The Good

Rodrigo Rey Rosa
Esther Allen

(New Directions)
Juan Luis Luna is son to the very rich Don Carlos. He is also what they call in Guatemala "flojo," a lad not interested in working, even for the old man. Rather, he likes smoking dope and lying about with Ana Lucía of the nice thighs.

But four of his old schoolmates cook up plans to kidnap him and hold him for ransom, one of the up-and-coming career opportunities now in style for much of Central and South America. They stuff Juan in an abandoned gas tank and send a note off to Don Carlos that he can have his wastrel son back for a half a million dollars.

Don Carlos isn't interested, so to prove they mean business, they chop off Juan's little toe and ship it off to the family rancho. The Don's only response is that they should lower the ransom because the goods have been tainted.

They determine to try again, and we find ourselves wondering what other bodily parts could they possibly be FedExing to the cacique. Hand? Ear? Eye? Nose? Brain? Membrum Vitale? Nope: the feet have it; or, to put it bluntly, the right foot gets it in the neck.

Don Carlos does develop a smidgen of guilt when he sees what Fats Waller used to call the "pedilict primitive" packed in ice, resting on the kitchen table. In the accompanying note, Juan begs him to keep it in the freezer just in case they can get someone to glue it back on when he gets out of the tank.

§     §     §

It's a pretty disgusting story line, if you ask me, but it only runs a bit over 100 pages, the type is large, and there is some interest in what will happen after Juan gets bought out of bondage by the old man, fitted with a fancy prosthesis, awarded an inlaid cane or two, and sent off to Tangiers with Ana Lucía of the lovely thighs.

Chance preys heavily on The Cripple: the Sephardi, one of the original kidnappers, just happens to be running a tourist restaurant in Tangiers, but we're not sure if the Sephardi recognizes Juan when he lumbers in for supper with Ana. There are a few trembling brows and moments of checking out the cane --- but nothing more is said about it.

Ditto when Juan goes back to Guatemala, visits another of the malefactors. "He walked past the little table, close to the other man, but didn't raise the cane to strike him." All Juan can think of was the fact that "he wanted no descendants."

As one may guess by the story line and the general malaise, author Rosa is a Paul Bowles fan (Bowles has translated several of his previous novels into English). So when they go out to eat in Tangiers, Juan meets Bowles, takes him to the aforementioned restaurant where they discuss his short stories.

Perhaps it is a tribute, but if I were Bowles I would be a tad offended. The author has him yawn and damn near fall asleep at the table. We're not sure if it is the company or the hour.

Still, how would you like your memento mori to be a shot of you practically face-down in the flan?

--- Bob Wisdom

Advanced Rut

Strategies for Taking
Whitetails During
Prime Time

Gerald Bethge

(Lyons Press)
There is a raw humor about how animals --- especially two-legged animals --- get stupid when they are in lust. It has been part of bawdy culture since the time of Aristophanes, was brought to high art by Shakespeare, de Maupassant, Byron and Chaucer.

One of the earliest experiences I had with classic literature --- and what may have shadowed my long and awful career as a failing English major --- was an early attempt to translate the rough and tumble of the Miller's Tale from Middle English into the language of the streets of my home town.

Of all classic stories, this one is an excellent example of what the rut (also called "the itch") can do to an otherwise sane man. However, in 1950, our public library would barely give access to the original, never a translation. Never will I forget the triumph when I finally rendered it on my own --- my first piece of lusty writing gleaned from the eccentric language that was known as Middle English. (For those of you who wish to know more, go here.)

It is apparent from Advanced Rut Hunting that those who are into slaughtering Cervidæ can usually get in a murderous shot or two at a twelve-pointer when he is in the midst of courting his lady love, what the author refers to as "prime time." "Anything can happen during the rut," says the author, culling a hoary cliché, "and it usually does."

The book makes no bones about the advantage of stalking a buck when his heart is fancy-free, catching him, in a manner of speaking, with his pants down. The fifteen authors represented here rise at the ungodly hour of three A.M. or so, go out into the snow-powdered fields, and lie in a blind with shotgun and a thermos-full of firewater just to catch two deer busy doing the beast with two backs.

There is a great deal here about "scrapes," "decoys," and "trickle rubs." Bucks rattle and grunt, huntsmen, in response, issue "fawn-bleating calls," "estrus-bleats," "fawn-distress estrus whines," and my favorite, "hot doe bleats" (not to be confused, we suspect, with hot-dog buns).

Those who want their venison hot and bloody must scout out antler rubs, second ruts, trickle ruts, listening for "buck clicking." Bucks in love, apparently, come to be just as noisy as Chaucer's poor, poker-ridden Absolon.

We'd be the last to claim, after plowing though Advanced Rut Hunting, that the technology of deer-love is simple. For instance, there are a dozen different techniques for making use of scrapes, markings left in the terrain as signals for does and other bucks. However, if it all stumps you, you can always purchase a spray called "Love Potion No. Nine." It bills itself as "A Fatal Attraction of Pheromones"

Those of our readers who plan after this one to be seeding the woods with love potions and hot doe bleats should be reminded of Ed Zern's warning. One should be careful when using attractants, he tells us, for it is possible that the buck may get so het up that he will respond by trying to mount the hunter, much to the distress of both. There are about forty photographs reproduced here. Twenty are of a sportsman holding up the head of a defunct buck. They pull up on the rack so that the beast can, presumably, smile at the camera.

The rub comes --- not necessarily an "antler rub" --- from the fact that so many of us grew up feasting on early Walt Disney. We now have a thing about deer. We know that a big father deer will have a kindly mama deer who, in turn, will whelp a tiny Bambi of the big eyes. Remember when they shot Bambi's sire in a gush of woe and blood? That alone should get the animal-rights activists busy picketing any and all of the authors represented here.

--- Lolita Lark

Some of us will just have to admit to being philosophically challenged. We read this stuff and cannot figure it out for the life of us.

For instance, Schultz offers this summary of the late 19th Century philosopher Henry Sidgwick's interest in the occult:

    Sidgwick's life project, as should by this point be clear, involved an effort to find some evidence for the thin theistic postulate capable of resolving the dualism of practical reason and, of course, undergirding his casuistry. If his psychical research was a logical development of his theological and ethical interests --- his chosen path for restoring the moral order of the universe in a way that recognized the force of egoism as part of the religious hope for a happy immortality --- it was also yet another manifestation of his Apostolic love of intimate fellowship in the service of inquiry into the "deepest problems." Such inquiry, as it transpired, positively demanded new forms of intimacy and sensitivity, new horizons for the Millian and Mauricean attempt to achieve sympathetic unity.

My personal theory is that someone who writes like this should be trucked off at once to the Philosophy Department at Montana State University or the Autonomous University of Uganda and, once under house arrest, forbidden all access to computers and the internet --- even typewriters --- until he or she promises to write language that you and I can grok without giving ourselves over to brain damage.

Despite this, we were smitten with the cover shot of Sidgwick, complete with mooney eyes and a rat's-nest of snowy beard, although we did wonder why Cambridge University Press felt the urge to give almost 900 closely-set seven- or eight-point type pages to him.

According to the author, the philosopher's The Methods of Ethics is a formidable and vital book for those interested in ethics, philosophy in general, and those willing to muddle through a challenging if not obfuscatory writing style not unlike the present volume.

Sidgwick was, apparently, the philosophical son of John Stewart Mill (and Utilitarianism), who stated, if I can figure it out, that actions are right if they bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. I must say that after seventy years, I'm beginning to doubt that happiness can be achieved, much less handed out to the masses with any moralistic success. Of more interest is the fact that Sidgwick got hung up on the notorious mystic Madam Blavatsky, along with one of the most guilt-ridden sexual outlaws of the times, John Addington Symonds. In our own day, it would not be unlike Stephen Hawking taking up with Uri Geller during the days, then spending his nights at the Bambi Club in Tijuana.

Sidgwick was a member of the Metaphysical Society and a founding member and first president (1882-85, 1888-93) of the Society for Psychical Research. The reason for his interest in the occult is given in the opening lines of this review. If I may offer a crib, the thought is that after Darwin, there had to be an attempt by philosophers to find a philosophical system that could supplant traditional Christianity; one that would give a new sense of morals using practical reason and "philosophical intuitionism" to deliver what was called The Ultimate Good ("Metaethics.")

Sidgwick believed that the Theosophists might have some answers to what he thought of as the Big Cataclysm, namely, the death of God. After all, Mme. Blatvatsky was not just a hypnotic, hyperactive personality, she claimed to be able to receive communications directly from the great beyond by plucking pages from the thin air above her.

Sidgwick eventually became disgusted with the Theosophists, but he stayed loyal to his friend Symonds. Symonds and Sidgwick believed in confession in the Victorian mode --- that is, long searching letters back and forth. It was thought that by the direct communication of thoughts, he and Symonds might test the theory that psychic insight best came to those who were suffering the crises of a personal breakdown. Symonds came to the philosopher replete with trances and "disassociative states." Sidgwick found himself "stirred by affection" for Symonds and his sufferings. Whether more than affection came to pass between the two, we'll never know: people just didn't talk about such things publically back then, unless they were named Oscar Wilde.

Despite this fat book devoted to his life and thoughts, we'll never know what transpired. The philosopher was not about to mar his historical record by revealing if there was anything more than a proper friendship between him and Symonds. Still, the letters of the latter --- a fair number of which are reproduced here --- are a trip. If you are into self-abasement which, evidently, he was. In spades.

--- G. T. Barnes
Total number of pages in book: 858
Total number of pages read: 100 or so, here or there.
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