Physical Culture

Hillary Johnson, Author Poseidon Press $16.45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-67818-0
Johnson's disturbing first novel relies on language with a depth and intensity more commonly found in poetry than fiction. Though only in his mid-40s, John, an accountant at a mattress factory, approaches the eve of his retirement. At a picnic thrown in his honor, he glimpses Liann, the young alcoholic daughter of the woman he rides to work with each morning. She invites herself to his small, bleak, suburban house, where both are surprised to find Stephan, a young man from Physical Culture, a health club and bar in the city, who shares a part of John's secret life: John is in fact a masochist, with so many scars, cuts and bruises covering his torso that very few people have ever seen him with shirt off. Much of the action revolves around his abuse and subsequent efforts to conceal it. As in poetry, plot in this short, often overwritten book takes second place to language and imagery. The prose is spare and haunting, but the author strains for effect on nearly every page, leaving the reader acutely aware of the strings being pulled. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
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