cover image The Skin Palace

The Skin Palace

Jack O'Connell. Mysterious Press, $21.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-547-2

O'Connell (Wireless) has drawn a growing crew of captivated readers into the dark, disturbingly hilarious fictional New England city of Quinsigamond on three breathtaking excursions. On this journey into his bohemian netherworld, he both exploits and pays homage to noir films. Photo-booth clerk and aspiring photographer Sylvia Krafft finds herself hunting for a legendary photographer who might be the reclusive talent behind the undeveloped negatives found inside an antique camera. Her crawl through the city's underground takes her to Herzog's Erotic Palace, aka the Skin Palace, where Hugo Schick rules supreme, and where his assistant, Jakob Kinsky, struggles to master the art of filmmaking in secret violation of his gangster father's iron will. Jakob and Sylvia, two would-be artists, move through a net of byzantine entanglements toward revelations about themselves. On the way, they encounter pornographers, evangelists and a tribe of lost children, not to mention scores of situations in which O'Connell playfully subverts famous films, from The Wizard of Oz to Phantom of the Opera. It's a measure of O'Connell's immense talent that, while creating his absolutely original and hyperbolic world, he also paints a striking vision of the haunting ways in which life and art mirror each other. (Jan.)