NECTAR: A Novel of Temptation
To visualize Prior's rambunctious novel, imagine a grand, erotic opera buffa, bursting with outsized passion and populated by 99 fancifully named and generally grotesque characters, including a disappearing corpse and his vengeful ghost, a love-starved "humpback" and the protagonist, a femme fatale in every sense of the word. The temptress is fat, albino Ramona Drottoveo, whose repulsive appearance (her skin is " a violent shade of pink," as are her piggy eyes) is no deterrent to the tumescent reaction of any man who gets close enough to inhale the maddening sexual aroma she exudes. Vain, selfish and monumentally stupid, Ramona takes great delight in the hordes of aroused men she attracts. The elderly Signor of la Casa, where she works as a chambermaid, regularly has his way with her, but Ramona decides to marry the lowly beekeeper on the estate so she can quit her job and loaf. The day after her wedding, however, she is surprised with the beekeeper's new assistant, Rinaldo Buffi, a veritable Adonis, inspiring her cuckolded husband to commit suicide. Cast out from la Casa, Ramona and Rinaldo go to Naples, where further adventures await the seductive antiheroine. Prior (La Cucina) propels this larky but dark tale with sensuous descriptions of opulent banquets, hurly-burly street scenes, horrendous natural disasters and providential encounters. Yet the narrative seems less constructed than jerry-built; whenever the plot drives into a corner, magical intervention occurs. Despite its farcical tone, this Technicolor fairy tale is based on the lowest and most venal aspects of human nature, and one may tire of Ramona long before she gets her well-deserved comeuppance. Agent, Jean Naggar. (June)
FYI: Nectar is a popular title this season; David Fickett's novel of the same name will be issued by Forge (Forecasts, Feb. 18).
Release date: 06/01/2002