18 June 2006

Love Them Creeps (A Review)

It takes a certain kind of person to write a very funny novel about stalking. That person, it turns out, is Amanda Filipacchi, author of Love Creeps (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2005). I recently wrote about finding this book on a trip to Powell’s City of Books in Portland. I’ve finished the book, and it has had time to settle – and its pleasures still linger.

Filipacchi’s story revolves around:

  • Alan, a balding, chubby accountant, Lynn’s first stalker, and Lynn’s second stalking victim;

  • Lynn, an attractive and successful gallery owner, Alan’s stalking victim, and (first) Roland’s and (then) Alan’s stalker;

  • Roland, a handsome French lawyer, Lynn’s first stalking victim, and Lynn’s second stalker; and

  • Ray, a homeless psychotherapist with a pathological curiosity.

Got that? It is a ridiculous story that, in its conclusions – there are two endings – makes great sense, binding these four people together with an absurdity that evokes great sympathy and human understanding. While the book is not really about New York’s art world, it has some dangling connections to it through Lynn and her successful gallery, and some familiar-sounding name-drops of her art-buying patrons that the culturati will surely recognize. Better than the art scene, though, what Filipacchi captures very effectively is that world’s ennui, the tiredness that can establish itself all too easily in a small, consistent, constrained world. Lynn’s distinct boredom and unenthusiasm for some of the new art she is shown rings true for anyone who has visited Chelsea’s galleries consistently; her bare, white walls may be counter-intuitive for business purposes, but you understand the feeling behind them.

If ennui is one hook, another is the general American obsession with self-improvement and self-distinction: our need to find something that makes us feel better about ourselves and sets us apart from others. Filipacchi nails this, for example with Alan’s various efforts – from going to the gym to taking random classes on random subjects, like map reading – as well as with the little details she uses to fill in our sense of some of the minor characters. Alan’s girlfriend, for instance, cheats on him constantly, having sex in his favorite white chair and then rubbing in the semen and sweat stains; she takes pleasure in the combined effects of her boundless sexuality, the use of the chair, and its growing patchwork of blotches. Or Max, the over-sexed innkeeper, who wears a codpiece – an affectation that tells us so much about him, instantly.

Best of all, Filipacchi combines her bizarre narrative with a faultlessly-precise use of language. Her sentences are enviably taut and focused, each one a little warhead that contains a powerful payload about its subjects, their insanities, and their desires. That, at bottom, is what this book is about: desire. Such a description is too easy, too simple; it is the summary on Love Creep’s back cover, which tells you something right there. So yes, ok, Filipacchi aims her weapons at desire, and the fundamental challenge of the shape-shifting humanity of which it is a part. But as with most good literature, it is not just the point that matters, but the path the author takes the reader to get there. For that, Filipacchi has a precious and enjoyable gift.


At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the site's new design - and particularly the photos in the new heading. Are we going to get to see some of your photos on this site, as well?


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