HALF MOON STREET: Two Short Novels by Paul Theroux

HALF MOON STREET: Two Short Novels

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The misanthropy that's become increasingly off-putting in Theroux's travel-writing is a dominant color in this new book of fiction--especially in the longer piece here, the novella ""Doctor Slaughter."" The doctor of the title is Lauren Slaughter, Ph.D., fellow at a London international-affairs Institute. She's beautiful, bright, ambitious, ruthless, amoral: ""She could run a fast five miles, she was the first American woman Fellow at the Institute, she had once made love to her art history professor's wife""; she pays a plumber for his services with offhand oral sex. (""She felt a sense of power, almost of magic--a kind of conjuring: she held this whole man in her mouth."") So it's really no great change when Lauren, in answer to an oblique invitation, becomes a prostitute for the Jasmine Agency--specializing in the carnal needs of foreign businessmen, but feeling above it all: ""London was full of vulgar brainless bitches who would do anything for a weekend in Spain or a new pair of boots, but how many of these bitches had a master's in economics and a doctorate in international relations?"" She soon graduates to kept-woman status, with kinky protector Karim, in a flat on Half Moon Street, ""at the center of things"" at last--with connections to the rich, the movers and shakers whom she has always envied. But, after degradations and mortal dangers, Lauren finds that she's been a powerless pawn all along, despite her notions of power-through-sex. (Says her tycoon/ controller: ""London is full of people like you. The world is. That's why it's so easy for us."") ""Doctor DeMarr,"" the essentially familiar doppelganger story that follows, is also soaked in loathing: the mutual hatred of two Catholic twin brothers, Gerald and George DeMarr. When long-missing George reappears and promptly dies of a drug-overdose, Gerald secretly dumps the corpse, curiously inquires into the dead man's life, and soon (as identical twin) begins living the dead Dr. George's surprisingly enticing existence. . . with a predictably deadly twist. Unpleasant tales with a cold, modern-fairy-tale tone and some didactic undercurrents--but little of Theroux's old wit or charm.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1984
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin