THE SKIN PALACE by Jack O'Connell


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 Erotic photography takes the place of radio (Wireless, 1993) as the hot technology the citizens and hangers-on in O'Connell's mythical New England town of Quinsigamond are ruminating and suffering and fighting over. Hugo Schick, who presides over Herzog's Erotic Palace in Quinsigamond's notorious Canal Zone, dreams of the day his oceanic sex fantasies will play in movie houses coast to coast. Closer to home, Schick's opposed by the Rev. Garland Boetell of Families United for Decency (FUD), who'd love to burn Herzog's to the ground. Signing on with FUD is up-and-coming lawyer Perry Leroux, who thinks he can get into bed with these guys without actually going all the way. While he's busy snuggling up to FUD, Perry's live-in mate Sylvia, on the trail of a rare used camera, stumbles onto a strip of priceless photographs taken by legendary Terrence Propp, whose acolytes include an essayist running a cafÇ while he awaits the return of the Master and a blind adult bookseller who's been engaged by crimelord Hermann Kinsky to secure the photos for him. Kinsky's son Jakob, another passionately aspiring filmmaker, takes time out from competing with a jealous cousin for control of his father's empire and from scouting locations for his planned masterpiece, Little Girl Lost, to run into Sylvia, who can't accept him as an alternative to Perry. Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Ellis's mother showers the Canal Zone with leaflets appealing for information about her missing daughter. Amazingly, O'Connell eventually pulls all these lives and stories together, but what will remain with you longest, if you persist with this overstuffed, maddening novel, is the hallucinatory intensity of the individual scenes and figures that spring up from every corner. O'Connell throws together The Crying of Lot 49 and Atlas Shrugged, refracts the product through a haze of dozens of Hollywood films, and comes up with another world as original and microscopically etched as a thumbprint.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1996
ISBN: 0-89296-547-9
Page count: 416pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1995


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