Two very different portraits of 'smart women'
Smart Women, by Judy Blume. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 316 pp. $15.95. Friends of the Opposite Sex, by Sara Davidson. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co. 288 pp. $15.95.
SMART women, we learn from novelist Judy Blume, are the ones who are attractive, sexy, and good at their jobs. But when it comes to self-knowledge and human relationships, they can be very stupid.
Margo, an architect, and B.B., a realtor, in Blume's new novel for adults (she also writes for youngsters) are divorced, lonely, and looking for men. Not just any man - one who will provide a satisfying, permanent relationship. They discover, as the saying goes, that a good man is hard to find.
So, unfortunately, is a truly smart woman in this novel.
The book should have been called ''Smart Children.'' The most intelligent characters in it are Margo's and B.B.'s daughters, 16-year-old Michelle and 12 -year-old Sara. These young women possess considerably more perceptiveness than either of their 40-year-old mothers. Blume, who has written 13 books for children, has a way with her juvenile characters that seems to be missing with her adults.
Margo and B.B., in fact, live in a state of arrested development. Margo is so dependent on having a man in her life that she belongs to what her daughter, Michelle, calls the ''Man of the Month Club.'' Margo is also so dependent on her children's opinion of her that she cannot do her job as a parent.
B.B. is also dependent on her daughter - so much so that she becomes insanely jealous of Sara's relationship with her father.
In spite of the familiar signposts of American life scattered throughout the novel (product names, book titles, rock singers, movie stars), the world of Blume's characters - a world where barely acquainted next-door neighbors soak together naked in hot tubs, where a teen-age girl has sex with her boyfriend in her bedroom, and where a mother serves her children chicken in rum sauce - doesn't ring true to this reader.
''Smart Women'' is like a trashy made-for-television movie - slick, stylish, and soulless. Margo and B.B. suffer from a tremendous moral and spiritual void in their lives, a void they think can be filled by a satisfying relationship with a man. Both they and the author seem unaware of this void. Margo and B.B. would be more real if they weren't so blind, if they used better judgment and displayed more moral sense, if they actually were smart women.
Sara Davidson is the author of two nonfiction books, ''Loose Change'' and ''Real Property.'' Now with ''Friends of the Opposite Sex'' she turns to fiction.
Lucy Rosser, the novel's heroine, fits Judy Blume's profile of the smart woman - at least to a degree. A successful filmmaker at 31, Lucy is attractive and divorced.
Unlike Blume's characters, however, Lucy is aware of a spiritual void in her life.
She knows that work provides her only fulfillment and continuity, but that that this isn't enough. She desperately wants a husband and a family.
When Lucy meets fellow filmmaker Joe Sachs, she decides he's perfect for her in every way but one: He is unable to make a permanent commitment. They have an affair, become close friends, and make a film together. Through Joe, Lucy rediscovers Judaism and travels to Israel to make a film- a turning point in her life. Eventually she finds what she is seeking.
It is Lucy's self-awareness and maturity as well as Davidson's skill at characterization that make ''Friends of the Opposite Sex'' a better novel than ''Smart Women.''
Despite the display of casual sex, drunken parties, and marijuana-smoking that Davidson includes, ''Friends of the Opposite Sex'' has the soul that ''Smart Women'' lacks.