Books: Paperbacks

After Silence by Nancy Venable Raine Virago, pounds 7.99, 278pp Hitchcock's repeated 568pp Mummy's Legs by Kate Bingham Virago, pounds 6.99, 202pp
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The Independent Culture
ON A warm October afternoon in 1985, 39-year-old Nancy Venable Raine was taking out her rubbish, when a stranger crept through the open door of her Boston apartment. Back in her kitchen, the door securely locked behind her, she was attacked by a man whom she would only ever be able to identify by a pair of filthy slippers.

There are not many first person accounts of rape, and Raine, a poet and essayist, bears disturbing witness not only to the hours she spent tied up in her own home, but the feelings of desecration and self-blame that pursued her for years after the event.

Raine's rather intellectual account knits the mundane details of her own experience - endless trips to STD clinics, borrowing money from friends to meet medical bills, starting over in a new apartment - with the wider psychological and political issues involved (summoning up the likes of Emily Dickinson, Thoreau and Frasier to her aid). Going as far as to examine her own southern family tree for clues of a genetic predisposition towards victimhood, she also devotes space to the high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder among rape survivors, and tackles the age-old debate of whether rape should be classified as a straight crime of violence, or as a particular kind of assault demanding a special kind of retribution.

As is true for most people in a crisis, Raine finds herself coping not only with the experience itself, but with the reactions of others to her situation en route. Shortly after publishing an article in the New York Times Magazine, she found herself lunching on rocket and pine-nuts in a fashionable restaurant in Berkeley. Introduced to a well known figure in the arts she was told, "I thought your article was well written... But let's face it, no one wants to hear about such terrible things."

The "dialectic of trauma", however, is never a boring one and, if nothing else, Nancy Venable Raine's book reappropriates rape from the ambiguous arena of the talk-show to a much more reflective place.


PRYING INTO Hitch's filing cabinets makes you feel a little like a character from his films. From a letter, we learn that "Cary [Grant]'s terms of 10 per cent of the gross are a stumbling block." A memo to Darryl Zanuck lashes a "minion" as "disgraceful" and "stupid", but we know the target is Zanuck himself. The master's cockney drawl is always audible. Dan Auiler is an able guide - though a reference to the "venerable" V S Pritchett, who advised on The Birds in 1962, is premature since VS was only 61 at the time.

KATE BINGHAM's appealing first novel describes a Kensington girlhood dominated by the emotional demands of the grown-ups. Aged 10 when her literary mother begins an affair with a poet, Sarah soon gets used to preparing her own supper and the company of daytime TV. Always living in the aftermath of her mother's emotional disappointments, Sarah learns to avoid similar pitfalls in her own adult life. An elegantly drawn portrait of an older woman's addiction to unrequited love.