Peter Sotos, Lordotics (Creation, 2008)
(note: review originally published 3Nov2008)
A note to those reading this on any site where I won’t have to censor it (i.e., Amazon): the following review contains quotes from the book that contain adult and “politically incorrect” language, as well as graphic depictions of sexual situations. If such things offend you, then make the obvious choice and don’t read the review. If you do so and find yourself offended, remember that you have been warned, and you have only yourself to blame.
Sotos’ ninth book has seemingly escaped the controversy that surrounded his last, Show Adult, but it’s most likely only a matter of time; the second a non-limited release of this is announced, expect the rats to come crawling out of the woodwork, as they usually do. And, as usual, none of them will have actually read the book, preferring to listen to others, who most likely will also have not read the book, but who are more than willing to condemn Peter Sotos on the strength of his earlier works. It’s a tough call, really; while Lordotics definitely showcases a kinder, gentler Peter Sotos, one notes that the words “kinder” and “gentler” are relative in the extreme; Sotos is still obsessed with the same topics he’s always been obsessed with, but Lordotics sees the creeping in of a world-weariness. Not a cynicism; Sotos has ever been the cynic. It’s almost as if he’s as tired of the cynicism as he has been of the topics over which he obsesses for years, but because they are obsessions, he still can’t stop talking about them.
There’s also what seems to be more contempt for some of Sotos’ favorite subjects here. The top third of each page in Lordotics (which is, as has been usual recently, one hundred ninety-one pages) has a picture of a convicted “sexual offender” taken from one of the now-endless Internet sites that report such things. (As always, it should be noted that the definition of “sexual offender” is very lax, and on those sites, people who do things that by rights should have been legal for hundreds of years in this country are thrown in indiscriminately with, say, child molesters, because some people are too stupid to know the difference between consent and coercion.) True to Sotos’ obsession, though, he filtered:
“Only offenders who were engaged in the sexual abuse of children. There are a few exceptions; mainly when it comes to indecent exposure. But because these men are meant to be placed back into the gloryhole and faggot situations that I insist on, I thought it legitimate to include those that tug at themselves in public. Some might argue that it would have been more fitting to put rapists in the group. There may be some. But I’m more interested in men who memorize.” (13)
As I said, however, “kinder” and “gentler” are relative terms. Peter Sotos examines parts of society that most Americans probably don’t even know exist, and most of those who do are only interested in stamping those parts of society out of existence. Sotos reports from them in a matter-of-fact tone. While he passes judgment, always negative, on everyone involved in these subcultures (yes, including himself), he never passes judgment on the subcultures themselves. This, of course, is invariably enough to get someone’s gander—usually that same puckered-looking soul who’s out protesting in front of the places from which Sotos reports. Needless to say, if you’re not condemning it, in the eyes of people like this, you’re “glorifying” it, somehow. I doubt anyone without any experience in bookstore culture would consider any of Sotos’ dozens, if not hundreds, of descriptions of bookstore culture over the course of nine books to glorify them in any manner.
“I see mental illness in here. I come here to watch grown men twitch and cry. I see more men physically exhaust themselves. I count entitlement. Drugs get to them, the alcohol and brutal rejection. They think of their families, I’m sure. Their mothers they’ve watched expire and miss so deeply and self-consciously. The faggot lovers with AIDS they don’t get the same degree of sympathy for when condoms are stroked on just before the businessmen are ready to pop. So many of these drooping eye fat fucks are loaded on antipsychotics that working out which is beneficial or deleterious is something you have to wait for years to figure out. Tally how many of these scumbags I refer to as animals. Not quite the same way the ones who think they’re reverting do, though. Nice slacks, a pressed dress blue shirt and while he’s getting sucked, he unbuttons to let his belly hang. He rubs his hands around his naked thighs when his belt and pants drop around his ankles and strokes around his ass up and all over his protruding gut. You reach up to pinch his nipples and run through his chest hair when he’d prefer to do it himself. He is owed this. This is what you do. The last part of his disgust was only maybe at the door but chances are better that he knows perfectly well that you and other pigs like you have created this place for him.” (89-90)
I submit that if you consider that glorification of any sort, you should re-examine your definition of the term.
I have said it in reviewing all the rest of Peter Sotos’ books (as to the long-standing debate over whether these events are true or not, Sotos himself has now put that to rest in a Hoover Hog interview on October 27, 2008, in the plainest terms: “I wouldn’t create fiction.”), and I will say it again: whether or not you like Peter Sotos’ work, you have to appreciate that Sotos is travelling waters previously uncharted in social criticism. (It should also be noted that Sotos does not consider himself a cultural critic, and in the strict sense of the term, he’s right; he’s a reporter, though as should be obvious from the passages above, were this a newspaper it’d be on the editorial page.) Sotos is an important writer from that standpoint, if (depending on your point of view) for no other. Adam Parfrey once said of the music of NON that the masses were destined to hate it, but for the few who instinctively grasped what Rice was on about, NON’s music is “pure balm for the soul”. That same can be said of Peter Sotos’ books. Obviously, the vast majority of readers will be uninterested in, if not repulsed by, Sotos’ obsessions: bookstore and gay bar culture, child molesters and kiddie porn, serial killers. If you are one of the people who would be, then pass Sotos by and don’t feel that you’re missing anything. If, however, you share in one or more of these fascinations, you may well find yourself a new favorite author in Peter Sotos. I do suggest starting from the beginning (Total Abuse: Collected Writings 1984-1995), for seeing how Sotos’ writing has changed over the past quarter-century is as illuminating as the books themselves, but given how hard it is to get one’s hands on older Sotos books, any starting point is worthwhile. As I write this (November 2008), Lordotics is currently only available in a sold-out limited edition of 113, but Creation have always put out a non-limited edition within a reasonable period of time after the limited release comes out. When it hits the streets, go for it. *** ½