Taller Women

Taller Women is my third novel. It was published in 1992. This is a book I always said was the literary, on the page, version of the art form called, Super Realism(Duane Hanson), where people and things look normal, except they and their lives are about 8% out of reality—a kind of intensified reality. It was published all over Europe, and did better there than here. Faye Weldon, one of my favorite British writers, said: “Naumoff creates a new genre—call it if you like the new male fiction (fin-de-siecle division). He is so funny, so clever, so disturbing, so un-put-downable about men and women, he seems to be summing up the fictional achievements of the last thirty years. His characters move in a nightmarish world(well, hasn’t it so become?), yet run, jump, suffer, respond so vividly they quite give us hope for the next millennium, fictional and otherwise.” I mostly flipped out when I read that pre-publication assessment, because I didn’t know her, she’d never heard of me, didn’t owe me or my publisher a thing, and it seemed way better than the book really was, or I was, for sure, but that was the dream blurb for any writer. I actually wrote TW based on the Preppie Murder Case, where that monstrously arrogant Robert Chambers killed the girl in Central Park while making love(okay surely it wasn’t love,) while having sex, and his equally monstrous lawyer blamed it on her by suggesting she had broken her own neck while doing it because she had been too passionate, and that pissed me off so bad, to suggest that to a world full of gullible men and newly liberated women, I not only wanted to kill the lawyer for saying it, and Chambers for being Chambers, but then, of course, had to write a book about the meaning it all. Parts of the excerpt will explain the metaphor of the title, Taller Women.

Here’s the excerpt:

Later that night, in the emergency room, Monroe and a fellow doctor sat across from each other. A table was between them. On this table was a stack of magazines. Beside the stack, other magazines were scattered about, and with them, Styrofoam cups and candy wrappers. In the middle of that, Monroe and his colleague rested their feet.

“Did you see the woman with the knife wound in her back?” Monroe asked.

“Only for a moment. I saw her in passing.”

“She was tall. She was six feet, or more. Maybe six-two.”

“Is that so?”

He was half asleep and drinking coffee.

“She might have been more,” Monroe said. “Prone like that, before she was covered up, she looked as if she went on and on. I thought, women are getting taller. They must be. It used to be rare when you saw a woman who was taller than a man, or, at least, as tall as a tall man.”

“Right.”

“But now, I see them all the time. I wonder about it. I don’t think men are actually getting taller, but I have not read any research on it. Have you?”

“Not that I recall.”

“But I would like to locate a study and see if I’m right.”

“You might be,” the friend said.

“I don’t know about men, but I am sure women are taller than they used to be and there are more women, for instance, from five feet nine to six feet, or six two, than ever.”

“Black women, maybe.”

“Well, yes, I was not thinking only of them, but both races, I believe.”

“But not the Chinese. Not the Japanese,” the other doctor said, not really caring one way or the other.

“Well, no. I suppose I do mean Anglos or blacks. I suppose I do.”

“You rarely see an oriental woman six feet tall.”

“True,” Monroe said.

“The only change I see in women is that they’re happier now, than they used to be. Or so it seems to me,” the other doctor said.

“Not the ones we see in here.”

“No, I don’t mean that. But in the general population. I would bet on that.”

“Maybe.”

“I think they are.”

Monroe was silent for a minute, and then said, “I just had this vision of a world full of happy women, and it depressed the hell out of me.”

“Why?” the other doctor asked.

“There’s something depressing about a happy woman.”

“Oh, I get it,” the other doctor said, and laughed. “Taller, happier women, and where does that leave us,” he said, and laughed again.

Then they both laughed, and finished their coffee, and on the way down the hall the other doctor slapped Monroe on the back, and chuckled again.