Dan (real name, Yoshihiko Kuroiwa) didn’t just write S&M. He practically made it into a one-dirty-old-man cottage industry. He wrote over a hundred novels that were probably sold in several forest’s worth of plain brown wrappers, and penned dozens of scenarios for films whose posters you wouldn’t want hanging in your living room when your parents came over. Not unless your dad happened to be Oniroku Dan — and if he was, you had bigger problems.
Some of Dan’s movies, like the infamous Flower and Snake, have shown up in English, but until Vertical brought out Season of Infidelity earlier this month nothing he’s written has been given the same treatment. Infidelity culls four stories from Dan’s back catalog, and what’s most fascinating is not the gamut of fetishes and perversities that Dan catalogs for the reader — that part’s pretty predictable — but the tone of the whole thing. Dan mines his various autobiographical anecdotes as much for sentimental self-pity as he does for salaciousness. Read more
The two hardest things in art are being funny and playing stupid. Gilbert Sorrentino must have been touched by genius, because he did a better job of portraying an irredeemably bad writer — i.e., playing stupid — than anyone else I’ve read yet. He also managed the difficult juggling act of of being both highbrow and lowbrow at the same time, without letting either extreme eat him up. He did this sort of thing through a number of books, none of them bestsellers but many of them worth seeking out, and of the bunch of them Mulligan Stew remains a perennial favorite. (Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things is my other favorite Sorrentino overall, but it’s so dissimilar from Stew that it would be unfair to talk about it in the same review.)
To paraphrase from a press release for a film I hated, Mulligan Stew is “a car bomb of post-modern textual self-deconstruction”, rammed head-on into the present-day crop of literary pretensions. In plainer language, it’s a hoot, an indictment of the self-importance of those who seem more interested in pleasing critics and snobbish literary professors than they are in telling a story (!) or communicating something genuine (!!). Sorrentino accomplished all this by taking on the form of the very thing he wanted to critique: a Post-Modern Novel, consisting of books inside other books, with all the characters in search of an author. It’s not bad enough that they have to endure the indignity of being mere fictional creations, but they’re doubly miffed that the one who created them is such a humorless, egomaniacal twit. Read more