From Publishers Weekly
Elliott's previous episodic novel, Happy Baby
, was about a masochistic man, Theo, who was coming to terms with being an abused juvenile. The narrator of these 11 linked tales, usually called Theo, practices "consensual sadomasochism." Over the course of the book, he goes from being down and out in Amsterdam to eventual success as a West Coast writer whose "current friends went to Ivy League schools." In "Other Desires," Theo gets a black eye from Ambellina, who also smothers him by sitting on his face and puts a ball gag in his mouth while they watch Casablanca
. In "I'll Love You Back," Theo's writes with the butt plug that girlfriend Eden has ordered him to wear firmly in place. Between Theo's granular descriptions of being hurt and the generic, robo-dom quality of the gals who hurt him (distinguished mostly by thickness of thigh and color of hair), the stories all tend to blur together in a sexual vacuum, with funny descriptions of Theo's improving quotidian in between—which is the point: torture, repetition and teasing are the focus of Theo's life and his work. As Theo explains in "Other Desires": "We've never had sex. We won't have sex." (Oct.)
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"An amazing and beautiful and powerful book.... I can't think of a more courageous writer than Stephen Elliott. At the center of these stories of his degradations is, I think, a rare kind of love. He is beaten until he weeps so that he can be held while he cries. But this book isn't all pathos and blood and sex -- it's also very funny. So Stephen Elliott can do it all -- he can freak you out and he can make you laugh. What more could you want from a writer?" -- Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir!
"Stephen Elliott describes the sexual and emotional terrain in a voice that is at once feral and sweet, straightforward and complicated, devastating and funny as hell." -- San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Stephen Elliott knocks my fishnet stockings off." -- Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife
"There's an emotional courage to these stories, and a sense of urgency, that are thrilling to encounter. Elliott writes as if his life depended on each sentence." -- The Believer
"[A] profound, distilled work of art
drink it and be transformed." -- Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
"[Elliott is] a master of muted prose.... He conveys unmet yearning with a poignancy that is universal." -- San Francisco Chronicle