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Book Reviews269 becoming an active participant. The sort of utopia which Ruppert prefers is the "open-ended" or ambiguous utopia, which provides a "critical investigation into Utopian values" rather than an ahistorical vision ofperfect happiness (126). His best examples are Wells' A Modern Utopia, Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time, and LeGuin's TAe Dispossessed. Ruppert's emphasis on the deliberate ambiguities and paradoxes ofutopia opens up interesting new ways of looking at material we had come to regard as fixed and uninspiring, and his thesis is closely argued and stimulating. However, he devotes more space in his short book to what other critics have said than to the texts themselves. Ruppert inclines toward broad generalizations that do not always hold up in the light of actual experience, assigns Utopian texts to some highly disputable categories, and sometimes distorts meanings in order to make them serve his argument. Although he gives a useful reading of More, he devotes most of his chapter on Utopia to the theories of Marin and Morson. His discussion of the anti-utopia is unconvincing, partly because he does not seem at all clear on the actual boundaries ofthe genre, sometimes making a distinction between anti-utopia and dystopia, sometimes confusing the two. Unless I have misunderstood him, he appears to say at one point that anti-utopias confirm the status quo and at another that they cast doubts on it (102-04). Despite these weaknesses, Ruppert's book is one that most serious Utopians will want to own. His style is free from the obfuscations ofcritical jargon, and he makes a mostly successful attempt to avoid sexist language, calling his reader "she" as often as "he." Ruppert has read widely, and he provides useful summaries of a number of important critical works, as well as an excellent bibliography. If, like many writers with a thesis, he overstates his claims for the efficacy of utopias, he is perhaps imitating what he sees as the primary function of utopias, to force the reader into an active dialogue with the text. He did stimulate this reader considerably and has inspired me to rethink my own opinions of a number of familiar works. LYNN F. WILLIAMS Emerson College DINA SHERZER. Representation in Contemporary French Fiction. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986. 205 p. Dina Sherzer warns the readers ofpostmodern French fictionthat they should not approach a text expecting to find a traditional story with actions, characters, and suspense. "Rather, they must enter the textual turbulence knowing they are going to have a multifaceted experience" (176). Average readers (students or professors) might well be intimidated by the bedazzling array of "writerly" texts (scriptibles, as borrowed from Barthes) considered in this study, but Sherzer's critical approach successfully illuminates the multilayered systems ofmeaning which characterize French fiction ofthe past 25 years. The awesome title of the first chapter, "Toward a Thick Description of Polyvalent Texts," belies the accuracy and subtlety of Sherzer's critical terminology which is generally free of gnostic jargon. Indeed, the first chapter serves as an effective summary ofcritical approaches that are contemporaneous with the works which are studied here. Under the theme of seriality (chapter 2), Sherzer has grouped Ricardou's L'Observatoire de Cannes with Robbe-Grillet's La Maison de rendez-vous and 270Rocky Mountain Review Simon's Triptyque. These are all texts in which there is neither chronology nor plot, in which the relationships are textual rather than psychological or causal. Discoherence is the source of the unity of these texts. In the most extravagant display of invention among contemporary French writers, Sherzer has grouped an assortment of works which demonstrate the inventiveness ofmultidimensional montages (chapter 3). She considers Butor's Mobile along with Roche's Circus and Sollers' H; these heterogeneous texts, with their mingling of genres from a variety of domains, achieve unity and cohesion within diversity. These texts are controlled, disparate, multimedia structures which call upon the reader's participation, based on his/her personal and cultural experiences. In a fourth chapter titled "Reflexivities," Sherzer considers works in which the narrator is dominant. Beckett's L'Innommable along with Pinget's Quelqu'un and Laporte's Fugue could all...


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pp. 269-270
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