But if the first marriage is like the second,nthen Vasos is better off alone. AlthoughnVida and Leigh were united inna ceremony, it seems as if they didn’tnwant to be married, but at the samentime, they did want to be. For example,nreminiscing, Vida says to Leigh, “Remembernhow hard it was for us to breaknout of that box.’ Everybody treating usnas a couple. People constantly callednyou ‘a married man’ and me ‘a marriednwoman’ till we felt like we’d turned intonour parents.” Lest that dread feelingnlast too long, they do their best to hopnbetween the sheets with just aboutnanyone who comes their way. And sincenthe heroine has a high degree of revolutionarynpolitical consciousness, thengender of the person doesn’t matter.nNeither is she middle-class squeamish:nat one point “she felt as if she was innheat,” and at another, her partner makesn”a sound such as an animal.” Amongnpeople who want to make the world anbetter place, such audio-thermal effectsnare generally considered symptomsnof higher humanness.nWh en the book opens, Leigh tellsnVida he is working on a divorce. Shenis shocked. After all, she has only beennunderground since 1970, had long relationshipsnwith both a man (a fiery,nswashbuckling Irish type) and a womann(who is sensitive, artistic and takes partnin some of the Network’s 60-odd bombings),nand talks to her husband on a paynphone at least once a month. Don’tntheir occasional romantic rendezvousncount for anything, Vida demands. ButnLeigh, pushing 40 and developing a potnbelly, has acquired an admiring 26-yearold—andnhas also gotten her pregnant,nalthough he doesn’t let Vida know it.nHe seems to have understood wherenopen relationships close. Vida is outragednby Leigh, but within a matter ofntwo days she is violently in love withnJoel, who is the same age as Leigh’s newnobject of affection.nThe political angle of the book isntrivial and messy. The banner undernwhich Vida Asch marches is not exactlynthat of Marx and Lenin, but rathernAristippus and the early Cyrenaics: thenflowing silk scarf of vulgar hedonism.nNot only does she seem to confuse thensatisfaction of her illimitable sexualnneeds with social activism (the acts arengraphically detailed), but there is morenemphasis on food and eating in Vidanthan in anything this side of a cookbook.nAnd the fare is not proletarian potatoesnor organic oatmeal. In the first twonchapters of the book she consumes: angourmet chicken dinner accented byna Vouvray wine; a boiled lobster dinnerncomplete with clams, Amontillado drynsherry and black bread; a French pate,nPort-Salut and Camembert cheese, andna vintage Zinfandel. One must keep upnone’s fighting strength to bring aboutnthe decline and fall of the Americannempire.nJjut let’s perform the near-impossiblenand overlook the tawdry sex (it wouldntake a computer study to track Vida’sncouplings in the novel) and gluttonynand ask the question why Vida Asch isna revolutionary and not a self-employedncall girl. Blame it on President JohnnKennedy. Vida had been “taken in completelynby Kennedy” and “believed thatnJack and Bobby would do wonders forncivil rights.” But then Johnson tooknover, and “she had come to hate himnas the one who showed the corporateninside of Camelot, the imperialisticndreams behind the clean-cut Harvardnrhetoric . . . He had made her see hownduped and silly she had been weeping atnthe cortege in black and white on thentelevision in the dormitory lounge.”nVida is not one to be duped, so it’s fullnspeed ahead, into the SAW. Since she’snone of the more charismatic of the radicals,nshe rises to the top of the heap.nIndeed, she even gets her photographnin Life magazine. We see Vida marching,norganizing, attending meetings,nmaking speeches and so on. It doesn’tnseem to matter much to her why shenacts. Instead, it is like casual sex: anmomentary flash of excitement, therenis nothing deeper to be gained ornnnrealized.nWhen an attempt is made to rationalizenthe acts, the contradictions that formnthe base of the character that this novelnupholds as a paradigm of the politicalnperson of the age are painfully obvious.nVida says, “I want a movement thatnchanges the way people think.” Six pagesnlater, “She mistrusted all decisions lately,nbecause stopping to think, to weighnalternatives seemed fused with cowardice.nThinking itself was suspect . . . .”nThe pale cast of doubt won’t ever crossnVida’s forehead. A prime example ofnthe type of thinking that Miss Piercynapparently admires can be seen by notingnthe adverb she uses when the band ofnrevolutionaries has been thwarted innits attempt to plant a bomb in a militaryninduction center and must decide whatnto do: ” ‘We might as well bomb something,’nKevin said reasonably . . . .”nReasonably.’ If that’s reason, then whatnshould be considered the consequencesnof insanity in a world of Vidas, Kevins,net al..’nIt would be tedious to go into thenrevolutionary actions and sexual affairsn(often synonymous) that make upnVida. But one of the last escapades mustnbe noted since it is timely, and since itncan be taken as something of a metaphornfor the novel. Joel tries to convincenVida that they must protest against nuclear-powernplants. Vida initially dismissesnit as “basically a bourgeois issue,”nbut then realizing that she will lose hernyoung man if she doesn’t go along withnhim, she convinces herself, and goes tongreat lengths to convince the board ofndirectors of the Network (note theirncorporate terminology).nOne of the “actions” that the groupnperforms in its antinuclear-power crusadenis the littering of the Vermont andnNew Hampshire countryside fromna stolen plane. The trash: inflated condomsnwith attached notes describing thendangers of radiation. Do not both thenmessage and the medium amount to annultimate symbol for the woman, hernmind, her human values, her ideals.’ Dn21nMay/June 1980n