-well brother shows up with his socially unacceptable fiancee, she has a contretemps with her closeted, "born-again heterosexual" ex-girlfriend, who's parading her latest beau-for-show. The confrontation sets off comic fireworks that have the politer country-clubbers diving for cover under the boxwoods and azaleas. The last six chapters dissolve into fantasy as Frazier, changing an electrical fixture, gets zapped onto Mt. Olympus. This is Brown at her comic best, chipping away at stereotypes, social artifice, and dishonesty. If--tinged by her 1970s radical pamphleteering pedantry--"Venus Envy" isn't her finest book, it's still a fun read.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553564976
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/1994
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
645,890
Product dimensions:
4.00(w) x 6.85(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

 
Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of several novels, including the Sneaky Pie Brown series, the Sister Jane series, Rubyfruit Jungle, In Her Day, and Six of One, among many others. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.

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