The impotent disgust that's shadowed Theroux's recent novels (My Secret History) and travel books (Riding the Iron Rooster)...



The impotent disgust that's shadowed Theroux's recent novels (My Secret History) and travel books (Riding the Iron Rooster) becomes the subject of this one--a gross-out funhouse hall-of-mirrors throwing out riveting images of a murderously self-despising Chicago professional. Parker Jagoda is a conspicuously successful Chicago architect who drives a BMW, eats a diet rigorously purged of fats and artificial coloring (and lectures acquaintances about their own meals), lies compulsively and gratuitously to strangers about himself, recoils distastefully from a Mapplethorpe exhibit even though he likes to meet his obliging wife Barbara in sleazy hotels for role-playing sex games, and places personal ads in tabloids that lead him to the likes of Ewa Womack--who warily refuses the intimacy he craves despite his omnivorous disgust--and to Sharon Moser--whom he bites to death, leading Chicago police to dub him ""Wolfman."" A familiar scenario, right down to Parker's fascinated attraction/revulsion for the Today show. But midway through Theroux's spellbinding tour of his American inferno, Parker begins to change, bolting pastrami sandwiches, visiting Sharon's grave, running out on Barbara and dressing in her clothes, becoming one of those Mapplethorpe subjects whose existence he'd denied, and finally identifying with his victim to the point of picking up men he hopes will kill him. Though his transformation is never quite convincing, his uncompromising slide downward is provocative as Hell. Why wait for the purportedly horrific Bret Easton Ellis when you can enjoy fashionable wall-to-wall yuppie self-loathing and psychotic violence minus the hoopla? Guaranteed to make you feel revolted and outraged--and considerably involved--without worrying that you're contributing to the decline of American publishing.

Pub Date: March 1, 1991


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1991

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