A man posing as the perfect English gentleman finds that his sordid exploits have more dramatic repercussions than he could possibly imagine.
After exploring the politics of cross-cultural romance in his debut novel, Schmahmann (Empire Settings, 2001) indulges himself in a florid, loquacious portrait of a man whose vices threaten to get the better of him. Our nominal hero, 40-year-old attorney Alfie Buber, introduces himself with flair. “These are the chronicles of the starship Buber, noted bibliophile, late night television addict, keeper of sordid little secrets so appalling he dares not breathe a word of them to a soul,” he confesses. Buber relates the facts of his life as they are visible to the community in which he is thought to be a fine, upstanding citizen: born in Zimbabwe, immigrates to America, attends law school and makes partner in his law firm. He pines for an early friend and lover, but mostly he submits to living his own lie. “The irony is rich. I am so much less than I project myself to be, bear no resemblance to the man I have insisted people see me as,” he says. In fact, Buber, to put it politely, is a devotee of the brothels of Southeast Asia. He pretends to fly to Paris for art and culture and instead prowls for sexual misadventure among the child prostitutes of Bangkok. There’s an interesting dichotomy to Schmahmann’s style—the disparity between Buber’s prissy demeanor and his lust is jarring. The threads of Buber’s fragile deceit begin to unravel as he contemplates bringing Nok, a Bangkok prostitute, to Boston to share his privileged existence. In the end, the author’s clever move to pull the rug out from underneath Buber’s feet reveals much about the character’s self-deception. “The heart may be a lonely hunter,” Buber says. “It is also an irrational demon.”
An unusual morality play whose artful style veils the depravity of its protagonist.