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reviews 141 Eros Anti-Eros, by Harold Jaffe. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1990. 121 pp. $21.95 (cloth); $6.95 (paper). Reading and re-reading Harold Jaffe's book of innovative fictions Eros Anti-Eros has been, for me, a complicated and at times disturbing project, tantamount in part to re-experiencing as reader what I sometimes (furtively) feel as fiction writer: the tug toward criticism and philosophy as if they were forbidden fruit, the magnetic pull of desire for systematic thought and explicit statement . In part. Reading these culturally aware fictions also brings me constantly face-to-face with the possible political and social implications of fiction. Fiction is not innocent, these thematically and stylistically interconnected tales keep reminding me; fiction is deceptive, Jaffe's self-conscious art insists, and potent. In Jaffe's works, as in those of other fine contemporary fiction writers, structure itself is expressive. In this sense, Eros Anti-Eros reminds me a little of Chaucer's and Boccaccio's great collections of fictions (Jaffe calls his an "eccentric network of tales" [p. 49]), as do its title theme and basically comic spirit. Also suggestive of Chaucer is Jaffe's self-conscious, comic treatment of his own persona in some ofthe stories, especially the two titled "Eros/Sitcom" and "Eros/Amsterdam." In this book Jaffe's fictions often (maybe always) combine criticism and moral-political and erotic formulation with imaginative, fabulist writing, and they are as well highly allusive, partly in a continuing effort to blur and question the line between high and popular culture. Jaffe has elsewhere called this mode "guerrilla writing" (see his article in American Book Reviw, II, 6 [1990], p.3), which operates in, by means of, in reference and response to the established "institutional network," wherein the guerrilla writer "finds a seam, plants a mine, slips away," trusting his tireless work will have shattering effects. (He believes fiction is important and effectual and would not agree with the main character of Don DeLillo's Mao II when he says: "Years ago I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bombmakers and gunman have taken that territory. They make raids on human consciousness. What writers used to do before we were all incorporated.") Jaffe more or less summarizes his complex theme in a story called "Eros/Skinhead": "We'd made love as usual in the afternoon, after writing: real passion after irreal passion, or maybe the other way around. Currently reading Benjamin, writing about the old fascism, 'bom again' in the U.S. dominion, state of the art hate-love, fastened to the AIDS repression" (p.82). The first word of each title in this bipartite "eccentric network" of fourteen tales is "Eros," and the second term suggests time or place or subject (Eros/Exxon, Eros/Sitcom, Eros/Waldheim, etc.). Jaffe dedicates his book to "people living with AIDS," and the fictions are constantly alert to the travails of Eros in the time of AIDS. This indeed is the book's subject, which our author handles with compassion for those who suffer and anger for the cruel and ignorant who inflict pain—as well as satiric humor for the merely foolish, which, of course, sometimes includes the author's own persona. In Eros/Sitcom, for instance (perhaps my favorite tale), the hero is a writer who tries comically to escape from a windowless, doorless, sterile room in which he is trapped with a typewriter and a TV set. "How did I get here and what was I going to do?" he asks. "First I glanced at the typewriter (with a sheaf of bond alongside it), then at the TV. No contest: I switched on the TV with the remote control that was on the floor ...." The show he sees (alternating with the shopping and sports channels) is a sitcom of his own life, especially his early sexual experiences. He then gets an erection and wonders: "What would Norman Mailer do?" (We don't find out.) Later, "Oddly, I felt like writing .... Writing what? I 142 reviews don't know, I don't usually know until I do it (this...


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