Jeremy Reed, The Pleasure Chateau (Velvet, 1995)
[originally posted 2Nov2001]
One would expect a book with a title such as The Pleasure Chateau and comparisons to Guillaume Apollinaire in their descriptions to deliver the goods. Hard to imagine what goods those would be, but goods nonetheless. A better comparison for the first volume of Reed’s trilogy that has come to be known as Sade’s Sister would be Huysmans (or Sade himself); much internal monologue is conducted, people go on endlessly to themselves and others about sex, spiritualism, and the like, but no one ever really does anything.
This is forgivable, albeit marginally, in a writer like A. Merritt or Charles Palliser, whose style and ability are such that the conversations are kept interesting and challenging. Reed, however, falls on the same side as those I compare him to above; the work suffers by its pointlessness.
Add to all this characters who appear and disappear (including the main character in the first two chapters, never to be heard from again afterwards), threads of what might be considered plot that are never followed, and unexplained phenomena that are anything but mysterious (or, at least, not written that way) and you’ve got an unbridled mess.
Those few times something does happen, almost all of which occur in the section “Tales from the Dwarf” at the end, are enough to keep the book from complete unreadability. The Dwarf is actually quite the raconteur, the guy at every bar who’s chock full of five-minute tales that listeners are willing to pay the cost of a drink to hear. Unfortunately, there’s too much of Sade’s Sister and too little Dwarf to save this book. **