From the author of a previous pedestrian novel about a paralegal who gambles to make himself feel alive (Balling the Jack, 1997) comes a bizarrely flat, cynical, and moronically repugnant narrative about a young stud who finds his life’s purpose in stalking, seducing, then sexually torturing women.
Jake Teller is a single, mid-20s, well-educated male two-weeks new to his job at a high-end Manhattan accounting firm where he has met the competent, “pure,” and inaccessible Mimi Lessing, about to be married. “Miss Lessing,” Jake calls her in this first-person account that’s more monotonous than chilling: he watches Mimi from a distance and even fits her apartment with a series of listening devices. Mimi, whose story we learn in alternating chapters, feels the urge for some wildness before settling into the missionary position for the rest of her life with fiancé Mark. Evidently accomplished in her work even though she’s consistently described as childlike, she is nonetheless drawn into witnessing Jake’s repetitive games of tying up the women he meets, blindfolding them, then inflicting a series of punishments (read: clamps, burning candles, ice) that they accept with passive, melodramatic rapture. “Thank you” and “Please” are the sum of their contributions to dialogue, while Jack, by stripping them of their defenses, is confident he gives them “the fuck of [their] life.” Long and sophomoric anecdotes about Jake’s pubescent and college sexual initiations, and slapdash mention of his parents’ traumatic deaths can’t redeem this graceless, puerile, onanistic fantasy. By the end, we hear Mimi saying of Jake, “He is a good person, I know it,” and the tale takes a cartoonish dive into medieval torture.
From its cover of a naked and bound woman to its senseless climax: a grievously misguided effort.