Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Delicate, Erotic & Unraveling

The adjectives chosen to title this post refer to the book I just finished reading: Netsuke, by Rikki Ducornet. An interesting novel, that delves into the life of a psychoanalyst particularly interested in seducing his patients, or allowing his patients to seduce him, for therapeutic value.

I am reviewing an uncorrected galley, provided by the publisher. My opinions are my own, uninfluenced, because my brain's a pretty hard one to control. ;)

For the length of time which this book covers, it is clear the the psychoanalyst has been indulging in his studies for some time. He has had several failed marriages previous to the novel's beginning, and admits that he is extremely neglectful towards his current wife in favor of the flavor of the moment.

The psychoanalyst is not merely obsessed with the concept of sex, and how it can destroy or heal another person. He also becomes infatuated several times throughout the course of the novel with a certain client, and makes it clear that, at one time, he was infatuated in such a way with his wife.

It is clear, almost from the beginning, that the psychoanalyst is at least as disturbed as his patients. It is unclear whether or not he is actually affording any of his clients any help. He is trying to save himself through lustful encounters, trying to find the right person who can save him, and convincing himself that what he is doing is naughty, but helpful to the other people in his life.

The writing style in this novel is very interesting. It meanders a bit. There are very short chapters. It is, in fact, a very short novel. Yet it is pleasant to read. While the exact ending was not a foregone conclusion, the entire novel is heading towards an unpleasant ending.

I enjoyed reading this novel, which was released last month. The author has written eight novels, though this was the first of hers that I've read. I'm curious, now, to read some of her other material.

This novel got me thinking, and dealt with some issues which interest me. The concept of an obviously very intelligent individual indulging in self-destructive behavior is one that is come across often in life, and it was interesting to see it in this novel. It was that concept, however, more than the sex which was interesting. This is not erotica - the novel deals with sex, often, but is unlikely to turn you on. This is a book meant to challenge your intellect, rather than stimulate your libido. And it is worth reading.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An Austen-Affiliated Novel I Didn't Hate

Today, I am going to review Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club.

I was initially worried, upon embarking on the journey of reading this novel. I had heard, from a therapist a few years ago, that this book wasn't very good. I believe her words were, "They just read Jane Austen books. It was boring."

And then the movie came out, and it looked cute, so a friend and I rented it and watched it. I liked it, and this caused me to consider reading the book.

There was one more factor that caused me to be reluctant at the idea of reading this book, however: its affiliation with Jane Austen.

I love Jane Austen's books. Every single one of them is enjoyable - witty, realistic, romantic. Unfortunately, most of the more recent books that have been published by fellow Austen-enthusiasts have been
horrible. I realize that it is difficult to write a book worthy of the great author from the nineteenth century, and authors who try deserve credit for their endeavor, but I don't like being repeatedly disappointed, either.

In this case, I wasn't. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters are all interesting, and described in a captivating way that makes the reader want to avoid putting the book down at all costs.

The one thing that was kind of weird about the book was the narration style. Primarily told in the third person, the narration tends to focus on one, or only a couple, of the characters. There were times, however, when a plural second person point of view was used. So I, as the reader, felt as though I was being addressed by one person in the group, talking about everyone in the group, but in actuality, it was the narrator, who was not in the reading group. It felt kind of voyeuristic, stalkerish, and wrong.

But the novel, overall, is very good. It's one of those magical books that just makes you feel good, even when it recounts bad things happening. It reminds me of Alice Hoffman's books, which are permeated with fantastical creatures and those realistic magic moments that are in our lives.

Since Jane Austen's novels all involve love and courtship, the characters, through reading and discussing the six books Ms. Austen wrote, realize issues in their own love lives. The reading of Austen's books are healing, and feel like a healing balm to the reader, as well.

This book is great, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has read Ms. Austen's books, is interested in reading Ms. Austen's books, or who loves love. The book is, perhaps, a bit esoteric - it is definitely easier to follow if you HAVE read Ms. Austen's books. But there are summaries of the Austen books, if you haven't read them.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Respect & Decorum Are a Dead Thing when the Customer is Always Right

The woman's hair was more frizz than curl.

She wore an oversized t-shirt that severely accentuated her thinness, and a pair of baggy jeans that could not have felt good in the eighty degree heat outside.

She walked up to the garish orange counter* with an older, portly, balding, rotting-toothed gentleman and slammed her DVDs on the counter before spouting off the seven digits of her phone number in a steady, monotonous stream of syllables.

This behavior was jarring to Alecia, the 21-year-old fashion school student who thought to herself once more that she really needed to get a job in the retail environment tailored to clothing. She forced her the corners of her lips up and out into a smile. "Hello," she said pleasantly, as she grabbed the movies, and removed the security precautions. "How are you today?"

"All them movies I kin git for five nights, I wan' for five nights," the woman said, her smoke-clogged voice as rough and abrasive as her movements.

"Okay," Alecia responded. "It looks like the only movie that will be due back tomorrow night before we close is 'Drive Angry.' Your total is five dollars even."

The woman handed over a Chase debit card. Alecia flipped it over to behold a darkened, scratched out slip on the back. "May I please see your ID?" she asked.

"I DON' HAVE MY ID!" the woman screamed. Alecia wondered how many times over the past few days the woman had been asked to corroborate that she was herself. "I am waiting for it in the mail."

Isn't it amazing how much more articulate some people become when angry?

"Okay..." Alecia said, thinking to herself that this was exactly the way that someone who was stealing identification or up to something fishy would react. "Do you have any other ID, at all?"

"If this is going to be a big deal," the woman said, digging through her purse, her shoulders jerking with her abrupt movements. She retrieved a crumpled twenty dollar bill from the depths, and flung it at the girl behind the counter.

Alecia returned the debit card. "I'm sorry; it's just difficult to make out your signature."

"Not really," the woman said, in the exasperated tone usually reserved for police officers and IRS agents.

Alecia forced a small breath. In and out. "Maybe your eyesight is better than mine," she said. In and out. "Though, given the way you look, I doubt it."

"What did you just say to me?!"

Fuck breathing. "You know what? You're right. The first thing I thought when I woke up this morning was, I'm going to make Tanya Roberts' life difficult today! Seriously. I don't even know you. You know what? When you're the victim of credit card fraud, remember this incident, and the countless others like it. I don't think you're a criminal; I was trying to protect you from those who are."

"What's your name?"


"Fred." The woman sounded as if she didn't believe Alecia.

"Yup. 'Drive Angry' is due back tomorrow; you have everything else until Monday. Enjoy."

The woman seemed a bit flustered as she left the store. So flustered, she forgot to get her change. Alecia deemed it a tip and stuck it in her pocket.

*You could tell a man chose the color scheme, with its' bright orange and green hues.