SCREAM QUEENS OF THE DEAD SEA

Gilad Elbom, Author
Gilad Elbom, Author . Four Walls Eight Windows $22 (295p) ISBN 978-1-56858-322-8
Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Hardcover - 295 pages - 978-1-56025-734-9
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What is sanity? In a smart, animated debut novel set in a Jerusalem mental hospital, Israeli writer Elbom searches for an answer (via a first-person narrator and literary proxy also named Gil Elbom) and burrows through sensitive subjects (sex, politics, religion, mental illness) with frank honesty and dark humor. Working as an assistant nurse on a psychiatric ward, the author-as-narrator transcribes his life into his book, serving up diverse characters that include his sardonic girlfriend who is awaiting her sick husband's death ("Sorry I couldn't make it last night. He's still alive") and an impersonal doctor who says that the "best thing to do when dealing with the mentally ill is to keep a distance." As far as patients go, there's an intelligent murderer who claims that atheism is a psychiatric illness called "Faith Deficit Disorder"; a man obsessed with writing purple love poems to a porn star; and a woman who's convinced she's dead. Elbom's lively, present-tense narrative pulls the reader into the story; at the same time, Elbom steps outside to include a considerable amount of detailed self-criticism, such as when he interrupts his tale to comment on the ineffectiveness of his use of asterisks between sections. The result is a multifaceted, hilarious and excruciatingly honest novel. (Oct. 17)

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