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Lust & Philosophy Paperback – April 25, 2018
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About the Author
Originally from Chicago, author Isham Cook has been based in Beijing, China, since 1994.
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The main character, Isham Cook, was sexually molested as a child by a babysitter and this may have changed his life as an adult to one of self-destruction.
In the novel, Isham takes LSD--also known as acid. LSD is a powerful hallucinogenic drug that alters your perception of the outside world. There are some psychological risks particularly for those with a history of mental problems. Because he was also psychologically abused as a child by his ruthless stepfather, it is obvious that Isham is mentally damaged, which may explain why he takes drugs and becomes an abuser himself.
In fact, if one takes LSD too many times--and Isham does--there can be serious long-term effects that may impact one for the rest of his life. The consequences of long term use may result in sexual assault and problems in relationships with others.
And the main character does rape one of his girlfriends and thinks nothing of it. When defending the rape to another girlfriend--that he causally has sex with on a regular basis--he shrugs the incident off as if it were nothing. He also exhibits obsessive behavior of women he is physically attracted to--so obsessive that he stalks them while planning how to seduce them.
While reading the novel, I also watched "A Dangerous Method". This film was based on a true story of Jung, Freud and a female patient--played by Keira Knightly--who seduces Jung becoming his mistress.
"Lust & Philosophy"--like "A Dangerous Method"--was an erotic mind-bending story. There was something one of the characters in the film says that makes a strong connection to the novel. Otto Gross (1877 - 1920), played by Vincent Cassel, was a maverick disciple of Sigmund Freud who advocated sexual liberation.
And like Otto Gross, Isham Cook abuses drugs and seduces as many women as he possibly can.
"Lust and Philosophy" was not an easy read, but it was fascinating--its graphic sex scenes and intellectual philosophical exploration of sexuality may be too difficult for some readers to take.
The ending was particularly confusing because I think Isham had taken LSD for so long that the world had become a permanent hallucination. In the last few pages, Isham could not tell where he was from moment to moment--in China, America or Europe. For example, he'd be having a drink in a Chicago bar, leave the bar and walk outside to find himself in Beijing.
The novel was recommended to me by a friend, and I bought a paperback copy from Amazon after my Amazon Kindle failed to load the e-book. Although Isham Cook is also listed as the author of the book, I understand that is not the real name of the author. As I finished reading, I could not help but wonder if the story was somewhat autobiographical due to the sense of dysfunctional reality the novel exudes.
A word about the rating system that I have borrowed and adapted from Alice Wakefield in an attempt to keep the star-rating system meaningful:
* 4 stars from me are high praise, meaning I enjoyed the novel and recommended it.
* 3 stars mean I enjoyed the book and recommend it with some reservations.
* 5 stars are reserved for that rare work that reaches the level of a classic, such as a National Book Award, a Pulitzer or a Nobel Prize winner that compares to a Steinbeck or Mark Twain, which means the author impressed me beyond the average, entertaining book.
Cook breaks for a backstory flashback about halfway into the novel. His troubled childhood is punctuated by a crazy stepfather, not unlike Mr. Murdstone in "David Copperfield". Cook's family moves to Germany for his stepfather's sabbatical. Before the year is over, Joe the stepfather has kicked Cook out of their family, which sends the protagonist on a quest that lands him in Canada, and later Chicago. As a Chicago native, I found his critique of the academic community to be spot on. At one point, Cook is in his favorite coffee shop, Intelligentsia, on the north side, and is amazed to see a professor walk in to the cafe and take a seat across from a homeless man. But as it turns out, the professor is so in his own world that he doesn't realize his table companion is a bum. My father taught at DePaul, where the character Cook was an adjunct professor. The author Cook gets the environment there, but even better, the craziness that is the University of Chicago (I worked there for a few years). Even if you're not familiar with US academia, you can understand why someone with any self-worth would leave the US to teach abroad.
He returns to the Luna-Adalat-Cook relationship, including a climactic scene on a camping trip on the Great Wall. The almost-final scene, however, is amazing and brings together the different parts of the book in a Kafkan manner. At the end we learn more about the elusive woman on campus. Cook brilliantly brings that all together, too.
I couldn't put this book down. The story never lulled, and the characters were all sympathetic, except for the stepfather, Joe. This book might not be for everyone, but if you can handle the two terms in the title, then I'd say go for it.
Most recent customer reviews
I liked the philosophy parts of it but could have done without the...Read more
This is a bizarre novel, and your mileage will vary depending on your own...Read more