Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Stage Is Set for Scares Thrills Ensue When Physician's Family Visits Actor's 'Summer House with Swimming Pool'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Stage Is Set for Scares Thrills Ensue When Physician's Family Visits Actor's 'Summer House with Swimming Pool'

Article excerpt

"Summer House With Swimming Pool"

By Herman Koch

Hogarth ($24)

There are all kinds of scary novels, and this one, out of the Netherlands, Herman Koch's "Summer House With Swimming Pool," is perhaps the most unsettling sort. It's devilish.

The first-person narrator is Marc Schlosser, a general practitioner. He's a grumpy, dissing fellow, not unlike the narrator of the author's recent dark thriller, "The Dinner."

Marc is not what you most want to believe a doctor is like. He does his job, all the while looking at the clock, smiling placidly. But he is cataloguing the disgusting traits in the human bodies before him. Folds of fat, breath that smells bad, wrinkles, sagging genitals, hairy butts. He hates it all. And what right does he have? Well, he's funny. That buys him some leeway. Might we feel the same way, then, if we were doing his job?

There are other things Marc doesn't like. Artists. And their art. For this general practitioner seems to have a clientele that is well-known or famous or is trying mighty hard to be those things.

Among the performances Marc has had to endure: "'The Taming of the Shrew' in which all the roles were played by women, 'The Merchant of Venice' with the actors in diapers and the actresses wearing garbage bags for dresses and shopping bags on their heads, 'Hamlet' with an all-Down-syndrome cast, wind machines, and a (dead) goose that was decapitated onstage." So he groans to get free tickets to "Richard II." Yet he and his wife, who feels the same way about pretentious artists and their boring work, make an exception and attend.

The play isn't so bad. They get a charge out of swilling down liquor with the artistic elite at the after party. And they get to snort with amusement that the famous actor Ralph Meier actually licks his chops as he looks at Marc's lovely wife, Carolyn.

It turns out that the famous Meier and his wife Judith are so taken with the Schlossers that they invite them (and their beautiful young daughters) to a party and then to a summer house (with swimming pool). …

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