COSMETIC EFFECTS by Clive Sinclair


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Gogol meets Philip Roth in this improbable British tale--the story of a film professor whose casual adultery leads him to international terrorism; amnesia; a personality split between his old, safe, British-Jewish self and his amputated arm, which takes on a life of its own; and a thousand and one shticks. Jonah Isaacson (the first shtick) trades in his comfortable insecurities--he's hypertensive; his travel-agent wife Sophie isn't ready for the children he craves; he envies his philandering colleague Prof. Gutkes--for the real thing when his seduction of makeup artist Stella Richmond leaves him with a broken arm, implanted in whose dressings (unknown to Jonah) is a bomb due to go off on his flight to Israel with Sophie and her aunt Bella. When the pen required to detonate the bomb is swiped by aging, one-eyed director Lewis Falcon, who's being courted to direct the Israeli western The Six Pointed Star, Jonah survives to blow up a cabinet minister during the signing of the contract. The sequel is a study in comic disintegration and madness--Jonah loses all memory of himself before the explosion; his prosthesis is fitted by the same doctor who'd tricked him out with explosives; his arm returns to stay the arm of the doctor at the point of aborting Sophie's child (a child that may well be Prof. Gutkes') and to write condemnations on the wall at Bella's and Falcon's wedding reception. Biblical and political metaphors multiply madly as Jonah struggles to carry on business as usual; but in fact his life and his outlook, Sinclair suggests, aren't any crazier than when both arms were attached and his only connections to terrorism were psychogenetic rather than political. As in Hearts of Gold, BedBugs, and Blood Libels, Sinclair works hard to be funny and serious at the same time--an attempt most likely to please audiences who like their wild stories told with one eyebrow raised.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking