SCREAM QUEENS OF THE DEAD SEA by Gilad Elbom

SCREAM QUEENS OF THE DEAD SEA

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Another first-novelist attempts self-referential metafiction.

Here, the protagonist is a 26-year-old Israeli guy writing a novel while moonlighting as a nurse in a mental hospital; the author is a 36-year-old Israeli guy (who now lives in Los Angeles) who once worked in a mental hospital in Jerusalem. Gilad (yes, they share a name) is a comparative-literature and linguistics major fresh out of the Israeli army. For no discernible reason (his mother certainly disapproves),he decides to take a job as an assistant nurse (a male nurse, he repeatedly points out) babysitting lunatics at the local asylum. At least the crazies give good dialogue: one woman shouts daily that she’s dead; a man composes and recites romantic verse to a B-movie star; and a homicidal maniac insists he suffers from the hitherto-unknown Faith Deficit Disorder, which prevents him from believing in the existence of anything at all. Then there is Gilad’s married girlfriend Carmel (her husband is scheduled to die of cancer any day), with whom he has tediously predictable hard-core sex—do we really need a gratuitous necrophilia fantasy?—while both discuss dialectics of power with the earnestness of a couple of precocious college sophomores. Many road trips are taken—to Gilad’s job, to the infuriatingly bureaucratic Israeli army hospital, and finally to a casino in Jericho where Carmel and Gilad hang with a young Palestinian, during which time Gilad pontificates amusingly on heavy-metal lyrics, less amusingly on linguistics, and picks up colorful characters prone to comic monologues. But the trouble really begins when characters start butting in to offer their critiques of the novel we’re reading: Carmel complains that Gilad uses his patients as “literary fodder” and that she’s portrayed as “didactic, argumentative, moralistic” and “boring” (she’s right on both counts).

A potentially clever debut falls apart under the weight of the writer’s fascination with his own cleverness.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 2004
ISBN: 1-56858-322-2
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2004