Susanna Moore's tight, crisp, descriptive prose lends a special flavor to this darkly erotic thriller of a woman who lives life on the edge. Moore's novel is literary eroticism at it best and not just a mystery thriller about a vicious serial killer. Her manner of telling the tale is what makes it so unique.
Frannie, the novel's narrator, is an attractive 35 year-old divorcee who lives in a two room apartment on Washington Square. She teaches creative writing at NYU to a group of inner-city "low achievement teens" with high intelligence. She is also a connoisseur and scholar of language and is writing a book on street slang and its derivatives. Frannie takes chances. She is a sexual risk taker. However, she lives in her own private world where she spends an incredible amount of time pondering the nature of language, which leaves her vulnerable to her surroundings...and reality. Frannie is not at all street savvy. And her near-sightedness allows her to disengage even more from the potentially dangerous world in which she lives. One late afternoon in a neighborhood bar she makes a trip to the ladies room and inadvertently walks-in on a couple engaged in an intimate act. The man's face is obscured by shadow but she does notice that he has a unique tattoo on the inside of his wrist, (she has her glasses on). A few days later a NYC homicide detective, James E. Malloy, seeks Frannie out for an interview. There has been a brutal murder in the neighborhood. The victim is the woman Frannie saw performing the sex act in the bar. The evening Frannie saw her was her last.
Malloy takes risks also. He totally defies all rules about relationships between a detective and potential witness and acts on the tremendous sexual attraction between Frannie and himself. Malloy epitomizes the "tough guy with a badge," his frank blunt language adding to Frannie's turn-on...
Ms. Moore increases the suspense when Frannie is violently attacked on a dark street late at night. Then another murder is committed and the tension becomes almost too palpable. The climax is shocking. Warning - don't read the end of the book first. This is not a novel for the faint of heart. If you are a reader who is repelled by expicit sex or vividly portrayed violence, this is not for you. On the other hand, if you appreciate a well crafted, beautifully written erotic thriller, this one is excellent and original!
on September 22, 2003
Susanna Moore's book is an edgy, taut, fast paced thriller. The story begins with Franny an NYU professor working with students from the projects in a writing class. This is a convenient relationship for her as she is able to work on her own book and fufill her obsessions with language forms, particularly slang usage in this area of NYC. Some professors comment on her inappropriately close relationship with her students as she often sees them outside of class to discuss their projects as well as her interests. On one particular night she goes to a bar with a student where she witnesses a man and a woman engaged in a sex act and this sets the plot for the book. This book includes alot of graphic sex scenes that Franny witnesses, recalls and engages in. She is not a particularly likable character and becomes less so as the plot moves along and she becomes involved in an investigation involving the murder of the girl she saw in the bar. The primary detective on the case, Malloy, is an interesting character who Franny senses is dangerous as well as exciting. As their relationship heats up, she begins to feel that she is being drawn into a dangerous, erotic game but doesn't want to stop herself . The last chapters of the book are page turners that I was unable to put down with an ending that doesn't disappoint. This book isn't for everyone though, it is graphic in both its sexual content and violent descriptions of the crime scenes. It is an exciting novel that will leave you thinking about it and its characters well after the book is closed.
on August 19, 1997
Susanna Moore's "In The Cut" is a thriller but an oddly detached one. Perhaps that's because her protagonist, a divorced writing teacher living in New York, seems detached from her own feelings and her own past; she observes both in fragments as the story progresses, and we get to know her only through refracted moments of recollection. It's a clever device, to sprinkle biographical data throughout the narrative instead of loading it up front, but in the end, we don't quite get to know her. Her true passion is words. She's a writing teacher, but her calling is linguistics. What I liked about this book was that Moore created a character who had interests other than those simply created to move the plot along. Her character spends a lot of time in her head, appreciating the music of language, the creation of new word usages and the evolution of slang; it would be easy to dispense with her as someone who lives too much in abstractions to appreciate the carnivorous world she lives in, but Moore doesn't pigeonhole her quite so neatly. The appeal of the ambiguous, sometimes threatening quality of words is mirrored by a similar appreciation of the menacing possibilities of human contact. This, of course, leads her protagonist into nothing but icy, gruesome trouble.
The other characters in the book are all needy, some of them venal, and none of them entirely reliable. Our protagonist passively allows an affair with a troubled detective to begin, a man whose temperament is only a shade more empathetic than Harvey Keitel's "Bad Lieutenant". However, as a dramatic foil he's just as opaque as she is, and the portrait left of him seems incomplete. But that's the way the whole book feels once you've finished it--as if there was more to be explained. Moore seems to be aspiring to the place Joyce Carol Oates occupies when it comes to conveying modern urban terror and personal disintigration; that's a pretty high standard, and she doesn't make it, but there is still some clever writing here. Most convincing are her observations of the nonverbal cues men and women give each other, and the way some people communicate when more is imputed than is ever said.
on November 23, 2012
I have a strong stomach for literary gore. I love eroticism in fiction. I thought that the two of those combined would make a good read, but i was sorely disappointed. Where was the thriller in this book? I'm still wondering? I couldn't really care less that another Jack the Ripper had shown up in lower Manhattan. The lead character is stubbornly dense, and I'm being kind. She's a teacher who, among the other men she decides to have a go with, also decides to get involved with her student, because why? She's a confused slut? She has no morals and it makes it easier for us to contemplate her fate? I mean really, like I said, my judgement of this character has less to do with what she does than who she does it with, which I find mind numbingly predictable.
So if you can stomach the tackiness inherent in the shallow main character, and the decorative cast behind her that slouch across the page, you will find the plot unfolds to reveal a "thriller." These days, it seems, authors don't feel any obligation to explain to the reader the inner workings of the character's motivations, nor of the reasoning behind any of the major plot turns of the novel. The killer makes off with a character in the book, why? Oh, he's a serial killer. That's all you need to know. Too bad about the connections to the main character, all you, the reader needs to know is that the noose is closing! Beware!
The same with the sexual connections, they're made without thought, without deeper meaning. They just are there. A contempt for the reader is inherent in this way of writing, and as a reader, you can believe I take it very personally. I don't want it all explained to me, but I don't want to have to overthink it either, author, especially when the main characters are unpleasant, and not really worth the thought. It's a singularly ungenerous, miserly, and yes, shameful way of constructing a novel, a cheap trick of a book. Don't bother, it's not worth your time.
on March 13, 2002
A literary novella with underpinnings in the erotic fiction and murder-mystery genres, Susanna Moore's "In the Cut" attempts-in its brisk 180 pages-to be many things at once: an examination of class struggle and identity, a study of feminine obsession and desire, a meditation on the role of slang in street culture. In the end, however, "In the Cut" will probably be remembered most for its somewhat explicit depictions of sex and violence. Not that there's anything you'll find here that hasn't already been done before, in more garish detail and to higher extremes of depravity. But there is something mildly disconcerting in the way that Moore's strikingly elegant style of prose is put to the service of the story to such shocking effect. This isn't your typical work of hardcore erotica or splatterpunk. Rather, it is a quiet psychological exploration into the mind a white, middle-class, thirtysomething female making her way through a volatile cultural and emotional landscape.
Frannie, the story's protagonist, is a mild-mannered English teacher with a fascination in the regional colloquialisms of urban minority groups. Her research frequently takes her into the streets of New York City where, late one night in a bar, a stolen glimpse of an illicit sexual encounter sets off a series of events which may or may not connect her to the victim of a grisly murder. Soon she finds herself engaged in a passionate liaison with a rugged police detective who could be hiding a dark secret. The book is not structured as a conventional murder-mystery; for the most part Frannie has little interest in finding the killer and nor, it seems, do any of the other characters. The murder serves as more of a backdrop to Frannie's ever-increasingly complicated relationship with the detective. Likewise, although sexually graphic, the book is not a conventional work of erotica. Instead, the sex is used as a way of probing Frannie's inner psyche, revealing deep-seated needs and fixations, leaving the reader feeling more anxious than aroused.
The most problematic aspect of "In the Cut" is that Frannie is not a very sympathetic heroine. Though intelligent and articulate, she is abhorrently self-centered, a reckless risk-taker, and exceedingly stuck-up. It is not until the book's final thirty pages that we begin to feel much compassion for her, which means that the first five-sixths of the book will be, for some, rather frustrating to get through. I am assuming that this is quite intentional on Moore's part; the story's unsettling conclusion seems to reveal a kind of karmic logic that validates much of what leads up to that point. Many have found the book's morbid and gratuitous ending to be morally offensive, but it is ultimately Moore's refusal to supply the reader with an easy resolution that makes the story resonant and affecting.
What is particularly notable about "In the Cut" is the quality of its prose. Moore is a bold and assured writer, and fills the story's passages with style and edge. It is a smart, graceful and refined work of literary fiction that employs the conventions of popular pulp genres as a device for exploring deeper emotional terrain. A worthy read for those interested in gritty, uncompromising storytelling, but not recommended for the faint of heart.
on October 29, 2004
I have read reviews on this book that go both ways. For the most part, people hate it, or they love it. Well, this is my opinion:
Okay, this is a graphic book. This is also very good writing. Stumbled across this book at a friend's. Never heard of the movie; still have not seen it. Picked this novel up from a pile of romance novels and Johnathan Kellermans and summer beach books that she had lying about. Honestly, I love her, but her choices rarely interest me. But I read about two-thirds of the way through the summery on the dust jacket, closed it up, and decided then and there that I was going to read that unfamiliar book.
The narrator is a teacher working on a book for slang words, and I personally feel that the narrator was drafted very well. I feel that the plot was interwoven and strong and it did in fact keep me guessing, which anymore is a rare find in most authors that I'd not read before. In other words, it is a wonderful feeling to read a great author unexpectedly. And Moore certainly is just that.
Graphic sex scenes that reminded me of Kiss Me, Judas, but writing that is without a doubt originally and thoroughly hers alone. Not to say that I've never before read some of the story elements that she presents, but it is certainly an original write in a field that is constantly marred with ridicule for novels being copies of copies of copies. This book is far apart from most of the contemporaries that I have read, and I feel that it was a jewel of a find.
Not two weeks after I'd read it, I'd thought on it, on different parts, the parts that I enjoyed most for this personal reason or that as you have no idea why you think some thoughts at random, and I had to order my own copy. Still spend time with it. Came here tonight to order a copy for one of my sisters as a Christmas gift. Kind of just stumbled into the reviews. Thought it important to explain why I enjoyed it, and still enjoy it. If for just a few dozen lines of commentary.
And hey, just to throw this out there...
If you are a fan of Ellis' work, or pay any attention to his recommendations on books, consider this read. Bret Ellis said that it has one of the most surprising endings that he had ever read. And I imagine that he is an avid reader. Many of us know that he is a fan of Chuck Palahniuk's. Well, he is also a fan of hers. And her work gets slept on far too much; this book is highly underrated. That is why I am writing this review. Found it by chance, and found it to be a very, very enjoyable chance. Graphic, but enjoyable. I enjoyed it slightly more than David Benioff's The 25th Hour, just to give an honest comparison.
This 1995 novel by Susanna Moore is going to be made into a film starring Nicole Kidman.
Set in Greenwich Village, the protagonist is a writing teacher who becomes involved in a murder investigation because she has accidentally witnessed a sex act in a bar involving the victim. Written with gritty realism, the reader is drawn into the writing teacher's own graphically erotic sex scenes with a detective, as well as her fear of being stalked by an the unknown murderer.
The plot twists and turns and seems to be a basic murder mystery. But then, the book ends suddenly in a sick and sadistic way. And the reader is shocked, not only because of the brutality of this conclusion, but because there was no real foreshadowing of this kind of development. I cringed when I read it. But I can't say it haunted me because it was just so discordantly out-of-context that I couldn't identify with it. For that reason I can't recommend this book.
But even though I still get occasional negative chills recalling the book, I'm sure I'll want to see the movie.
on December 2, 2005
I bought this book after seeing Jane Campion's film adaptation, which is wonderful. The book is even more captivating. Reading it, I had the uncanny feeling that it was told in the voice that runs through my own head-a voice unusually attentive to the words people use, that appear in ads and on walls and on pages and that seem to hover like poetry, waiting to be understood-a voice that is therefore strangely detached from the other aspects of living, even when fully, physically embroiled in them. Moore's narrator seems to know that she is a character in a text; even the erotic heights reached in this novel (the hottest I've read all year) and physical terror are felt as linguistic experiences, which only sharpens the edges of their sensuality.
The ethereal writing of Moore reminds me of a female James Salter--a purposeful detachment that conveys the protagonist's (Frannie's) detachment from her own life. Startling ironies hint at Frannie's personal tragedies--accumulated and melancholied--heaped in a corner of her heart and cresting to bleed out onto the pages. It is this prose that creates a vivid depth of feeling and a taut, fresh, exciting rigor of momentum.
Frannie is a scholarly woman--a linguist and a Creative Writing professor for intelligent students with low motivation. Frannie's personal despair and emptiness are well illustrated in the first few paragraphs. It is as if she is a shadow of herself or a mirror of the dereliction that she lives within--both in her soul and in the city. After she witnesses an erotic act between a wrist-tattooed man and a young woman, she becomes involved with the tattooed man--who she learns is a detective--although she thinks he may have killed the woman. She is turned on by the dangerous masculinity of the detective and the power of seedy erotica.
The murder/suspense thriller is, to me, the vehicle for a larger but more subtle story of personal isolation. The story serves as a medium for inner desolation and the loss of the soul. Most of the characters, whether they live or die, seem to have lost a chunk of their soul to the already embittered and fringed.
I love Moore's style of writing more than the story. At under 200 pages, it was quite short and therefore more brief in certain characterizations and relationships than a reader might desire. However, it may have been intentional to keep all the characters in shadow. I suppose Moore could be considered a nihilist (based solely on this book)---when you finish the book, the reaction you have is more a response to the concept of dreary insulation/isolation and the failure of human connections than it is an empathy for any particular character. If you are eagerly awaiting the arrival of hope, you will not be fulfilled in that quest. However, the author does give a layer of searing suspense, buoyancy, and liveliness to the mordant theme. It is piquant in sensuality and freshness, much like the ripe slicing of a juicy pomegranate.
I recommend this book for its writing. If you are looking for a suspenseful but typical murder mystery, then wait for the movie to do its Hollywood eye-candy.
on April 3, 2004
This book is fantastic. Yes, it's brutal and yes, it's at times painfully graphic, but the prose is remarkably intelligent and witty, the story moving along at a mesmerizing clip. The ending truly is a jarring surprise. Moore keeps you guessing the entire time, but she also keeps you interested, something few novelists can do, in my estimation. I also loved the protagonist's preoccupation with etymology; I loved her narrative voice; I loved the gentle and not-so-gentle ironies laced throughout.
It's refreshing to read a book where the narrator (and for that matter, the author) is expansively, demonstrably intelligent. It's refreshing not to have to read a rehash of Patterson or Cornwell or Kellerman. Moore's style and voice are decidedly different, authentic and full of life.
I recommend this book wholeheartedly, though don't expect to be charmed. It's lovely like Silence of the Lambs (the book) was lovely. It's riveting like Lovely Bones was riveting. Which is to say although it is most certainly harsh, it's nonetheles cruelly captivating, therefore a worthwhile read.