Kissing In Manhattan was kind of inconsistent
and bizarre. It wasn't hard to read, and several of the characters were
memorable and enjoyable, but the structure of the book was odd. It's
a series of short stories involving several Manhattanites, often with
sexual overtones and fantasy elements. What was weird was how the characters
came together and the stories coalesced into a sort of novel. But I didn't
feel it worked, since that cohesion wasn't present throughout.
Several of the stories are pretty good, most notably The
Smoker, a stand-alone tale originally published in The New Yorker,
of a professor who's seduced by a student, supported by her parents.
It has vibrant description, good dialogue and a gripping premise. Jacob's
Bath is another good chapter, as is Fourth Angry Mouse.
You do get a good sense of the real atmosphere of one aspect of New
But the plot that Schickler chooses to emphasize by
the end is not his best. It focuses on a psychotic millionaire, haunted
by the absurd childhood amusement-park death of his brother, who tries
to sexually possess an eccentric travel-writer named Rally. Rally's new
lover, James, and a helpful priest both try to help her. It's an interesting
mix, and some of the James-Rally scenes are well-written, but the mysterious
fantasy elements that popped up earlier in the book are now fleshed out,
and don't hold up. The book could have done with eliminating those completely.