This is one of those arch, darkly humorous works of what I call urban sardonic writings which were so popular in the second half of the last century. Kind of like Iris Murdoch with a lot more bile and bite.
Barbed and bitchy, it is almost scary. Here’s the plot: Harriet is leaving her boyfriend Claude, “the French rat.” That at least is how Harriet sees things, even if it’s Claude who has just asked Harriet to leave his Greenwich Village apartment. He found her in the stairwell crying one night, having been kicked out of a friend’s apartment, and he offered her to stay in his place for a couple of days until she found a new apartment. Ok, that was months ago, and she is still there.
Well, one way or another she has no intention of leaving. To the contrary, she will stay and exact revenge—or would have if Claude had not had her unceremoniously evicted. Still, though moved out, Harriet is not about to move on. Not in any way. Girlfriends circle around to patronize and advise, but Harriet only takes offense, and it’s easy to understand why. Because mad and maddening as she may be, Harriet sees past the polite platitudes that everyone else is content to spout and live by. She is unblinkered, unbuttoned, unrelenting. With no place to go she moves to the Chelsea Hotel where a flakey guru offers her a place in his harem.
Harriet is one of those horrifying leech people who will not let go, and make everything seem the fault of those trying to help her. I found it unfunny, maybe because our current times are so unfunny. But it does have some funny lines.
Iris Owens spent her early career writing pornography for the Olympia Press in Paris. She wrote only two literary novels, After Claude being the first. The novelist Emily Prager writes an introduction to the book, and you begin to get the idea of what you are getting into when she says, “I am honored to write this introduction for Iris’s book but I think you should know she and I were not speaking.” For me, that was the funniest line in the entire book.