A psychiatrist’s erotic desires run amok, bringing ruin to many lives.
The novel, an amalgam of erotica and tragic romance with clear literary aspirations, begins with an italicized section describing the main character running in a park, godlike, exuding a sexual magnetism that allows him (in his 60s) to seduce with a glance a much younger woman running past him. They enter the woods for an immediate tryst, which the author describes in pornographic, philosophical and mythological language. The narrative switches to first person to describe the unnamed psychiatrist’s compulsions to seduce his patients, as he operates two separate “cabinets” (offices), one called “Drear” for his mundane clients and the other “Spells” for the ones with whom he is sexually involved. The doctor’s inner monologue oscillates between confident narcissism (he is all-powerful, perhaps even doing therapeutic good through these affairs) and awareness of his decadence and impending doom. He longs to be caught, and death is in the air alongside the ubiquitous sex. Moreover, he has a compulsion to leave clues—verbal and otherwise—for his wife Akiko (the collector of the titular netsuke) to find. He is able to sustain his affairs with myriad patients and strangers until he meets David, a new patient whom he immediately designates for Spells—he's attracted to him as a man—but no, David is a woman named Jello, a drag queen. Inevitably, it all comes crashing down as lovers and wife become aware that the doctor has been very busy.
No reader will be impoverished for having skipped this one.