After her relatively demure debut (Up Through the Water, 1989), Steinke turns up the heat for this episodic tale of kinky sex and all-out depravity. It's a bad girl's memoir of her descent into the netherworld of San Francisco's Mission District. In two weeks, pretty young Jesse (a woman always ""attracted"" to people who make her feel ""inadequate"") explores the seamy underside of modern life. Doing penance for her ""bland suburban past,"" Jesse ""dabbles in perversity."" Her lover, a handsome actor named Bell, is busy mooning for his former boyfriend, soon to be married in L.A. Insanely jealous, Jesse confides in Madam Pig, an obese alcoholic for whom she keeps house. The reclusive old dame encourages Jesse to seek out a woman named Madison, who Pig claims is her daughter. In fact, Madison, Pig's ex-lover, is now a junkie prostitute who works from a bar in the Mission. From the moment they meet, Jesse is drawn to her sense of ease and power, and moves into Madison's apartment. Jesse's adventures begin: a trip to a live peep show; anonymous sex in a darkroom; sex with Bell in the presence of a trollish homosexual; masturbation with a statute of Christ in an empty church; a band-job to a homosexual in a gay bar; turning a few tricks at Madison's whorehouse; smoking opium in a den run by a hermaphrodite; and witnessing Madison penetrate a john so violently with her fist that he dies. This last finally convinces Jesse that all ""relationships"" are ""sinister, violent, even murderous."" As if all this weren't laying it on a bit thick, Steinke has Bell commit suicide at the very moment of Kevin's wedding. That's totally in keeping with the reductive psychology everywhere evident in this silly, violent book. So self-consciously seeking ""that exquisite kick of perversity,"" this callow fiction comes off as something along the lines of a much more sincere American Psycho. All the more pathetic. Expect the usual brouhaha: condemnation, then increased sales.