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As we dive headfirst into a newly formed black hole of straight-laced values and a general disdain for any hedonistic impulses, where skyscraper-shaped visuals and pointed ideas of the virile male are being replaced by socially expected, gold-ringed images of integration, Prix de Flore winner Bruce Benderson’s latest short story collection of satires is a fun, refreshing pit stop.
In My Body: Design and Architecture and Convalescence | Two Stories (Red Dust Books), readers are treated to a couple radical characters, the first being a hypocritical extremist of political correctness, who, even at the risk of death, wishes to amputate all physical attachments—arms and legs, genitalia, even the tongue—creating a subject without any phallic protuberances. One can’t help but find parallels between the narrator’s beliefs and today’s societal enforcement of assimilation, which would rather see us become theoretical stumps before contesting a growing neutrality of those old, familiar puritan standards.
Next, we meet an aged scholar of decadence, who’s become so debauched, he indulges in much more than mere mortal pleasures. History is repeating itself in the 21st Century; a single, decadent life has been deemed terribly destructive to the modern family; the scholar of the latter story can almost be thought of as an exaggerated version of these so-called offenders. Although the narrator never divulges the name of the writer in whom the eccentric scholar specializes—“a fin-de-siècle writer known for his decadent excesses and for a later zealous conversion to conservative Catholicism”—one can assume it’s Huysmans: a perfect example of debauchery gone devout. But rather than following in Huysmans’ footsteps, the scholar actually merges piety with hedonistic sin, creating a hilarious, heretical way of living out one’s golden years.
With aesthetically crafted prose and quick-witted dialogue, Benderson’s first published work of fiction in the U.S. since Pacific Agony (Semiotext(e), 2009) is darkly funny, biting, and not without merit; these stories can be allegories of living today, written by one of the underground literary greats of our time.
My Body: Design and Architecture and Convalescence | Two Stories
By Bruce Benderson
Red Dust Books
Paperback, 9780985204419, 40 pp.
Red Dust Books, one of the only American publishers of European avant-garde fiction for the last 50 years, is in the process of acquiring a new owner. While that process completes, you can only order this book via the mailing address below, or by contacting the press at www.reddustbooks.com.
845 Hancock Street
Brooklyn, NY 11233