Because time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste!
Declared by a boyfriend as being “pornophobic,” Ayn Carrillo-Gailey immerses herself into all things X-rated in — take a deep breath, preferably from the diaphragm — PORNOLOGY: NOUN—1: A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO PORN; 2: THE MISADVENTURES OF THE WORLD’S FIRST ANTHROPORNOLOGIST; 3: A HILARIOUS EXPLORATION OF MEN, RELATIONSHIPS, AND SEX. First, she makes a 12-item to-do list which includes such things as visiting a sex store, enrolling in a blow-job class and going to a brothel. The ensuing chapters detail just that, with the author’s private life constantly getting in the way. From start to finish, she goes through a few boyfriends as she becomes more in touch – so to speak – with porn. Carrillo-Gailey’s writing style is breezy and humorous, even if some chapters are far stronger than others. And while I don’t buy for a second that all of what she says transpired actually did – some episodes smack of being too convenient – PORNOLOGY is good for 230-ish pages of amusement.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a short story by Joyce Carol Oates that I didn’t like. In that form, she’s an absolute master. That’s not to slight her novels, but all bets are off in short fiction, and she uses that to her advantage, as evidenced in her latest collection, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES: TALES OF MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE. As the title suggests, the nine pieces all center around women – broken, warped, victims one and all. And as the subtitle suggests, Oates is working mostly in the Gothic genre here, proving one page after another that she’s America’s living successor to Edgar Allan Poe. From the fractured first-person of “So Help Me God” to the appearance of symbols in “Angel of Mercy,” she’s not afraid to get experimental. I think it contributes further to granting us a sense of palpable unease as we devour her desserts. As expected, highly recommended.
Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series has to be one of the longest-running in the mystery market, as TOMB OF THE GOLDEN BIRD – now in mass market paperback – marks the 18th installment. Eighteen! Light and fluffy but undeniably comfortable, TOMB has a slight “cozy” aspect to it, but since it’s not dealing with knitting or cats, I’m cool with it. In this one, Amelia and her husband are party to the opening of the tomb of King Tut, which brings out all sorts of bad guys. The plot gets wrapped up in kidnappings, secret documents and other reliable elements that make for good old-fashioned intrigue. That it’s wrapped in an archaeological shell of all things Egyptian makes it all the more appealing. It kinda makes me want to dive in to the rest of the series, but the sheer number of previous novels is overwhelming; thankfully, the back of the book includes summaries for each to help newcomers find their way.
Just as it promises, PHILIP K. DICK: FOUR NOVELS OF THE 1960S gathers up a quartet of the über-influential sci-fi writer in a handsome Library of America edition: THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRICH, DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? (better known as the basis for BLADE RUNNER) and UBIK. Personally, I’ve never been able to get into Dick’s style. But I’m obviously in the minority. His fans love how he toys with mind-bending plots, alternate realities and hallucinogenic events. Among them is Jonathan Lethem, who edited and provides the notes for this edition. It’s nice to see a sci-fi author being treated with such reverence from a line known for its emphasis on the literary. Presentation-wise, this is a must for the cult of P.K.D., printed on paper that will outlast you. It even comes with a built-in cloth bookmark. Classy!
Enough already. After reading SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE: DR. DEATH AND THE NIGHT OF THE BUTCHER – the fifth collection of the Vertigo comic – I’m ready to declare I’d put the ’90s title up against any mystery novel. It’s just that. Damned. Good. This SMT book encompasses two complete story arcs of four issues apiece, though both fit together snugly with an underlying theme of living two lives. Wesley Dodds is the mild-mannered man who dons gas mask at night to bring down public enemies with his gas gun. This puts a serious cramp on the evolving relationship with his long-suffering gal pal, Dian Belmont, whose suspicions of Wes’ double life are raising more questions she no longer can stand to let go unanswered. Amdist all the sex and scandal, there are two strings of diabolical serial killers, as sumptuous as period mysteries should be. If you aren’t reading this, your life is worse off. You just don’t know it yet.
With Anne Rice off writing Jesus books, who will provide America with its erotic-tinged Gothic fiction? Natasha Mostert steps forward with hand raised and SEASON OF THE WITCH, about Gabriel Blackstone, a psychic hacker who falls hard for two witch sisters while investigating the disappearance of a banker’s son. The novel is an uneasy mix of magic, murder, technology, love and death – different, if nothing else. Set in the present day – witness references to everything from Guns ‘N Roses to Pringles – its self-aware hipness is off-putting, with dialogue like “whatever rubs your Buddha” rubbing the wrong way. With Gothics, the reader wants to be immersed in the world, rather than constantly jarred out of it. At least I do.
Freelance journalist Marlise Elizabeth Kast recounts her tour of duty at scandalous supermarket rag The Globe in TABLOID PRODIGY: DISHING THE DIRT, GETTING THE GOSSIP, AND SELLING MY SOUL IN THE CUTTHROAT WORLD OF HOLLYWOOD REPORTING. What’s most interesting is how tabloid “journalists” get the scoops, interviews and photos they get, which Kast details through numerous good stories, including crashing a soap star’s wedding, calling Carrie Fisher to ask about her trip to the “psycho ward,” catching Morgan Freeman with his alleged mistress, tracking down the dish on Leonardo DiCaprio’s “kinky sex life,” learning how Dolly Parton supposedly once had an affair with a 15-year-old boy. As fun and fearless as those tales are, the stress of churning out these celebrity features took their toll on Kast, and she even remains apologetic about some of her bylines. That kind of approach is refreshing, especially compared to other, far lesser tabloid tell-alls like the execrable, “funny” RABID NUN INFECTS ENTIRE CONVENT. –Rod Lott
Buy it at Amazon.
OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS BY THESE AUTHORS:
• SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE: THE SCORPION by Matt Wagner, Steven T. Seagle and Guy Davis
• A SCANNER DARKLY by Philip K. Dick