cover image Fermentation


Angelica J, Angelica Jacob. Grove Press, $20 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1614-7

When Odissa, a young British writer newly arrived in France, meets a circus fire-eater who intrigues and then impregnates her, we manage to suspend our disbelief for the sake of this occasionally artsy novel's generous descriptions of great cheese and kinky sex. The sights and smells of an unnamed French city (ripening under a heat wave and a garbage collectors' strike) provoke extravagant culinary-erotic dreams in Odissa. But she repeatedly balks when her lover, Serge, demands that she spew flames for him. The obssession breaks them up: what Odissa must finally (and violently) be forced to do, circus cohort Justine has done willingly. Rid of Serge, Odissa sets out daily to satisfy her pregnancy-driven craving for cheese. Gorged on Emmental or Brie, sleepless in the heat and haunted by the burned face of Justine, she slips further into politically incorrect, cheese-fueled explicit fantasy--imagine Penthouse Forum as written by a hyper-literary, masochistic Helena Bonham-Carter. Although there are some lovely descriptions here, and although the sentences themselves have a languid grace (""Waxy Edams and moony Bries were piled next to close-packed rows of blues""), by the end, it's hard to care whether Serge will return for good to Odissa's bed, as her fantasies of degradation grow more wearisome than arousing. (Aug.) FYI: The pseudonymous Angelica Jacob, as she is listed on the copyright page, works in the London publishing world.