Letters from Hanusse
The bohemian demimonde becomes the breeding ground for perverted delusions in this third novel in Messerli's Structure of Destruction series. Joshua Haigh, the ostensible author of the book (his name appears on the jacket and title page), is a product of the '60s counterculture. Back in the day, Joshua and his wife, Hannah, lived in a New York City commune that centered around the messianic Leon. Leon encourages free love, which is how Joshua discovers his own appetite for gay sex. Eventually, Hannah and Elizabeth, Leon's wife, give birth to Ford and Minnie. Joshua's account of the next stage in the group's life is fragmented. It seems that Leon fakes the murder of Hannah and Elizabeth, while in actuality fleeing with the women and their children to Paris, where he plans to sell the infants to some rich pedophiles. Joshua, momentarily tricked by the fake murders, soon follows them and succeeds in getting the Parisian police to interrupt the sale and hand the children over to him. Joshua's account isn't wholly trustworthy. After all, why would Leon disguise one crime with a greater crime? And Joshua's motives are suspect: far from saving Ford from pedophilia, Joshua becomes the boy's lover once he is barely in his teens; by this time Joshua, Ford and Minnie are living in Hanusse, an Aegean state with famously loose morals. These facts are gradually divulged in Joshua's letters to Hannah, embellished with literary references and fabrications. Fascinated by the artist's claim to the moral unaccountability of his ego, Messerli succumbs to the treacherous siren song of the counterculture, and saddles his otherwise intriguing novel with an eminently dislikable protagonist. (Feb. 4) FYI: Douglas Messerli is the founder of Sun & Moon Press and Green Integer.