THE FRIDAY BOOK: Subversive Literary Games of Sadistic Titillation ; Seven Tales of Sex and Death Patricia Duncker Picador, Pounds 12.99

By Arditti, Michael | The Independent (London, England), April 11, 2003 | Go to article overview
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THE FRIDAY BOOK: Subversive Literary Games of Sadistic Titillation ; Seven Tales of Sex and Death Patricia Duncker Picador, Pounds 12.99


Arditti, Michael, The Independent (London, England)


PATRICIA DUNCKER has trouble sleeping at nights. Unlike other novelists who might lull themselves with their favourite passages of Proust or Jane Austen, she watches trash television - B movies in particular. Her latest literary project is a direct response to the images, themes and sheer visceral enjoyment that she finds on her screen.

If one part of Duncker's imagination is steeped in Hollywood cliches, the other is steeped in European literature. She is the most allusive of contemporary writers. From the postmodern playfulness of her first novel, Hallucinating Foucault, through the cross-dressing protagonist of her second, James Miranda Barry, to the Freud- and Frankenstein-influenced ghosts of her third book, The Deadly Space Between, she has delighted in subverting literary genres.

Seven Tales of Sex and Death continues this process. Duncker takes a variety of B-movie cliches - serial killing, rape, sado- masochistic titillation, political violence, closed communities, mysterious strangers and, above all, enigmatic women - and injects them with new life. At the same time, her literary influences range from Ovid to Bruce Chatwin via JG Ballard.

All these tales are written in the first person and all but one of the narrators are women. Most are sexually ambiguous with a preference for lesbianism, a notable exception being a dominatrix prostitute who connives in the murder of her clients.

The settings range from a Greek island where an archaeologist's discovery of the Temple of Zeus appears to let loose the spirit of that rapacious god, through a remote Welsh hillside where three elderly Baptists live alongside a very grisly collection of family relics, to a US military camp in Germany.

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