Tuesday, August 25, 2009




Alexander Motyl

Reviewed by Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk

If I had been told what “Flippancy” was about I would have shrugged and yawned and gone my way but looking at the surprising first paragraph I was sparked to sit up in my seat and pay better attention. I was hooked too. Because what the characters decide, ‘he’ and ‘she’, has less to do with the fate of a potential candidate for tenure but their own survival as a sexual couple.

Alexander Motyl paints the prospects of ‘he’ and ‘she’ in an almost philosophic mien, reminding me of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir with an uptight Simone about to leave the exasperating but smirking Jean Paul. Is this a game that he is playing with her? Does ‘she’ suspect it is nothing but a game for his philosophic amusement?

The novella opens up a few days after September 11 when ‘he’ and ‘she’ have returned from New Orleans, finger-screwing throughout their flight while at the same time the World Trade Center was being destroyed. Talk about neurosis setting in but ‘he’ seems unperturbed by the events and looks bemused though it all. As usual, in her Simone garb, ‘she’ is outraged; anyway their relationship had been going nowhere for past six years.

Still it’s time for their colleagues to elect a prospective candidate for tenure, both highly qualified and respected. They are almost at a tie when ‘he’ proposes they flip a coin to pick a winner. Silence befalls the befuddled learned academic group as they stagger out, agreeing to vote next week on a candidate.

Motyl shows us her in a room with him and thinking of her wasted life that seems to have frittered by. It’s a portrait of a highly educated woman now seemingly at a loss of what to do, pursuing her relationship with him or ending it and changing her life. Needless to say, ‘he’ answers in bemused riddles. At the appointed college meeting ‘she’ too decides on flipping a coin just as ‘he’ did last week and the other professors agree. But is it so easy as a mere flip?

Motyl, a college professor himself and author of “Whiskey Priest” and “Who Killed Andy Warhol” two highly acclaimed full-length novels, has hit upon another winner with the short novella “Flippancy.” It has enough sexual arousal and intellectual tension to keep the pages flipping, so to speak, and turning until you get to a resolution, which eventually and surprisingly comes. I highly recommend it because I thoroughly enjoyed it. You might even decide to on a flip of a coin…


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