Saturday, April 04, 2015

Book in Review: The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, by Angela Carter

Well... this is a weird one.

A strange, hard to place, weird, weird, weird one.

I am hard-pressed to come up with exactly the right one line description for this book. I guess 'an avant-garde and clinically absurdist look at the terrors of the id' will have to do.

Set in a hypnotically dystopian world where the insane are leading the blinded into a glorious version of Hell, the novel gets to really get its hands dirty and play around with lust and terror. With everyone able to conjure untold pleasures and fears with nothing more than desire, the world falls apart, and our stalwart hero (a hero which, I am convinced, is also suffering from the same delusions, though they refute that assertion consistently) is left to fight through the nightmarish dream-scapes of the crumbling world to find the doctor at the root of it all. A medicinal gatekeeper, if you will.

The writing is eloquent and delightful here, which makes some of the subject matter all the more confounding. While evoking images of sexual depravity and profane violence, the book avoids four letter words and easy descriptions, instead aiming for formality and classy avoidance. Instead of becoming crass and reveling in the orgies of vitriol and bacchanal excess, the book maintains an affected indifference and superiority fitting of our untrustworthy narrator's detached demeanor.

I loved reading this book, and I think anyone with a love of absurdity and minimalist art would as well.

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