cover image Suicide Blonde

Suicide Blonde

Darcey Steinke. Atlantic Monthly Press, $19 (191pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-479-0

The author of Up Through the Water evokes sordid, neon-lit San Francisco nights in her brooding, explicit new novel of sexual degradation and futility. The story opens as narrator Jesse, shunned by her aloof lover Bell, bleaches her hair in a pathetic effort to impress him. ``I have always been attracted to people who make me feel inadequate,'' Jesse admits, and Bell--who frequently leaves her for homosexual liaisons and craves a former male lover--is a perfect example. But he needs her, too, to provide his false link to conventional heterosexuality. Jesse manages to leave Bell, but continues to welcome abuse; she descends into the nocturnal world of heroin addict Madison, an icy, cruel woman who derives her strength from punishing the weak. Every conversation here constitutes a power struggle; every statement brings revelation. Jesse's relentless introspection, raw emotions and indulgence in meaningless sexual encounters may put off some readers. Nevertheless, Steinke reveals many hard-to-accept truths about sentimental love, self-delusion and obsession as she strips each character of dignity. Author tour. (Sept.)