Book Review: Readings

Theroux has a knack for creative observations and clarity, as well as an undeniably vast knowledge of literature and sex

Readings

Laura Warholic or, the Sexual Intellectual

by Alexander Theroux
Fantagraphics, 878 pp., $29.95

What lies between the opening and closing sentences of Alexander Theroux's most recent tome, his first novel in 20 years, is the testimony of an unbridled logophile. Prurient readers be warned: For Theroux, character is plot, and from the first locution, Theroux, himself an unconventional intellectual, releases all dams of inhibition and lets forth endless cascading streams of grandiose characterization, specification, explication.

Theroux's apologue features Eugene Eyestones, an erudite sex columnist who suffers from farsightedness. Eyestones is reclusive and naive, curious about everything, a connoisseur of all that is saporous. His foil and inspiration for his printed musings on the "average woman" is Laura Warholic, an unapologetically lackadaisical and avaricious woman, referred to by those who know her best as "Cum Dumpster." She is the bad egg to Eyestones' good egg. Warholic is homely, malodorous, and – if nothing else should be taken from this dense drama, in which many of the words employed by Theroux can be found only in fat, unabridged dictionaries or not at all, because he made them up – she is thin. Warholic is "a homely, long-shanked, bony, spindle-nosed slattern," whose "thinness was actually dreadful, her breasts as flat as fritters." She is "slightly bowlegged" and walks "like a camel on stingy, calfless legs, bony and pencil-thin." She is bumless.

As Eyestones and Warholic individually succumb to the depths of their despair, Theroux's unfiltered currents flood pages with curious characters who at times fondly resemble John Kennedy Toole's ridiculous and charming personalities; however, Theroux's, with a few exceptions, are rotten individuals. They have nonversations with one another, talking in monologues, constantly quoting philosophers and varied celebrities ("Who was it that said ...?"), a Theroux trademark. Theroux's criticisms of modern society come through easily enough, yet the abundance of anti-Semitism, misogyny, and anti-homosexuality found in his lyrical prose gives the reader the troublesome task of deciphering satire from straightforward belief. What should not be downplayed is Theroux's knack for creative observations and clarity, as well as his undeniably vast knowledge of literature and sex.

Laura Warholic or, the Sexual Intellectual was published in December by Fantagraphics Books, generally a publisher of comic books and the only one willing to claim Laura Warholic as its own, which is certainly fitting, because the characters are far too animated and absurd to be accepted in a conventional book. As for Theroux's writing, probably to his delight, 'tis caviar to the general.

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