Megan Harlan
July 12, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Snakebite Sonnet

Current Status
In Season
Max Phillips

We gave it an A-

In the summer of 1970, 10-year-old narrator Nick tends a snakebite on the thigh of sultry drama queen Julia, a sophomore at Bennington College who says things like ”I’m pursuing my destiny as a poet and a slut,” and whom Max Phillips, in this debut novel, successfully imbues as a savvier, more screwed up Holly Golightly. For the next 25 years, Nick will be desperately in love with her. As he makes his way from New Jersey suburbia to Manhattan East Village bohemia (and back), the mercurial Julia makes many appearances — as a Ph.D. candidate, performance artist, corporate yuppie — while usually undergoing a personal trauma requiring Nick’s ever-attentive friendship. Though long bouts of unrequited love often aren’t pretty, Phillips’ prose in Snakebite Sonnet is a gorgeous mesh of erotic exactitude, heaps of wit, and generous, weary wisdom. A-

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