A Brazilian author’s debut explores ennui and obsession among young sophisticates.
In “Bianca and Me,” the 12th story of 21 in Parisot’s collection, the narrator describes Bianca: “Nothing seemed to interest her; she spoke in an indifferent, cold tone of voice, with a disdainful inflection as if she had a low opinion of everyone, even me, who she claimed to love.” This description proves apt for many of the characters in these briefly sketched stories: young, cosmopolitan figures are deeply, chronically bored by monogamy, heterosexuality, moderation, and bourgeois life in general. Their ennui frequently drives them further and further to seek thrills. In “A Trivial Story,” a wealthy teenager turns to drugs after eating disorders lose their allure. In “Tableau Vivant,” a young woman partakes in a live sex show in order to lose her virginity to another woman. But if these characters transgress what may be more traditional social boundaries, Parisot explores how women get revenge on men who go too far by any standard: a number of stories feature a female protagonist who murders—or tries to murder—a man who has mistreated her. While we might root for these women on principle, even readers with a high tolerance for unlikable personae may struggle with just about all of Parisot’s characters, who say things like, “The most horrible thing in the world is fat people” and “People with dignity shouldn’t live past thirty-five.” This isn’t the only difficulty the book presents. It's hard to write fiction about boredom in an engaging way, and the clipped, expository prose here flattens the reading experience even further. It may be that this is all a social critique, but Parisot plays it so straight that it’s hard to tell.
A distressingly detached collection.