Lurid & Cute by Adam Thirlwell
There is a great deal of lurid and very little cute in Adam Thirlwell’s newest novel. It takes the form of an interior monologue by the unnamed narrator who admits to depression but much prefers the “more romantic” term melancholy. He confesses, “I live at home with my mother and father and wife and I feel as if in constant pain.” Nevertheless, “I was very brave when considering my inner life.”
Rather than a coherent, straightforward narrative, the novel is formed by a multitude of set pieces that jump from one topic to another in a stream of conscious style. Sometimes they are related; often they are not. Within the set pieces the writing is often moving and powerful, but they ultimately produce a feeling of dis-ease and disconnection. As the narrator tells us, “the precise details are not important.”One wonders if the narrator is telling the truth. Or, in his case, what is truth? Did the hold-up at the nail salon really happen? What about the attempt to return the money and the later slow-speed car chase? And, what is the role of his friend Hiro with whom he robbed the salon? Is Hiro no more than an avatar for the narrator? So it would seem.
The lurid shines through as an adolescent boy’s obsession with sex. The novel opens as the narrator wakes up in a hotel bed with his wife’s best friend. Romy is injured and must be taken to the hospital. This is not as bad as it seems for his obsessions with Romy and with his wife Candy and sex permeate the novel. Later, they attend an orgy together and sex happens. And it happens again and again with a succession of partners.
In due course, Thirlwell in the guise of the narrator provides the most cogent review of the novel as he describes lying in bed and kissing Candy late in the narrative. It “was like one of those cable shows you come to late one night when you don’t know what’s going on, you just keep watching because it’s late and you’re tired and you are hoping that soon some minor plot moment will arrive and illuminate the whole perspective. And yet of course it doesn’t.”
Lurid & Cute is not a novel that will appeal to the masses. It may find its audience among those who revel in parsing the language and structure of the novel for there is much here to discuss in an academic way. It will not find its audience among those who like a well-told story with a beginning, middle, and end. The reader always seems to be in the middle of something, but just what that is remains a mystery.