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May 23, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

MRS. STEVENS HEARS THE MERMAIDS SINGING by May Sarton (W. W. Norton: $8.95; 220 pp.). This subtle novel about an aging writer rediscovering her past offers Sarton the chance to reflect on questions of gender and creativity. At 70, Hilary Stevens has had a checkered career as a novelist and poet; an interview with two young journalists leads her to a series of epiphanies about her life and work. In a subplot that establishes Stevens' humanity and keeps her from seeming like a latter-day Pythia, the author juxtaposes the insights of a long, full life with the confusion of the frightened young man who works in her garden.

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