MEETING THE MASTER by Elissa Wald

MEETING THE MASTER

Stories about Mastery, Slavery, and the Darker Side of Desire
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Strange and unsettling stories of sadomasochism (originally self-published) from a newcomer who obviously knows the territory. Most literary depictions of the S&M scene simply aim for titillation, but Wald's approach, while hardly demure, seems more ambitious. Her characters--usually young, ordinary suburbanites from Middle America--become Masters or Slaves the way other teenagers become rock climbers or Rangers fans, and the real measure of her success is her ability to make the bizarre and highly perverse subculture of the dungeons seem comprehensible and almost normal from an outsider's point of view. In ``The Houseboy,'' for example, a perfectly unremarkable high-school senior becomes so obsessed by an Army recruiter (and intelligence operative) that he travels to New York and invents an excuse to move in with him as a kind of au pair; in ``Turned Out,'' a recently sprung ex-con finds himself unable to cope with the freedom of a life without constraints. The dominatrix in ``Therapy,'' who finds herself beaten at her own game by her shrink, is one of the less convincing characters here, as is the Catholic schoolgirl of ``Resolution,'' who runs away with a circus to lose her sexual inhibition and discovers herself in the process. For the most part, however, these stories are inhabited by thoroughly credible characters whose peculiarities serve to inspire curiosity rather than boredom or disgust--such as the college girl of ``Missing the Boat,'' whose interest in S&M seems to proceed from an overwhelming sense of her own boredom unrelieved by any sense of her own identity. Remarkable and fascinating, if somewhat crudely drawn. Wald writes with a simplicity and frankness that are unusual but perfectly suited to her subject.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1996
ISBN: 0-8021-1596-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1996