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Netsuke Paperback – May 3, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Sex and psychosis are indistinguishable in this killer new novel from Ducornet (The Fan-Maker's Inquisition). An unnamed psychoanalyst narrator has a habit of having sex with his patients. At the risk of losing his practice, he descends into a co-dependent affair with a self-destructive woman he calls the Cutter, and later becomes obsessed by the torrid sex he has with a cross-dressing patient who suffers from split personalities. Affluent, psychotically self-absorbed, and as emotionally damaged as his patients, the doctor is just shy of a monster and lives in a twisted, sultry world that Ducornet poetically and viscerally describes, down to the effect of excessive sex on the texture of his skin. After he drops a series of clues to his affairs, the question becomes what will happen when his neglected and suspicious wife finds out. For a relatively short novel, this is unexpectedly heavy, as fascinating as it is dirty and dark, and while Ducornet's prose is initially overbearing, the plot is impossible to resist. (May)
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“Sex and psychosis are indistinguishable in this killer new novel from Ducornet. . . . [A]s fascinating as it is dirty and dark, . . . the plot is impossible to resist.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Ducornet is a novelist of ambition and scope. One is grateful for what she’s accomplished here.”The New York Times

“Pick up a book by the award-winning Ducornet, and you know it will be startling, elegant, and perfectly formed—like netsuke, those miniature Japanese sculptures used to fasten the cord of a kimono. This latest, an unflinching meditation on the twinned drives of lust and destruction, is no exception. . . . Writing about a satyr-psychiatrist could be so predictable, but Ducornet makes her characters real and scary beneath the ruminative, quietly observant prose. Highly recommended for literate readers.”—Library Journal

"Ducornet's new book tenaciously plums the tension between impulse and restraint." American Book Review

“An enticing, fast-moving exploration of one man’s obsession with his calculated power and unhinged desires.”Booklist

“Ms. Ducornet writes with velocity, immediacy, and impact. It only takes a few pages to be caught up in the mind of the doctor. . . . This story has some fascinating insights and noholds-barred language.”New York Journal of Books

“'When the very air of one's marriage grows thin and dim, there is nothing to do but set out to find a richer, brighter air,' ponders the narrator of Port Townsend author Rikki Ducornet's brief, fervent novel Netsuke. . . . Written in lyrical, sensuous prose, as if shrouded in a fog of humidity, Netsuke emerges as a character study of a man in crisis.”The Seattle Times

"The almost eerie tale of a dicey, bisexual psychoanalyst gone mad.”Washington City Paper

“[A] finely crafted object of a novel . . . . Ducornet weaves a complex tapestry of various and repeated colors, textures, and designs. . . . The total effect is simply remarkable, an austere yet somehow lush beauty. At times this chilling tale seems neo-gothic, reminiscent of the work of Patrick McGrath, though much more compact. Ducornet has the extraordinary ability to compress an explosive tale of violence and repression in a small, tight container. . . . [W]e are simultaneously repulsed and entranced as the disturbing but gorgeous story accelerates to its foregone conclusion.”Rain Taxi

“Carefully limning the interstices between obsession, rage, desire, truth, and intimacy, as well as attentively traversing the places of same, Netsuke castigates a life, and perhaps our society as a whole, in which Eros has gone awry.”American Book Review

Netsuke is a testament to Ducornet’s ever evolving, ever relevant, and simply compelling ability to tell a story. It’s well-suited for this era so defined by its shades of gray. . . . [I]t is perfect for this moment in American culture.”KGB Bar Lit Journal

“Dark, yet enlightening. Rikki Ducornet’s writing is beautifully disturbed, off-putting and brilliant. . . . Rikki Ducornet uses the loathsome character as a vehicle to explore interesting points about the intersection between humanity and animal instinct.”Twin Cities Daily Planet

“[Netsuke] mesmerizes in its fascination with the psychoanalyst’s destruction of anything worthwhile around him, and the reader becomes a voyeur unable to look away. . . . The writing is superb, whether detailing disturbing moments fraught with drama or revealing the doctor’s thoughts. . . . Netsuke has teeth and claws. It isn’t a comfortable book for a reader to inhabit, and yet it has important things to say, embedded in the deadly beautiful prose. . . . Readers owe it to themselves to encounter this slim but complex novel on its own terms.”—Jeff Vandermeer

“Rikki Ducornet's Netsuke is a slim but powerful novel. This dark psycho-sexual tale of a psychoanalyst's downward spiral is crisply written, engrossing, and impossible to forget, and has me searching out other works by Ducornet.”Large-Hearted Boy

"Ducornet is a very good writer, and she crafts a marvelous and disturbing story. . . . If you can stomach the bleak view of intimacy (“A moment’s bliss and then: the mule brays”), this novel is amazing. For fans of Chuck Palahniuk.”Hey Small Press

"Netsuke comes at the summit of Rikki Ducornet's passionate, caring, and accomplished career. Its readers will pick up pages of painful beauty and calamitous memory, and their focus will be like a burning glass; its examination of a ruinous sexual life is as delicate and sharp as a surgeon's knife. And the rendering? The rendering is as good as it gets."—William Gass

“[Ducornet] writes novels in delicate, precise language. . . . [Netsuke] is an introspective study of the life of a bad man—or is he a man who just keeps making bad decisions?—who can't stop abusing his power.”The Stranger

“Judging by her new novel, [Ducornet] has not lost ground. . . . Netsuke, a short novel that seethes with dark energy and sinister eroticism, still has power to shock, maybe even to appall. . . . Our society is numb to explicit depictions of sexual acts. The perversity, decadence, even the depravity that Ducornet renders here feel explosively fresh because their sources are thought and emotion, not the body, and finally there’s pathos too.”The Boston Globe

"Netsuke is a little masterpiece, a gem of a psychological novel. Because the doctor's mental condition is unstable, his actions are unpredictable, lending an uncertainty to the plot which keeps the story taut and exciting. And the ending is unpredictable, though in context makes perfect sense. Very highly recommended."—Lisa Guidarini, NBCC

“[Netsuke], just released on Coffee House Press, is a classic example of Ducornet’s desire to explore darkness. . . . To this writer, the psyche is a most magnetic frontier.”Peninsula Woman

“Rikki Ducornet can create an unsettling, dreamlike beauty out of any subject. In the heady mix of her fiction, everything becomes potently suggestive, resonant, fascinating. She exposes life’s harshest truths with a mesmeric delicacy and holds her readers spellbound.”—Joanna Scott

“There is the time before you open Rikki Ducornet’s Netsuke and then there is only the time in which you are reading—a searing present of heart-swallowing secrets, warped eroticism, betrayals, and insight trellised against the page in nightshade-gorgeous prose.”—Forrest Gander

"Rikki Ducornet travels . . . literary terrain with an assured, lyrical voice that consistently fascinates."Los Angeles Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566892538
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566892537
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 4.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,043,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bluestalking Reader VINE VOICE on May 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
Power is a potent aphrodisiac, especially fraught with the potential for inappropriate - and potentially devastating - intimacy when between psychoanalyst and patient. The psychoanalyst in Rikki Ducornet's Netsuke is never named, but the crux of the novel involves a man obsessed with having sexual relations with his clients. His name seems moot; the fact he's a doctor so deeply mired in his own psychological distress is the crucial element, not his name.

Akiko, a collage artist who sells her work at exhorbitant prices, is the doctor's wife. Independent from him financially, because she makes exhorbitant amounts of money from her career as a collage artist, she is very emotionally invested in their marriage. Sensing, perhaps not consciously, he's at the least closer to his patients that is appropriate, Akiko appears the oblivious spouse. However, her intellect and attention to detail hint otherwise.

Married for ten years, the doctor has not so much fallen out of love with his wife as begun to see her more through admiration of her purity than as a sexual object. At the same time he loves her for her dedication, he hates her for it nearly as much. She's so ethically good, still lovely, and treats him with trust verging on saintly, yet he finds himself dropping clues to her about his unfaithfulness. His mental issues involve lack of impulse control as well as narcissism as he drags his wife through an ever-increasing chain of events leading downward.

The doctor manages to keep his home life largely separate from his increasingly kinky and depraved affairs, aside from the occasional hints to Akiko, until he meets a woman he calls the Cutter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Naida M. VINE VOICE on June 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
Netsuke is the story about a married psychiatrist who sleeps with his patients. The narrative is lyrical and at times blunt and this novella was an unexpected gem.
Author Rikki Ducornet does an excellent job at getting inside the doctor's mind and at expressing his thoughts. This psychiatrist is unwilling to stop cheating on his wife and has been living this secret life for many years.

He seems to want his wife to find out about his infidelities, he drops clues often, but she turns a blind eye. The wife, Akiko, is a successful artist, often away due to her work. This is the doctor's third marriage and the couple live well off because of their professions. The doctors lover's all have issues and he seems to enjoy playing with fire this way. One of his partners is a young woman who cuts herself, another is a cross-dresser. He has no shame in his sexual encounters, whether they occur in his office or in his home. He even schedules his affairs into his week on a regular basis, i.e. Fridays afternoons are kept open for sex with patients.

The doctor himself is despicable, not only is he unfaithful, but he is taking advantage of his patients. I couldn't help but be sucked into this story and was curious as to whether he would get caught. He was unstable and impulsive, and his actions kept shocking me until the final page. When he wants to impress a patient, he goes out and buys new clothes, bringing his wife along for her opinion.
I felt he both loved and hated his wife. He resents her for his own unfaithful ways, blaming her for his behavior. His complex character is what made the story. I found it ironic that the doctor was the one that needed the therapy.

This is the type of book that you read slowly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Russ Mayes VINE VOICE on June 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
**semi spoilers below**

The main character in this short novel would be at home in a Roth novel. His sexuality is all-consuming, even perverse, and it torments him. As the novel begins, he is able to maintain a careful balance between his comfortable, solid home and professional life and the sordid "interstices" (his word) where he betrays wife and profession. He seems to exude an animal magnetism at times, but most often his sexual liaisons are with those who seek help from him. As a psychoanalyst, he has access to wounded and needy people, and he takes the almost cliched view that he is helping them as he screws them.

The first part of the novel is told almost entirely from his point of view. We get to know his wife, Akiko, and his patients (or as he calls them, "clients") only through the lens of his torment. The second part, which makes up the final 3rd of the novel, switches to a third person narration that allows us to see the damage he is doing as his life and interstices mix together and collapse. I found the ending to be too rapid, and though descents such as his do occur, I felt like Ducornet robbed the novel of some of its power by having his life unravel so quickly. The ending felt a bit like Checkov's early plays where, though the ending is appropriate, it is somehow at the same time lacking in power. Checkov, of course, went on to write masterpieces like The Cherry Orchard; perhaps Ducornet has a potential masterpiece in her as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By IsolaBlue on May 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Perfect because the volume is slim yet heavy, the 127 pages of Netsuke are as intricately carved as the tiny Asian art pieces for which they are named. Rikki Ducornet has shown us the culmination of a writer's flight to mastery: perhaps no one has ever said so much in so few words. Netsuke is an intimate look into the mind of a man (in this case, a psychoanalyst) who preys (and plays) upon those who come to him for help.

Tortured minds and tortured souls are turned into the sex toys of the doctor whose work life is compartmentalized into two rooms - Drear for the patients who bore him and Spells for the patients who become his focus, fascination, and - ultimately - his victims. Yet somehow the doctor's victims never quite come across as the standard folks we read about in newspaper accounts. They may be unhappy, at times destructive, a strange blend of crafty and insane, but ultimately they are stronger than the doctor, stronger than his all-knowing, all-wonderful persona. He is selfish, yes. He likes to control; he enjoys power. But - ultimately? How does one who has studied the human mind, the human psyche - how does that person live with himself when he examines his own betrayal?

Netsuke is much more than a look into the crimes of a psychoanalyst. It is also a novella that examines the role of the traditional modern wife (in this case the wife, an artist, has her art career and her own money in addition to enjoying her prestige as the doctor's wife and enjoying his money as well) and brings up issues of expectations within marriage, the strange inability to communicate within couples, and passivity born of fear, upbringing, or a possible desire to close out the unthinkable.
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