New Yorker Iris Owens spent her early career writing pornography for the Olympia Press in Paris. After Claude, published in 1973, was her first "serious" novel, its subject matter a purportedly "humorous" break-up.
The book's articulate anti-heroine, Harriet, has just been kicked out of her Greenwich Village apartment by her boyfriend "the French rat".
Although she doesn't love him, she clings to him as "an overhanging branch" between herself and "the fatal drop". With no place to go she moves to the Chelsea Hotel where a flakey guru offers her a place in his harem.
As the novelist Emily Prager remarks in the book's introduction, Owens was endlessly fascinated by the notion that "there is nothing that warms a smart girl's heart like a smile on the face of a sadist."Reuse content