Meeting the Master: Stories about Mastery, Slavery, and the Darker Side of Desire

Elissa Wald, Author
Elissa Wald, Author Grove/Atlantic $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1596-6
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-8021-3550-6
Hardcover - 978-1-4721-0715-2
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While the eight psychologically complex stories in Wald's fiction debut deal mainly with relationships involving dominance and submission or sadomasochism, their human interest extends in many directions. In ""The Resolution,"" Charlotte, a successful actress who, at 15, ran away from an orphanage and worked in a circus food concession, clings to her friend and former lover, Jorge, a gay Puerto Rican circus performer who tests HIV-positive. Her love for him is indelibly linked in her mind with Christa, her Native American orphanage pal and lover, who died of rubella. In ""The Illustrating Man,"" Harlem tattoo artist Darwin Godfrey murders his evil landlord, who had stolen an armless girl's prosthetic limbs, refusing to return them until he received unpaid rent. The narrator, a journalist, recounts the stories of clients whose lives have been transformed by Godfrey's tattoos, and herself receives a tattoo from the now imprisoned artist. ""Therapy"" oscillates between a dominatrix's bedroom sessions and her sessions with her psychiatrist, who traces the roots of her predilection to past rejections. In ""The Houseboy,"" a rich Pennsylvania high-school wrestling star, misrepresenting himself, lands a job in New York as the housekeeper of a flinty CIA agent and Vietnam veteran, whom he servilely worships. Both are closet homosexuals, and the story pivots on mutual deceptions and revelations. Wald, who has worked in the circus, as a stripper and as a counselor to prostitutes, clearly knows her varied characters, whom she portrays in a sympathetic yet unsparing light. (Sept.)
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