For five years, concert pianist Theo Mangrove has been living at his family’s home in East Kill, New York, recovering from a nervous breakdown that derailed his career, and attempting to relieve his relentless polysexual appetite in the company of male hustlers, random strangers, music students, his aunt, and occasionally his wife. As he prepares for a comeback recital in Aigues-Mortes, a walled medieval town in southern France, he becomes obsessed with the idea that the Italian circus star Moira Orfei must join him there to perform alongside him. Extravagantly (and tragicomically) describing his hallucinatory plans in a series of twenty-five notebooks, he assembles an incantatory meditation on performance, failure, fame, decay, and delusion. A new edition of a “dazzlingly seductive” fever dream written in “brilliant poetic vernacular” (Bookforum) by a beloved poet and cultural critic, now with an introduction by Rachel Kushner.
Written in the style of a surreal fever dream, Wayne Koestenbaum’s first novel records in brilliant poetic vernacular the swan song of Theo Mangrove, a dissipated concert pianist and debauched sexual adventurer obsessed with Italian circus star Moira Orfei . . . The story of Koestenbaum’s freaks of nature is delivered in willfully, at times hilariously debauched deadpan and makes for irresistibly twisted magic.
If Debussy and Robert Walser had collaborated on an opera, it would sound like this.
A deep aesthetic and intellectual pleasure, Wayne Koestenbaum’s first novel is one of my absolutely favorite works of his (than which, in my lexicon, there’s scarcely higher praise).
This Soft Skull reissue of Wayne Koestenbaum’s 2004 debut novel (now with an introduction by Rachel Kushner!) is the perfect book for summer: It’s fever-hot, lurid to the extreme, and filled with the kind of lunatic linguistic acrobatics that leave you gasping for air.