Lisa Alther's wonderful first novel - her large, hilarious, serious, and powerfully
affecting story of a young American woman's uproarious tumble through the fads and shocks
and "essential" experiences of the 60's and 70's - has created a ground swell of advance
excitement and admiration, exemplified by the letter from Doris Lessing on the back of the
Ginny Babcock at twenty-seven, Cast-Out Adulterous Wife and Unfit Mother, is en route to
Hullsport, Tennessee, and her own mother's hospital bed (her father is dead, her family
home on the auction block). She's groggy with two in-flight martinis, huddled next to the
DC-7's emergency exit ("My family has always been into death")...
Her "home movies" - her uncensored Kinflicks - unreel: her first Never-Tell padded bra;
Ginny as Burley Tobacco Festival Queen of 1961; the first time she made love - to the hood-about-town,
in her parents' bomb shelter ("I feared sperm almost as much as I feared Communists"); the
Hullsport High Romance of the Decade: Flag Swinger Ginny and her Little All-American running
back, Joe Bob Sparks (he had "a smile in excess of any possible stimulus"); "Do-It" Pruitt,
Ginny's grammar school chum who'd gone "all the way" for all the guys; Ginny at her Ivy League
college ("a close-fitting coif, wool suits, cameo brooches, low-heeled shoes"), starstruck
by Spinoza and his scholarly herald, Miss Head...
Ginny abandoning college and The Family and The City, resisting the American
Capitalist Imperialist Economy, wearing fatigues and eating "whole grain bread you needed
diamond-tipped teeth to chew," joining a commune (with other "Communists, lesbians,
draft-dodgers, atheists, and food stamp recipients"); Ginny, housewife (the handsome
husband, the darling baby), in the Tupperware party set; Ginny into Transcendental Sex with
her war (resister) hero; Ginny as the Madame Bovary of Stark's Bog, Vermont...
Now: Ginny at the hospital, at her mother's side "(I have been well and happy, Mother. In
between being sick and miserable"); Ginny helplessly watching her mother besieged by doctors,
by nurses, by dying ("Why was she being treated like an idiot child: Whose body was it?");
Ginny nerved for the maternal lecture ("Extramarital sex is vulgar. You must do your duty"),
spending whole afternoons with her mother, the two of them absorbed in, protected by, soap
operas ("unsurpassed as social realism... almost as tedious as life itself"); Ginny beginning
(at last) to perceive her mother's life as distinct from her own; Ginny coalescing, moving on...
Absolutely alive and generous, filled with unconstrained laughter and feeling, Kinflicks will
stand as a novel of major importance about mothers and daughters, about friends and lovers, and about
becoming a person in our time.
"I very much like this book, am sure Alther will be recognized as a strong,
salty, original talent. Is the word I am looking for balanced? Alther does fuse qualities,
being robustly despairing, tenaciously critical, yet vigorously creative, grim but comical - she
had me laughing at four in the morning. No man could have written it, but it is very far from being 'a woman's book,'
and it made me wonder what Tom Jones would be like, written now. It is the size and scope of the
territory Alther claims which is impressive."
- Doris Lessing
"Amazing...A very funny book, not at all savage, about serious matters. The tone of voice throughout is a tone that has been missing in American fiction for years -- it is the speech of breezy survivors, of Holden Caulfield, Augie March, and, ultimately, Huck Finn."
- John Leonard
"So continuously funny that its wisdom takes you by surprise...We are in the presence of a most powerful and remarkable talent."
- Alice Adams