The continuing adventures of a scornful mathematician’s journey through a category romance novel: DocTurtle reads Kathleen O’Reilly’s Sex, Straight Up, Part Four!
Chapter 11: A Literary Device Goes Off in Chinatown, Wounding Three
As this chapter opens our hero sifts through the photos of his wife he’d locked away in a storage unit in Queens. Balance is restored to his life as he painstakingly builds two piles of pictures, one for his mother-in-law, one for himself.
Meanwhile, Catherine joins her mother and her friend Sybil for a “pre-birthday birthday” run on a Canal Street back-room vendor of knock-off handbags.
It was in this scene I was first aware of Kathleen O’Reilly’s “imitation” motif, a theme which will be even more explicitly (but still subtly) expressed in a later chapter (yes, if you must know, I’ve finished reading the book at this point, and the fact that I’ve done so without heretofore releasing a torrent of snark must mean that I felt sufficiently intrigued by the story as to see it uninterruptedly to its end...happy?...happy?!?):
“Her hands stroked the buttery imitation leather, fondled the gold-plated trim and caressed the lopsided double CC logo. When you grew up in an auction house, forgery was one of the seven mortal sins. In Catherine’s world handling a fake was like watching an R-rated movie when she was thirteen, scarfing an extra three cookies from the cabinet or being so gullible as to believe that if it looked like a Gainsborough, it might actually be a Gainsborough.”
Clever literary devices aside, this chapter still delivers some corkers, most notably the following: “Is it so wrong to have a blood-pumping, bedpost-shaking, hoo-haw busting sexual experience and not be emotionally involved?”
Hoo-haw hoo-haw hoo-haw.
I could say that a thousand times over and not get tired of it. It comes in as a close second to “v-jay-jay” (a term I first heard from my friend Laura).
From the Oh, And Department we have this report: on page 135 Andrea Montefiore and Sybil Unsurnamed discover Catherine’s crush, on page 140 Daniel realizes the downside of game-playing.
Chapter 12: Sex!
“She heard the rasp of his zipper, heard the deafening rip of her panties, and then...”
Should I feel left out that, I’ve managed to reach the age of thirty-three without having had a sexual encounter in which clothing was destroyed, whether intentionally or inadvertently? Am I to believe this happens a lot?
This chapter begins with our heroes’ first fully-consummated sexual encounter since...Chapter 4. Wow. Talk about dry spells.
Then there’s more game-playing. Sayeth Daniel: “I know you think this is about the sex, and that’s great, but when I’m with you I want things that I never thought I’d be able to want again.” By now he’s clearly coming around, but he’s got the turning radius of the QE2.
Catherine’s inner thoughts reveal the recurrence of the “imitation” motif: “she didn’t want to hope, because hope was a Gainsborough landscape that was still fake no matter how badly she wanted it to be real.”
Libidinal impulses satisfied, the two dive into the auction house’s records in an attempt to unearth evidence that Charles “Grandpa” Montefiore is indeed innocent. The going is slow, and their sluggish progress makes for good plot exposition as it becomes more and more obvious that someone is (gasp!) setting Grandpa up for a fall.
I have to hand it to Kathleen O’Reilly for being able to weave together deftly several narrative strands, including both characters’ inner voices, the growing sexual tension of the two’s more and more frequent and open encounters, and the integumentary material of the auction house plotline. The writing is solid if not soaring, though every now and then an ambitious metaphor peters out (“Her eyes were starting to blur as if she’d been staring at a Vasarely for too long”).
Random extra-textual musings. I’m certain that the readers will notice that my comments on these last two chapters have taken a less scornful tone. I believe this is in part because, not surprisingly, the book’s protagonists have become less comical and more real and therefore more sympathetic as the text has progressed. I still maintain that they’re a couple of game-playing dingbats, but they’re likable game-playing dingbats nonetheless. I think many commenters were right on the money in indicating that this genre’s greatest shortcoming is its brevity, leaving the author insufficient space to develop deep characters and intricate plot while delivering requisite amounts of hoo-haw busting.
I also have to admit to being in a decidedly less-snarky-then-usual mood overall. As I’ve said to my colleagues and students (many of whom have been going about their daily doings soporifically for the past several weeks), I feel as though the world has been holding its breath.
Finally, I’d like to say thank you to all of the readers on Smart Bitches and Judge a Book who have commented on my posts. I’m having a blast reading the book and writing about it, and I’m truly gratified by the posts’ popularity, particularly over on Sarah’s blog.
Coming soon: Chapters 13 through 16, and the must-read Epilogue. Then it’s on to An Infamous Army!