Staff Book Reviewer Spencer Dew is the author of the short story collection Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008) and the forthcoming critical study Learning for Revolution: The Work of Kathy Acker (San Diego State University Press, 2010). An instructor at Loyola University, Chicago, Dew also reviews books for Rain Taxi Review of Books and art for Newcity Chicago. His Web site is spencerdew.com.
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Tokyo is “a great hive, a mass of cells stacked one atop the next.” Kinshasa is “a canker, a festering and open wound.” Yet beneath the thick “brown air” of Mexico City, Connell, in this collection of stories themed around world cities, twists the clichés into something freshly disturbing. His collection, after all, isn’t just about cities, it’s about those who love in them, those whose “love,” as Connell explores this sphere of behavior, somehow reflects the city, carries its character as much as the regional crafts and cuisine. Thus, in Athens, we are presented with a rash of sexual desire for marble statues; in Kinshasa—where “Violence is a common way of communication as are French and Lingala”—we encounter a woman who
is attracted to sharp things. She drives needles into her cheeks, recklessly inserts them into her lips. She is a human pin-cushion. Deep-flesh insertions. She wants to be drilled into, punctured everywhere, through every square inch, be sewn to her lovers, gored on tusks. Cuspidate rutting. Sharp thorns tacks needles. Dress herself in barbed-wire. Wrapped up in beads of red. Copulate with knives, razors, spikes and spears. She goes with many men, scares them, when she insists on making love on broken glass, her dream to make love on a bed of nails. Make love to porcupine, pickaxe or scythe.
These are the sorts of “lovers” populating this book: fiends for sex robots and toads, carnivores of all sorts, including cannibals; those with a taste for the TENS unit, electro-shock; the sensitive type with a hankering for the spirits of dead whores. A pharaoh with a nose fetish. A lady with a special octopus for heavy petting. Another addicted to an exotic, hand-ground powder. Full-fledged metamorphoses share the scene with sordid, temporary attempts at transformation via wig collections or amateur stabs at surgery. There is a man who keeps a severed human head on his table, a man who commits suicide over his obsessive love for the letter W. There’s a range of success to these stories, and some ragged grammar, but the best of them pack a deliciously twisted surprise, like slivers of clockwork wire wormed throughout a steak. Consider the young woman purchasing a plush animal for her collection:
She often fantasized about being taken by a stuffed bear, ravished by a plush tiger. / Fleeciness. Huggability. And she enjoyed dressing them up in bondage gear, kept them constantly cologned....
Or, on the matter of scent, these musings from a man with a thing for women’s armpits, for
their aroma, that pleasurable animal stench that sends quivers coursing down a healthy man’s spine. Indeed, what pleasure could be greater than to burry [sic] one’s nose in that soft fleshy envelope, have it be tickled by those feminine filaments, and breathe deeply, breathing in that nocturnal odor of dilection—blondes with their scene of carnal gold—brunettes, the hot delight of roasted chestnuts...And then...and then the redhead, the finest of all, bright orange flames flickering, shooting forth from the pits of her arms—an aroma of curry leaves, a spicy delicacy, a humid garden in which to lose one’s very senses!
Indeed, after this book, no reader will likely think of the “brown air” of Mexico City in quite the same way, nor experience “the static of carnal kisses” without imagining that deeper series of “craved jolts...the electricity of the entire city”—or, in Connell’s case, a whole series of cities, a most cosmopolitan orgy.
Official Brendan Connell Web Site
Official Better Non Sequitur Web Site