CHUM by Mark Spitzer


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Both a sophomore effort and a sophomoric ordeal, bleached free of literary color and grayed over with the lurid details of life on an Alaskan island village, depicting what happens when a shipwrecked starlet turns up on its ruthless shore.

Basing his second novel on an unpublished film treatment by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Web ’zine editor Spitzer (Bottom Feeder, 1995, not reviewed) goes to the island of Lo, a place peopled with tawdry folk achieving the banal in their cruelties and indifferent harms: men rape their daughters and wives when they’re not out drinking one another into homicidal frenzies; and the women, waiting for the men to return from fishing, hatch schemes of thievery and manipulation. The general human outlook here emerges from the lowest common denominator, all the world and the people in it being considered chum—blood, bone, and meat trash led by blunt cravings and raw instincts. The island is regularly battered senseless by offshore storms, and one such fury spits out the Hollywood blond April Berger. The villagers circle in on and vandalize the remains of the yacht she was sailing, while April herself is luckily rescued to the home of Father O’Flugence. A secondary love story comes into bloom when the young islander Nadine forces the sensitive, accordion-playing fisherman Yann to ejaculate, then grapples his semen-covered penis toward her vagina, angry that she has not yet reached orgasm. Like all the men on the island, Yann is entranced by the unbelievable April, and Nadine—hired by April for housekeeping duties—plots her revenge. Another storm blows up, April is killed by a cadre of murderous women, and Yann loses everything he loves. Thereby follows the descent of Yann to the Lo level of humanity, and the fish and sharks swim through the waters as they have always done.

A remarkably feeble novel, for all the yawns induced by its unimaginative scribbling, its monotonous plot, and its ridiculously self-conscious attempts to shock the reader.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-58195-031-4
Page count: 240pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2001