Saturday, October 29, 2011


Wow. I had been really looking forward to this one, another member of our small press collection at work. Coffee House Press put this one out and also recently donated twenty books to the collection. They do awesome stuff.

I had not read Rikki Ducornet that I was aware of but I knew she was a contributor to another of our small press books, Fantastic Women, that Tin House Books put out which I am excited to read (even though I'm backlogged again so it might be a while).

Having read This is probably the most artistic writing I've read since Vendela Vida's Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name. Let me explain what I mean by that. You have your great writers: T.C. Boyle and Michael Chabon, for example. They have a mastery of the language that is just amazing. They leave me running for the dictionary some times because they have such a vast vocabulary and can find the word they want every time. There's a sort of precision to it. If they were painters, they would be Rembrandt. Highly detailed, every shadow and edge of lighting just right. They are artists in their own way. But although I can appreciate Rembrandt's skill, I don't like his paintings. I like Chabon and Boyle. It's not a direct comparison, OK?

In terms of art, I love Impressionism. My favorite painter is Camille Pissarro. I like Impressionistic paintings for their lack of detail. There's still tons of skill involved, perhaps even more so than someone like Rembrandt in that the image and purpose of the painting have to come through but without making sure every detail is captured. And that is what Netsuke felt like to me.

It surprised me to feel that way because there is a lot crudity in Netsuke. The book is 120 odd pages of sex. The main character is an older psychiatrist, on his third marriage, who abuses his role as a therapist to have sex with his patients. He also has sex with women he encounters when he's out jogging. He has sex with his male patients. He has sex with patients who are confused about their own gender. He doesn't care. He cares about his wife, to an extent. He worries about how being discovered would pain her. Yet he drops clues all the time.

It's a short novel and a very quick read. The chapters are a couple of pages long each. The writing is such that it's a one-sit read. Once you start you won't want to put it down.

However, unlike Boyle and Chabon, who are also great storytellers in addition to being wordsmiths, I thought Netsuke was lacking in substance. There's not a lot of plot. The characters aren't particularly developed. It has flaws. Still well worth reading and I'm looking forward to reading more by Duchornet.

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