SEDUCTION IN BERLIN by William Kotzwinkle


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Like Great Worm Circus (1983), this campy little boutique-item combines Kotzwinkle verse with elaborate Joe Servello illustrations--but it lacks the humor and the arresting imagery that gave the earlier concoction some creepy, winking allure. In a decadent Berlin nightclub (circa Cabaret, perhaps), a Baroness cultivates her adultery, fondling her lover before the Baron's very eyes. Meanwhile, the narrator--a jaded gigolo--notices the entrance of Herr Friedlander, ""an aging queen"". . . and soon sees his own masculine face in the mirror becoming effeminate, then (along with the rest of his body) completely feminine. (""I was smoking, as usual, a thin cigar/but my eyelids had somehow got painted a delicate blue,/ my cheeks tinted another hue/and my lips the scarlet/of some effeminate boyish harlot."") But when a Death-figure called ""the Assassin"" attempts to shoot the Baron, it is, to everyone's surprise, foolish-seeming Herr Friedlander who gallantly intervenes, sacrificially stopping the bullets with his own body. And, having seen the ""soul of romance"" in Herr Friedlander's eyes, the Baroness turns away from her shabby affair--while the narrator-gigolo, restored to his usual physiognomy, yearns to join the gloriously ascending Friedlander ghost: ""I stood alone, Masculine? Feminine?/This is--seduction in Berlin."" A thin, pretentious dream-sequence--uneven in its sing-song versifying, tired in its androgyny themes, and more like a music-video than a satisfying piece of short, poetic fiction.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1984
Publisher: Putnam