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. 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 an unblinkered, unbuttoned, unrelenting, and above all bitingly funny prophetess of all that is wrong with women’s lives and hearts—until, in a surprise twist, she finds a savior in a dark room at the Chelsea Hotel.
Like our best women writers (Joan Didion, Joyce Carol Oates), Owens is not afraid to take risks…Owens is a highly intelligent writer and a fiendishly sardonic one—to the extent that her outrageous wit rescues her freaky Jewish anti-heroine from becoming a pain in the Asphalt Jungle. On every page wisecracks explode like anti-personnel mines. We laugh, nervously perhaps, but often.
I haven’t read a more wittily offensive serious novel lately. There aren’t many literary heroines, among the practical types and crazy sisters looking for a place to live in this world, who transcend social and critical pieties in the overwhelming fact of themselves. Clarissa, Emma and Cathy are among the ancestors of Harriet.
One of the earliest portraits of the female antihero, a sort of distaff Notes From Underground. It was very funny.
—Anatole Broyard, The New York Times
Barbed, bitchy and hilariously sour.
Harriet tells her story like a female Lenny Bruce. I was laughing too hard to see the page.
Spiky with mockery, carbon steel wit and mature observation.
—The Village Voice
Novels like Fear of Flying and After Claude created a fresh voice that made us want to laugh out loud, pass the book around, read funny bits to our friends.
—Morris Dickstein, The New York Times