cover image Nude Men: 2a Novel

Nude Men: 2a Novel

Amanda Filipacchi. Viking Books, $21 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84785-3

With its playful language and goofy big-city surrealism, this wonderfully peculiar first novel has more than a little in common with Francesca Lia Block's ``Weetzie Bat'' YA novels and Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen ; its particular brand of sly naivete, however, is all its own. The madcap tale begins when its narrator, a gloomy would-be fact-checker named Jeremy Acidophilus, is approached in a Manhattan coffee shop by Lady Henrietta, an artist who paints nude men in a manner she describes as `` `the more beautiful than life' style.'' Jeremy, it seems, is a near perfect example of an Optical Illusion Man; in Lady Henrietta's words, ``he's almost something but not quite, or maybe he is and it's impossible to tell if he is or isn't.'' After agreeing to pose for the beguiling painter, Jeremy's life grows increasingly bizarre: he is seduced by Lady Henrietta's 11-year-old daughter and later becomes involved with Laura, a self-styled dancing magician who, according to the National Enquirer , ``has stated in her will that when she dies she wants her entire fortune to be spent on having someone stand at her grave at all times and clap forever, or until her money runs out. Shifts are allowed.'' Exuberantly inventive, this inscrutable shaggy-dog tale wanders on, defying the reader's expectations at every turn. The willfully childlike language, coupled with the meandering fairy tale narrative, could easily have become coy and predictable. Here, however, thanks to the author's evident love of storytelling, as well as a certain zany earnestness, the result is droll, mesmerizing and unexpectedly memorable. (June)