The scenes in C. D. B. Bryan’s Beautiful Women; Ugly Scenes[1] are indeed ugly. They are filled with bitter, captious, vengeful people willing to ruin other people’s lives for the sake of their own happiness, or for sex (which is often the same thing). But the scenes are ugly in another way as well, because they are really little seminars in the education of the narrator (who, incidentally, is unnamed). He clearly relishes reciting every tawdry detail and lingering over the lessons he has learned from so much human misery. Bryan does not trick him out with an agonized conscience, thank goodness, but there is still something ugly about his mediocre mind sifting serenely through the wreckage of so much psychological violence—for which he is much responsible—only to end up with a few battered clichés, and not very good ones...


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