barnes & noble
Rameau’s Niece is about Margaret Nathan, a historian with a bad memory. I have terrible memory and once hoped to be a medieval historian, so there if you sense an authentic agony in Margaret’s comic plight, that could explain it. For me, one of the most enjoyable things to write, ever, was the 18th text within the novel called “Rameau’s Niece,” after the wonderful dialogue Diderot wrote of a discussion between the composer Rameau (who I love, by the way) and his nephew. My dialogue is a seduction of the pupil, a young woman, by her teacher. It is actually a pastiche of the writings of 18th century philosophes about the desire to know, the senses, the importance of experience. Tweaked just a tiny bit, these philosophical writings begin to sound like pornography.
I relied heavily on the brilliant works of Robert Darnton for background on how pornography was used as a revolutionary tool at the time. For his books, all of them absorbing, witty, deeply instructive and exquisitely written, click here.
The book was made into a film called The Misadventures of Margaret starring Parker Posey. One of the things, besides the divine Parker Posey, that I love about the movie, which is pretty campy, I will admit, is that the screenwriter and director, Brian Skeet, understood immediately that I had thinking of a kind of Hollywood movie of the 30′s referred to as comedies of remarriage, particularly The Awful Truth , and his film is full of playful references to those movies.
Reviews of Rameau’s Niece
THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, April 22, 1993
La Femme Savante
By Gabriele Annan
Rameau’s Niece is a jeu d’esprit for readers who would be able to guess that from the title, and who would feel at home in the milieu it inhabits. The milieu is defined by its “initial dinnerparty question�either ‘What is your field?’ or ‘What are you working on?’ depending on the degree of familiarity between participants in… (continue)
NEW YORK TIMES, April 20, 1993
The Graduation Gifts of a Sentimental Education
by Michiko Kakutani
“Rameau’s Niece,” the title of Cathleen Schine’s third novel, is a takeoff, of course, on Diderot’s well-known story “Rameau’s Nephew.” Ms. Schine’s antic novel, however, isn’t simply a sendup of that 18th-century philosopher’s cult of reason; it’s also an enchanting comedy of modern manners, the sort of hilarious satire… (continue)