Victorine by Maude Hutchins

Victorine_1024x1024I picked up Victorine by Maude Hutchins after seeing her name on a list of nouveau roman writers on Wikipedia (a page I glanced at when thinking about Fra Keeler, below, but also looking for something new to read). I’d never heard of Maude Hutchins, so did some googling, surprised to find there’s not a ton of info out there. In what I did find on Hutchins, it’s often repeated that she’s “considered one of the foremost practitioners of nouveau roman in the English language,” a quote attributed (again, by Wikipedia) to Anais Nin in The Novel of the FutureI’d like to read the quote in context, and maybe should read more by Hutchins–Victorine didn’t feel particularly like a nouveau roman, at least not in the sense that I understand it (as described in For a New Novel). Victorine definitely doesn’t conform to the conventions of the realist novel–it’s episodic and more or less plotless–so in that sense, it’s certainly experimental. Not to get too hung up on labels, but became curious about how that bit about Hutchins became so pervasive.

Anyway, the NYRB describes the book in its product description for their edition as “a sly, shocking, one-of-a-kind novel that explores sex and society with wayward and unabashedly weird inspiration, a drive-by snapshot of the great abject American family in its suburban haunts by a literary maverick…” Victorine’s an interesting read, full of lively lyricism and great, almost kitschy humor. I feel like my interest started to fizzle about half-way through, but that’s probably me. I was surprised how much the novel–published in 1959–still pushes in terms of taboos around sexuality (especially around childhood sexuality), and the brother/sister relationship reminded me of Paul and Elisabeth in The Holy Terrors a little bit. Maybe I’ll have more to say on this at some point. I couldn’t find any criticism on Hutchins after a cursory search, but Victorine is certainly fascinating enough to make me want to read another novel by Hutchins.

Victorine at Powell’s

Victorine at Amazon