Electric Flesh

Claro, Author, Brian Evenson, Translator , trans. from the French by Brian Evenson. Soft Skull $13 (120p) ISBN 978-1-933368-23-8

Three story lines fuse and ignite in this brief novel by the French metafiction master who publishes under a single name (which means "clear," "bright" or "fine" in Spanish). As a child, the real-life Harry Houdini develops a crush on Szuszu, a magician's assistant, whom he eventually pursues—along with the craft that pushes his body to its limits—through a sideshow of carnival freaks. Simultaneously, Thomas Edison directs an army of assistants while attempting to invent the electric chair, conducting gruesome experiments with animals, criminals and high voltage frying. In a modern story set in 1996, an unemployed executioner, Howard Hordinary, masturbates and dreams about Houdini's feats, eventually hoping to prove that he, like Gary Gilmore, is the unacknowledged grandson of the great escape artist, the fruit perhaps of Houdini's liaison with Szuszu. Accomplished U.S. novelist Evenson turns syntax inside out attempting to translate Claro's French whirls and dips into an inventive English, but Hordinary's need to connect with Houdini seems little more than a device to bring the history of electricity closer to a century of terror and torture. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 08/01/2006
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