Pan Pantziarka, House of Pain (Velvet/Creation, 1997)
[originally posted 17Sep2001]
The publisher’s blurb on the back calls House of Pain “scorched earth erotica,” and a more accurate definition would be somewhat hard to come by. The book gives us a nameless narrator (by design, of course, cf. Fight Club) who is kidnapped—perhaps—and subjected to various humiliations, etc., which she may or may not enjoy, depending on her mood. As is usual with such things, the degradation builds until it hits a high (low?) at the climax of the book, where the narrator faces the usual question: how badly do I want to keep my identity?
The earlier comparison to Fight Club is more warranted than it may seem at first blush. Pantziarka’s writing style matches nicely with what bits of Palahniuk I’ve been exposed to, and the dark, oppressive atmosphere in House of Pain is certainly a fit with Fincher’s directorial oeuvre (though I have a hard, if amusing, time imagining Fincher trying to direct this). Palahniuk works in violence, Pantziarka in sex, and both explore the paradoxical discovery and loss of self in breaking successive taboos therein. This is certainly not a book for the squeamish or the faint of heart, but those who have already been introduced to the nasty side of S&M literature and a concurrent taste for Palahniuk/Jim Thompson/Spillane/etc. Will probably find quite a bit to enjoy here.
As a completely irrelevant side note, I much prefer the Creation Books cover. ***