Friday, December 17, 2010

The Way We Are

The Way We Are, by William Bostock
December, 1970 Avon Books

You'd figure anything with "supersonic sex-odyssey" proclaimed on the cover would at least be interesting, right? Well, in the case of The Way We Are, first published in hardcover in '69 and then in the mass market paperback incarnation shown here in '70, you'd be wrong. This is one boooring novel, as vapid and listless as its forgettable protagonist.

Again the cover blurbs oversell the novel's sordid aspects. Reading the back cover copy you'd expect this book to detail the sex-crazed adventures of a depraved young woman. Instead the novel is more of a study of a small group of characters in the New York City of 1969, artists and writers and spoiled rich kids, the way they interract with one another and use one another. There's quite a bit of graphic sex on hand but to get there one must endure interminable conversations between said characters which are about...nothing. Seriously, this novel has the most inane dialog I've ever read. Characters talk about what they're going to do this weekend, or where they went on vacation last year, or the last person they slept with, for pages and pages.

Daphne Ashbaugh is the protagonist, a spoiled 27 year-old with bigtime mental problems. Her mother killed herself when Daphne was very young and Daphne has never gotten over it. She lashes out against her rich father and his "mistress" in ways both verbal and bizarre; the novel opens with one of Daphne's many ventures into self-abuse as she picks up a guy in Central Park and then takes him up to her apartment. The man proceeds to beat Daphne into a stupor and then takes some cash before leaving, telling her to be more careful next time she picks up someone in the park!

From there it gets more sordid -- Daphne leaves her boring fiancee for a man named Ransom, a good looking dude who likes women but sleeps with men for cash. The two become a pair and the main focus of the novel; there's also Lance, a young writer whom Daphne develops a thing for, and Lance's girlfriend Louanne, who refuses to sleep with Lance for some reason. Yes, this is another novel of characters with insufferable hangups.

The strangest thing about The Way We Are is its similarity to Burt Hirschfeld's Cindy On Fire. Both novels are about wealthy young women who lash out at their parents and have sex with as many men as they can (I think Cindy wins the competiton, though). Furthermore, both women are ostensible basket-cases, doing time with various therapists; both women also resort to heavy drinking quite often and try to kill themselves with an overdose of sleeping pills. And both novels feature the same ending for their respective heroines: both Daphne and Cindy become pregnant by one of their many suitors and decide to carry the child anyway, foisting it upon some poor rube they will marry, a poor rube who is not the child's father. Most incredibly, even the names of the two heroines are similar: Daphne Ashbaugh and Cindy Ashe. Since Cindy On Fire was published in 1971 and The Way We Are was published in 1969, you have to wonder...

At any rate at least Cindy On Fire was a zillion times more enjoyable, with better characters and better writing. The only good thing about The Way We Are is the cover photo, featuring some anonymous swinging '60s chick. Our swinging model appears again on the back cover, looking just as great -- love the boots!

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