Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I was ready to close my blog for good. After several years of posting about what I read and what I write, with a few excursions into the art of film, painting and history, I was ready to throw in the towel.

Writing a post takes time, a commodity I don’t always have. I have a full-time job, but less mental and physical energy than before. I’ve had a couple of tough years… I’ve been struggling to find the audience from the very beginning of this journey (which makes me even more grateful to those four or five who’ve stayed with me all these years).

My contribution to the Library Silent Auction 2017. Beneath the pink cover is Rosen Torte: a luscious cake made of 12 layers of thin sponge and 12 layers of walnut buttercream.

Does it matter if I call it a day?

Yes and no. Blogging doesn’t affect my sales, doesn’t attract more attention to my books. My absence certainly wouldn’t leave an unfillable void in the blogging community. Nonetheless, I feel that, if I give up on blogging, I may give up on writing in general. Somehow, blogging accompanies my creative process, it helps me stay in touch with my stories and people who live in them, even if I write posts about unrelated topics such as history, or painting, or food.

I’m still not sure how this is going to end, but for a little while, I would like to explore a sort of “fusion” blogging. I make wonderful desserts, so I may write about famous cakes and share my recipes. Or about savoury food my family consider me famous for. Or more about acrylic painting… and about books, of course.

Speaking of books, I’ve just found another review of Best Friends and Other Lovers on Smashwords, from January. The reviewer appears to be an author as well.

“Loved all three of the books. The first one’s ending was a little abrupt but that was okay. The second one was the fastest-paced of all of them. But if you know me, I like a good fast-paced romance. The last one was the most aggravating but so rewarding at the end. I’m happy all three of them got their happy-ever-afters.”

Short and sweet, and I’m thankful to her.

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The Best Antidote for Self-doubt

I almost wept when I read Audrie Driscoll’s review my three story collection, Best Friends and Other Lovers. It’s been so long since I got any feedback about my writing.

Yesterday I told my friend, Georgette, about it. “I probably should print it out and frame it,” I said. “Of course you should,” she said. “You also should hang it on the wall and read it next time self doubt starts to gnaw on your confidence.”

Not only that, it made me reconsider my plan to give up on my blog.

Not only that, it also made me feel better about my newest novella, or story No. 4, I Will Be Waiting for You at the End of the Story that I’ve just sent to my editor. It continues with the same family/friend angle like its predecessors — the primary female character is Ted’s Canadian cousin Harper, who appears in the third story in a minor role, just to make things complicated. (The third story is also my favourite, although, this upcoming novella might shuffle that order. I really like this new tale and its feisty, courageous and funny female protagonist, who has “a problem for every solution”, as her love interest, Jamie, likes to point out.)

And now — drum roll, please! — the review.

“This trio of romantic encounters features three different couples. An interesting aspect is the family and friend relationships that exist among the six individuals, in addition to the sexy encounters that are the focus of each story. So, for example, Nick in “Once Upon a Night,” the first story, has an ex-wife named Hannah. She is the female lead in “Blind Date,” and Nick’s sister Deanna is the narrator and main character of “Best Friends & Other Lovers,” the third and final story. That means there are references in the later stories to the people in the earlier ones, a nice touch.
For the most part, the characters are professionals in their 30s–doctors, architects, business consultants, etc. They have lots of money at their disposal, so the reader is treated to pleasant surroundings, lovely clothes, and delightful meals.
The first story, “Once Upon a Night,” is about a relationship that develops from unlikely to actual, thanks to a winter storm. It’s told in first person from alternating points of view, hers and his. Since there is quite a lot of steamy sex, I must commend the author on capably rendering the sensations and emotions of both parties.
“Blind Date” begins with a fantasy that becomes reality played out in detail. Readers will definitely want to keep a fan handy for this one. It fairly sizzles.
“Best Friends & Other Lovers” is subtitled “a Christmas story,” and indeed it is. I liked this one the best of the three because it contained more characters and backstory, which made the main characters more relatable and sympathetic. Good friends Deanna and Ted go to his grandmother’s ranch near Calgary, Alberta for Christmas. In addition to holiday warmth and fun, there’s the question of when (or if) Ted plans to propose to his absent girlfriend, and how that might change his friendship with Deanna.
The sexual situations in these stories are explicit and detailed but not gratuitous. All sex is consensual and responsible. I’m not a dedicated reader of romance, but I found these stories to be well-written and diverting.
I would recommend this book to fans of spicy romance.”

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A Long Journey Home

At the beginning of Covid-19, Amazon suspended the shipping of proof copies. I was reluctant to publish the paper versions of my books without physical verification, so they sat there, unpublished. Finally, almost two years after I’d formatted them, my proofs arrived.

Just recently, I went through all my manuscripts once more, fixing small errors that slipped through despite multiple editing and proofreading efforts. It’s not surprising given the sheer size of two out of three manuscripts: “The Two-blood Legacy” has about 150K words and “Guardian of the Realm” over 180K.

What bothered me wasn’t occasional missing commas and quotation marks, but the repetition of certain words too close to each other in the text, something I started noticing in other books, as well. I wasn’t aware of it while I was writing, which was normal, but I kept overlooking some of these instances in many subsequent edits until I was able to approach my own writing from another perspective – as a reader.

I don’t thing it’s a terrible flaw; certainly more common than I thought it was before my brain started picking it up. In a perfect world, someone else would take care of that; unfortunately, catching such words requires a level of editing I can’t afford. Or maybe I should give myself a break — it doesn’t seem to be relevant even in the traditional publishing industry. Much of pop fiction suffers from the same malady.

But I wanted to make my own books as good as they could be, and as a result, I ended up reading them way too many times.

It was a thick stash of pages to go through, then enter the changes four separate times for each book, then fix the formatting. I don’t think I’m ever going to write such big novels again, if only for the sake of practicality. My current work-in-progress is waiting to be edited and it had just over 25K words. I started it in April of last year and finished in December, but I don’t think I spent more than 20 days writing it. Editing and proofreading should be affordable, which is not unimportant.

Anyhow, getting the proof copies made me truly happy, as if my books returned home after a long journey. If I have to summarize it, they brought me a lot of joy, some frustration, and a very modest income — about $300. A drop in the bucket of money invested, and it mostly came from the platform that hosted them for a year. Nothing from Amazon, of course, a little bit from D2D and Smashwords, which lists 134 sold copies, the majority of them for free during their promotional events, and about 2,400 free downloads of full books or samples.

I enrolled all three of them for their Annual Read an E-book Week Sale from March 6-12. For free, naturally.

Still, one little step before I’m officially done – I need to change the margins in “Guardian” — the recommended outside trim is too narrow — and fix the pagination on the very end. Big manuscripts are indeed difficult to maneuver. Then I’m going order a few proper copies for myself, and close this chapter.

And open a new one.

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Edible Fiction: Do You Like Ebelskiver?

I’m often pleasantly surprised when I stumble upon food and drink tips and recipes in fiction. As a rule, writers seem to take it seriously and they don’t season their books with just about any spice.

I’ve never developed taste for Crème de menthe, no matter how much I adore Hercules Poirot, but I do recall that I became a serious tea drinker around the time I was reading Alexander McCall Smith’s “The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series. My beloved Precious Ramotswe prefers bush tea; I’m more in favour of black tea infused with cardamom. She, however, made me understand the deep spiritual connection between a person and her cup of tea. After reading JP Mclean’s “Gift Legacy”, I now always Kentucky-fry my eggs; Susan Toy’s great mystery novel, “One Woman’s Island” contains quite a few recipes, all of them worth trying. And so on…

Food references ended up in my writing as well – people who live in my stories need to eat and drink, too. Only twice I sneaked in full recipes, though — for fluffy pancakes, and for one of my signature dishes, Pasta Carbonara (which I wrote about earlier.). The rest are just mentions, here and there: cardamom black tea, espresso coffee, white (Canadian, unoaked) wine, Remi Martin … tuna fish, beef steak, pasta dishes, fine cakes such as Mont Blanc (I’ll make a post about it as well), East Indian dishes, beef barley and chicken soups… food and drinks that I like. No pizza, however. Unless I’m in Europe, I couldn’t care less for pizza, so I don’t think I ever brought it up in my novels, even though it appears to be among the most common nutrition instances in–at least–romance fiction.

In “Guardian of the Realm”, I mentioned ebelskiver, which this post is about.

I do love this cover…

Years ago, my friend Sonya, who’s mother was Danish, gifted me with an ebelskiver pan — to the utter delight of my then small sons and their frequent sleep-over buddies. To me, nothing smells, tastes and feels more like a Sunday morning than a plate full of ebelskiver filled with hazelnut spread or apricot jam and sprinkled with a bit of powdered sugar, and a bunch of small, barefoot boys in super-hero pajamas, gathered around the kitchen table, waiting to devour them.

A classic treat in Denmark, ebelskiver are light, small and round pancakes. The filling can be sweet or savory (above mentioned Nutella, jam, curd, peanut butter, chocolate ganache … cheese, minced and sautéed mushrooms, etc.) They can be served plain, only sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, or rolled into the mixture of ground walnut and vanilla sugar, or doused with maple syrup, or topped with cream, or… the only limit is your imagination.

Providing you have the pan, they’re easy and fun to make. You need 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 Tbs. sugar, 4 eggs, separated, 2 cups milk, 4 Tbs. unsalted butter (or canola oil) and filling(s) of your choice.

Now, in a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, add milk and melted butter. Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until well combined. The batter will be lumpy, but don’t worry; it’s how is supposed to be. Do not overmix it.

In another bowl (lots of bowls are needed for this!), beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff but not dry peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter in two additions.

Grease lightly each well of the pan with canola oil and set over medium heat until hot. Pour 1 Tbs. batter in each well, add 1 tsp of the filling in the center of each pancake and top with 1 Tbs. of batter. Cook until the bottoms are golden brown and crispy, then, using two wooden skewers, flip the pancakes over (it’s easier than it sounds!) and cook until those sides are golden and crispy as well. Transfer to a plate and repeat the whole process with the remaining batter. I use the same recipe/method of mixing for ordinary pancakes I mentioned above – it makes them airy and puffy, a completely different experience from heavy and often rubbery regular cousins. Although, I have to admit, I prefer crapes to pancakes at any given time.

As I said, making ebelskiver is a no-brainer — only very messy and not quick. The whole operation leaves a ton of dirty dishes and cutlery around.

And lots of happy grins, so it’s worth it.

Have you ever tried a recipe that you found in fiction?

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A Short Journey to Horror Fiction

I rarely plunge into this genre, but I read and reviewed Priscilla Bettis’s debut work, “The Hay Bale”.

First, my review: “The best way to describe this short horror story is that I took a deep breath in on page 1 and let it out on page 42! What a great contemporary Gothic read, with constantly rising tension and a disturbing, yet oddly satisfying resolution. Very atmospheric, with great characters and an unsettling (and intelligent) plot. Five stars from me, and I even don’t like (and almost never read) horror fiction!”

Now about my uneasy relationship with horror fiction. Gothic novels à la Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre or Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights are alluring and i love them, but I draw the line there–I can’t take much more than that. This is the reason why I never read any of Stephen King’s horror novels, or any of the other big names of the genre.

In other words, my experience with horror is limited. When I was in my early twenties, I did read a couple of books and watched a few movies outside my gothic/spooky comfort zone. One story and one movie in particular had so long and disturbing an impact on me that it might be the reason why I’ve been more or less ignoring this category.

Back then, one of the staples of the leading daily newspaper of my former country was the serialized novel. My father read that newspaper every day; he would end his ritual by doing the crossword puzzle. After that, the neatly folded issue was ready for the rest of the family to use, which mostly meant me. I would go through a couple of articles–they had an exceptional team of journalists and columnists–the customary recipes written by readers and the rest of the entertainment section, including the next instalment of the novel the newspaper was currently running.

Not that I read every novel they published, although, overall, the selection wasn’t bad. The one that I still can’t forget sucked me in from the beginning. I don’t know who wrote it, but I remember that the characters’ names were English. It could’ve been an obscure translation or the writer could’ve been a well known future horror novelist, whose name didn’t mean anything to me, who knows. It was also possible that a local author, needing some quick cash, wrote it under a pseudonym. I remember the title, which won’t mean anything to you if I translate it back to English: “Exceptional Glow” or “Extraordinary Glow”, something like that. The story was set in NYC, if I recollect it correctly. It was a horror-suspense-thriller-SF novel, the kind of stuff that Dean Koontz is known for.

In short, a young couple rents a flat for peanuts in a fabulous building, in return helping with the maintenance or something along that line. It was a deal anyone would be crazy to turn down, in any case. It doesn’t take them long to realize that the rest of the tenants are supposed to be much older than they appear to be. They all have that “extraordinary glow”. The friendly residents take the young couple under their wing, promising to share their secrets with them. It’s nothing more than a balanced diet, they say, so they coach the couple how to eat heathy, how to exercise, they give them some supplements, etc. In short, they interfere with the couple’s life until they almost completely control it. Still, the husband trusts them blindly; the wife begins to recognize the strong cult-like elements in the behaviour of the older neighbours. She becomes suspicious, figures out their true age and the fact that some earlier young renters had disappeared… I guess you don’t need a spoiler alert here, since it’s unlikely that you’re going to find this book and read it. Anyhow, by the time the smart wife puts all the pieces of the puzzle together, she and her husband have already achieved the “extraordinary glow”, their blood becoming the source of food supplement necessary for their co-residents’ prolonged youth and longevity.

Well, I still have chills and goosebumps whenever I think about that story.

I’m not going to summarize the movie. I watched it and I was horrified. When, decades later, a copy ended up on my desk to be catalogued, I took it, unaware what it was, and dropped it the moment I recognized the title. I did catalogue it, but I was sick in my stomach with the awakened terror. It’s a French movie, Eyes Without a Face (1960). I sincerely wish I had never watched it. Why exactly it had such a powerful effect on me I don’t fully understand, but it’s probably because it felt too close to real life. What happened in the film could easily happen in reality.

There are a few horror movies I love, among them a sensual horror-romance Cat People (1982), with David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Nastassja Kinski. Since I adore Coppola’s Dracula as well, it seems that if horror is diluted with romance, I can enjoy it. The romantic component isn’t always necessary, though. I’m a great admirer of Alfred Hitchcock’s opus, and I’ve watched all his movies more than once. Psycho, although disturbing, never made me feel terrified; Birds, despite my severe avian phobia, even less (and the love story in the background is lukewarm.) They both have a cathartic effect – it feels good to be a little bit scared, knowing all the time that we are, in fact, safe and sound.

Movies like Carrie, Friday 13th, or Halloween are just too frightening for me, although I could deal with this type of fear. Eyes Without a Face, on the other hand, left me scared and scarred for life.

Like every other genre, horror comes in all shapes and sizes, and while some are appealing to me, some others are not. Generally, I avoid it. That’s why I’m glad that my first encounter with horror after a long time was Priscilla Bettis’s story. It has reminded me that horror can be a good and satisfying read.

What are your favourite, or most scary, horror/Gothic/spooky books and movies?

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Fluid Landscape?

I don’t particularly like landscapes done in acrylic pouring techniques. It’s hard to breath life into them. How do you create the illusion of light and shadows by flipping a cup filled with layered paints? It also requires an understanding of drawing and perspective–something I don’t possess at all–in case that some details need to be tweaked later, and they usually do. Most of all, it implies a bit of preliminary planning: what will be in the foreground, the background, where to put the horizon line, etc.

And I’m not god at that. I don’t plan much when I write–I plant seeds and let them grow. When I paint, I rarely go beyond choosing the color palette, the canvas size and the technique. My best paintings–those that made me happiest, that is–were created without much more that that.

Nonetheless, there is one artist, Chris Schneider, whose acrylic abstract landscapes are astonishing. She has inspired me to try, so I did some light planning and came up with this… seascape? riverscape? marsh?

If I had any talent for drawing, now it would come in handy.

Oh, well. The dark blue part in the middle looks kinda Castle Mountain. What is in the foreground is anyone’s guess, but I like the sky. My Instagram buddies seemed to appreciate it, though. One of them commented, “It looks like somewhere I would want to go”. One of the nicest compliments I’ve ever been graced by.

Castle Mountain, Alberta

An observation, while I’m here. As much as the art of (amateur) painting is different from the art of (amateur) writing, so much is the painting community different from the writing community. Perhaps it’s not fair to compare them since they’re so dissimilar, but I belong to the both and, in my experience, the former often tends to be clicquey and elitist, competitive, obsessed with rules and prone to criticism; the latter is indefinitely more open, accepting and supportive. Interesting, isn’t it?

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Do we cheat if we listen to a book?

My first successful attempt to substitute written books with their voice-recorded editions happened three years ago after my cornea transplant surgery. In preparation for three long weeks without reading, I downloaded about twenty audiobooks from the library, including The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice.

Photo by Tomoko Uji on Unsplash

Far from being converted, I was still certain I would keep using this format. It didn’t happen. I realized I liked audiobooks mostly because I didn’t have any other choice. The books I selected were good, and that helped as well. But once I was able to read again, I never returned to listening to the books.

I recently came across an article in Psychology Today about why listening wasn’t the same as reading. The biggest difference is in engagement, the author explains: reading is something you do; listening is something that happens to you, someone else does it for you. If you’re not actively taking in written information, you’re not going to make progress with the book; listening, on the other hand, makes progress with or without our participation.

I think that the presence of that someone, that ‘third person’, prevented me from establishing the intimate connection with the story. I loved The Vampire Chronicles and the enchanting, dark and seductive world of Anne Rice, but my mental images were less vivid and my inner engagement less strong than I knew they could’ve been.

Do we really read a book if we listen to it? Probably yes, with some differences, especially when it comes to fiction. The distinctions between printed/electronic books and audiobooks are certainly less prominent in fiction than in nonfiction. There are some formats, however, that cannot be voice recorded, such as graphic novels and comics. Audiobooks are convenient, I agree, but to me, reading is a tad more deeper, more personal and more complete experience than listening.

What about you? Do you listen to the audiobooks? Do you find it different from reading the books, either printed or electronic?

Note: I used the lovely image above to make a new header — I’m refreshing my website.

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Welcome To My Fluid World!

A few years ago, I discovered a painting technique perfect for someone who doesn’t know how to draw yet still feels a need to express oneself through colours and shapes.

Fluid art isn’t new; it goes back to the 1930s, when Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros poured a couple of colours on top of each other and let them spread and mix. The science behind acrylic pouring is in the differences in specific weight and density of each pigment. When heavier pigments are layered atop lighter ones, they sink, causing the paints to interact with each other and create interesting and often captivating effects.

The paints are usually mixed with pouring medium and/or water to the different levels of thickness for different techniques, from thin, dripping paints, to the consistency of warm honey, to even denser concoctions. They’re layered on directly on canvas or in a cup, then tilted, poured, flipped, blown over with your breath, a straw or a hair dryer, dipped, swiped, run through a small funnel, spun, balloon kissed…To say that there is more than one acrylic pouring technique would be a gross understatement.

I’ve just mentioned one of the key words in acrylic pouring — consistency. It’s absolutely crucial that the consistency of each mixed paint for a particular painting is the same. For Dutch pours, for example, the paints should be thin; in so-called Galaxy Pours, they’re quite thick. The three Pink Fluids 🙂 you see here are among my earliest Dutch Pours.

Beside the basic sense of colours and composition, all you need is your imagination and your ability to communicate with your inner world.

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Instead of… and Happy New Year!

The year is nearing its end; it’s a natural time for reflections and recollections. Not that I’m eager for such a summary: this year was horrible. I won’t say I’m looking forward to its end for one reason only: I’m a bit superstitious and I don’t want to jinx myself.

Dyliara Garifulina on Unsplash

I remember repeating, toward the end of 2019 – oh, I just want this year to be over! It was emotionally devastating–I lost my mother. The next one, however, unleashed this plague upon us and took away my best friend.

This one robbed me of my two cousins (and I have so few of them), and countless singers, actors, writers and artists who were part of my journey to adulthood. I lost my former colleagues and mentors, my friends and acquaintances.

That’s why I’m reluctant to vocalize what many of us feel – enough is enough, give us a break, 2021!

The last few years have changed me. I read less, wrote less, painted less. And I missed it.

Then, as November slipped into December, and December started to crumble, I realized something else: I haven’t stopped reading. Only instead of 50+ books, I read 30+. Instead of a novel, I wrote a 25K novella, and instead of many paintings, I made a few dozen. I posted a couple of blogs, wrote several reviews for my fellow authors. Had an exhibition… Supported my grief-stricken family the best I could from this distance.

So, instead of thinking about what I didn’t do, I looked at what I did and realized these were big and brave achievements, given the circumstances.

There were small ones as well. I baked goodies for my kids, tried new dishes, fell in love with a dragon, sold some books and quite a few paintings, attacked the high ceiling and other walls in my house with rollers and paint in the last stage of two-year-long renovations. I worked from home, was the first to return to the office, and again was the last one to leave it once more.

I hope that the New Year will bring us all relief and the end of the pandemic. My personal wish list isn’t long–on it is good health for my family, a possibility to travel without restrictions, the end of IKEA supply chain issues (most of my new furniture is missing some pieces, usually doors) and things like that.

In addition to another 25K novella, about 30 books to read and a couple of dozen paintings to make. It will suffice.

Happy 2022!

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When Supernatural is Believable and Vice Versa

Last week I read two books: Crimson Frost, a Christmas novella by JP Mclean, and Adèle by Leila Slimani. No common denominators between them (fortunately!), except that they were both short reads.

For those who like Christmas stories with a supernatural touch, Crimson Frost will be a perfect choice: fast-paced, with a solid plot, interesting characters and the atmosphere of sadness and joy, loss and hope. I’m a big fan of JP McLean’s Gift Legacy, and I wrote about her excellent newest novel, Blood Mark, in my previous post, so no wonder I enjoyed this novella as well. She has the ability to make supernatural natural and fantastic believable – a rare talent. Five stars for Crimson Frost!

Adèle, on the other hand, is “literary fiction”, a critically acclaimed translation from French, that somehow managed to do just the opposite: to turn something real into the unbelievable.

I read lots and lots of classical literature in high school and in my university days. I often go back to it, re-reading my favourite authors and their works. Now I prefer popular fiction–from romances and mysteries to fantasies, general fiction and historical fiction.

I give “literary fiction” a go once in a while, but it seems that I can’t pick a satisfying piece. (“Literary fiction” is a controversial label hence the quotation marks; a vague, undefined space between established classics and genre fiction, populated with everything from most of the Nobel Prize laureates to the above-mentioned Slimani or, in the extreme representations of literary insanity, works like Paolo Coehlo’s The Alchemist.)

Now, Adèle. Inspired by Luis Bunuel’s 1967 masterpiece Belle de Jour (my observation) and Gustav Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (the author’s declaration), Adèle is supposedly a contemporary story of a woman in a search for herself. In the movie Belle de Jour, Severine is unable to share physical intimacy with her husband. She starts her journey of self-discovery and healing by working as a high-class prostitute during the day. It’s not without danger, of course, but depending on how you perceive Bunuel’s ambiguous ending, you might believe Severine’s therapeutic approach was successful. In any case, it’s a great movie and Catherine Deneuve was beyond beautiful as Belle de Jour. Emma Bovary’s romanticized view of life filled with passion and wealth is in a clash with her dull reality. Seeking–and finding–sensation, she’ll have several affairs, accrue a sizeable debt, and finally, kill herself, in the process destroying her husband and ruining her daughter’s future.

Adèle, a young Parisian woman, appears to be a sex addict. Her husband is a successful surgeon, with very different physical needs, or rather, the absence of them: for him, sex is a laborious task that must be endured in order to procreate. He assumes she feels the same because he really doesn’t know her, nor does he care to know her until it’s too late. In constant search for her next “fix”, Adèle lives a double life, weaving a cobweb of deceits and lies, swinging between excitement and regret, loathing herself and everyone else, causing endless pain and sorrow, awaking the worst in herself and others. She requires to be physically punished and emotionally humiliated, over and over again by her lovers; no level of indignity, disgrace or degradation is low enough for her. She doesn’t have any moral compass. I wouldn’t have a problem with that — after all, the abyss of addiction is, if not a new, then certainly an interesting topic to explore. But, there is not a hint of explanation of what caused her to become an addict. (The author states it doesn’t matter, but I, as a reader, feel something is missing.) Traumatic childhood? Adèle’s relationship with her mother was cold and complex, but not enough to warrant such a drastic outcome. On the other side, Adèle’s father was devoted to her, balancing her mother’s self-centeredness. Her childhood and youth experiences were not presented as bad enough to cause emotional damage of this magnitude. The most prominent part of Emma Bovary in Adèle is her sense of entitlement, paradoxical, given Adèle’s non-existent self esteem. Slimani wants us to believe that Adèle tries to find her confidence and female power in her sexual exploits (although not overly graphic, some of them are quite nauseous), painting her at the same time (and I think quite accurately) as a sex addict dancing on the razor’s edge and feeding an unknown, devastating hunger inside her. The ending of the novel also appears to be influenced by Belle de Jour, but clearly, Slimani isn’t Bunuel, and it left me annoyed that she tried to mimic him.

This tiny novel, this praised “literary fiction” is all over the place, a colossal mess of several irreconcilable concepts. Each one would work on its own; together they are dizzying. Unfortunately, it looks like sometimes modern novels have to include a few strange components to be declared “literary fiction” — like taking liberties with logic and common sense, unsatisfying endings and odd angles to examine human conditions. The most inaccurate and non-sensical description is in the blurb: “Suspenseful, erotic, and electrically charged, Adèle is a captivating exploration of addiction, sexuality, and one woman’s quest to feel alive.” (Emphasis in bold is mine.)

Erotic? Yeah. As much as an addiction can be.

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