hard-working people and their way ofnlife, which she spends the rest of her timentrying to escape. Her mother, acaricaturenof Cinderella’s stepmother, tricks Jill intonadmitting she has had intercourse withnher college boyfriend, and the stage isnset. While Jill strives earnestly to becomena poet, men grab at her clothes. Seldomndoes she resist for long. However, an'[In Braided Lives] there is a compelling sense of fate.”ncatharsis occurs early on—Jill becomesnpregnant and her mother helps her inducena miscarriage with a series of savage,nfolk-medicine “cures,” which Jillnpledges inwardly never to see forced onnwomen. That is the key to a pathetic melodramanin which every girl in the booknhops into bed with every man whonwanders past—a poky Victorianism anrebours, in which continence means sinnand repression. Eventually, her cousinnmiscalculates and finds herself in a familynway. She has had a Catholic upbringing,nwhich gives Piercy the opportunity tonblast that particular “repression.” Andnon the book goes, from beds to abortionnmills and back again.nThe novel is written as a narrative toldnby Jill, 42-year-old radical poetess, whonconfides: “Passion out of accidental circumstancesntranscended is what they’renbuying.” That is what Piercy, apparently,nis trying to sell. The life of her heroinentakes place mostly in the bohemian subculturenat a university in Michigan, withnoccasional forays to her parents’ homenand the wealthy conservative enclave ofnone of her lover’s parents. Her “passion”nis no more than a fervent desire to put asnmuch distance as possible betweennherself and conventional or traditionalnstandards of any kind. That is part of thenreason why this book is so hard to acceptnas anything but a pulp. Jill exists in a sortnof future time capsule—the radical laten60’s set back in the quieter, conservativen50’s. Certainly, universities have alwaysnhad political and sexual rebels. In then50’s and earlier they were called beatniks,nand they attracted a substantialnSOinChronicles of Culturenfollowing that alienated parents and setnthe stage, for the student idealism thatnhelped fiiei the civil-rights movementnand the early stages of the antiwar movement.nBut the main reason for the beatniksn’ rather genial notoriety was that theynwere so different; they were conspicuousnbecause they couldn’t avoid bumpingninto those who led conventional lives,n—Chicago Tribunenwho were still the vast majority. InnBraided Lives there is no inkling of thatnconventionality except for Jill’s parents,nwho are but brutalized cardboard characters.nThere is no sense of what that timenwas like. Everyone in this book is tunedninto the radical politics, casual sex, ornhumorless literature—usually all three—nthat were the hallmarks of campus life andecade later. But this story simply isn’tnreal—it wasn’t like this. Of course, itnreally doesn’ t matter how a polemicist arrangesnher allegory, except that one can’tnargue seriously for abortion rights in anbook in which women equate sexualnfunctions with primary hygiene. Whennthe layers of feminist political hype arenpeeled away, that is what is left oiBraidedLives.nJylargaret Atwood’s Bodily Harm isnat least a book in which something actuallynhappens. It is feminist in a purernand more literal sense: it deals with then”The only way to describe my responsenknocked me out.”nemotional and psychological consequencesnof mastectomy. Rennie, a Canadiann”lifestyles” writer, loses her beaunafter her surgery. She flees to a Caribbeannisland and endeavors to “find herself.”nThe book turns into a scries of flashbacksn(Braided Lives Hashes forward) in whichnRennie converses with the owner of anpunk-style clothing store and with herndoctor, with whom she fantasizes an extramaritalnaffair. Inevitably, she is em­nnnbroiled in a penny-ante tropical revolution/election,nis falsely implicated in anplot to aid the challenger, and spends anfew days in jail. She is released, finally, tonreturn to Toronto, somehow spirituallyncleansed: “She will never be rescued. Shenhas already been rescued. She is not exempt.nInstead she is lucky, suddenly,nfinally, she’s overflowing with luck, it’snthis luck holding her up.” The exaggeratednpassivity of these lines sums up Rennie.nPiercy’s Jill is almost mannish in hernpursuit of the opposite sex; Atwood’snRennie is a model of forced helplessness.nShe is pushed around roughly by bothnmen and women, and her escape at thennovel’s close suggests little but a happynoutcome to another close call. What shenhas learned, what she will do differentlynin the future is as murky as the book’snopening. Atwood is hinting at somethingnlarger than women’s victimization,nthough. Rennie is like a runtishnMeursault of Camus’s The Stranger—ndetached, indifferent, caught in a primitivenculture, yet essentially unmoved bynit or anything else. The setting and storynline are full of stereotypically invokednThird World politics.n1 here is nothing indifferent aboutnGeorge Stade’s Confessions of a Ladykiller,na tongue-in-cheek grotesquerynabout the excesses of radical feminists.nVictor Grant, the narrator, begins by informingnthe reader: “I am the hero or thenvillain of the narrative to follow, dependtonthis one [Bodily Harm] is to say that itn—New York Timesning on whether you are a feminist or anhuman being.”nGrant and his wife Samantha are happilynmarried. Their closest firiends, however,nare a couple as improbable as thenprincipal story line of this book: BillnAustin, a Caspar Milquetoast Englishnprofessor, and Jude Karnofsky, a batdeaxnfeminist, “The Judc Karnofsky, yournfavorite science-fiction writer disguisednas anthropologist, prize-winning author-n