Monday, November 26, 2007

True Confessions

For some reason, I have indelible memories of two incredibly trashy novels that I read during my junior-high or high-school years. I’m sure that both were library loans that my mother had checked out and that I picked up out of boredom or (more likely) for the titillation factor.

I actually feel pride that my mother was a frequent library patron in a world that seems to have an awful lot people who don’t read books of any kind. Her choices may not have been Tolstoi — or even Agatha Christie — but at least reading was considered an acceptable leisure activity (though, make no mistake, the television was often on from sunrise until the wee hours every damn day).

In any case, the two books in question have come to mind now and then (for whatever neuro-electrical reason heaven only knows), as they did last night. Thus, I thought I’d share a brief summary of each train-wreck of a tome:

The Searing by John Coyne (I had to Google this to find the author, and I almost suspect that this was some kind of “best seller” in its time). This was a supernatural horror mystery about some phenomenon that was causing women in a certain neighborhood to have spontaneous orgasms which — if I remember correctly — progressed to the point of being so intense that they literally fried the women’s brains and killed them. I seem to recall imagery of striken women having a tiny trail of blood trickling out of one nostril [upon further reflection, I think it was actually gray matter oozing out of their orifices]. What I had forgotten (but re-learned, thanks to Google) was that this phenomenon was also killing little girls in the same neighborhood. Trashy as the subject matter of the novel was, I am pretty sure that the tots did not also get afflicted with the orgasmic consequences of this ungodly force. Please see the horrendous abortion of jacket art for this travesty of literature here. Those women look pretty ecstatic in an “I’ll have what she’s having” sort of way, don’t they? Note that you too can pick up a silverfish-laden remainder of this gem on the internet’s mega-book-purveyor for under a dollar. It’s worth every penny, and I may just need to re-read this for nostalgia’s sake.

The name of the second thriller has, sadly, been lost to time and gray matter deterioration, and I fear no creative Googling will ever unearth such a piece of pulp from the dustbin of paperback history. I want to say the title was something like Dark Abbess, and the plot revolved around a series of gruesome present-day serial murders at lovers’ lanes, in which the men were swiftly castrated before being killed. The murders were revealed to be the work of a medieval Northern European abbess being channeled through a local teenager. Clues to the origin of the mysterious killings were revealed through a psychologist working with the troubled teen while he was having a fit of what seemed like speaking in tongues, but discovered to be medieval Frisian. Interwoven were stories of the original abbess’s nefarious and authoritarian ways, including her determination to create her own castrati choir for her abbey (regarding which I vividly recall this bit of absurd dialogue: “The Vatican has them! Why cannot we?” In contrast to my ambivalence toward The Searing, I would absolutely love to read this nameless piece of trash again in a minute. If anyone ever procures information about this book, he or she will be richly rewarded with any bounty I have at my disposal. I dare you.


jpcoyne said...

Hey, Joe....The Searing wasn't that bad, was it?
John Coyne

Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

The cover art is great, though it could pass for women being terrorized just as easily.

Salty Miss Jill said...

Death by orgasm? Not a bad way to go...

Yet another instance of second-wave feminist backlash misogynistic propraganda along the lines of 'Looking for Mr. Goodbar' and those cheeseball horror movies where sexually active women die horrible and gruesome deaths.

My mother and I ate these books up back in the 80's.

Stash said...

Hm, well I remember most of my 10th grade English reading list with vivid clarity, 23 years later.

To Kill A Mockingbird
Alas, Babylon
The Citadel
All Quiet on the Western Front

I think there might have been one or two others, like a novel about children in Alaska but I can't recall the title.

Not nearly as entertaining as women having multiple orgasms though. ;)

kusala ~ joe said...

commenter #1: though I have no way of ascertaining whether you are, in fact, the John Coyne, please understand that I meant no disrespect in this blog post, although I was probably a little too glib in describing someone's published work as "trashy." Let's put it this way: I read The Searing when I was about 14 or 15 years old and I still vividly remember much about it to this day. That must say something. I'm sure I found it as riveting as the Stephen King novels I was into at the time, and nothing if not titillating and very unique in terms of thriller plot devices. I'm certainly no expert on the genre. Again, if you are the John Coyne, thanks for commenting!

ldb: The woman in the center certainly looks terrorized, but those flanking her seem to be having too much fun for public display!

jill: I'm not sure I would call it misogynistic, and there were definitely no overtones of "the sexually active women getting what they deserve." It was just a purely bizzare, sexually-fixated supernatural tale.

stash: I have very vivid memories from way back, including a short story called "Nancy" which we read in 8th grade and which to this day I find very touching. I've always meant to search that out as well.

T$ said...

whoa - can't help you out with the name of the second thriller...

but, I have a similar experience with Judy Blume's (highly) adult novel Wifey. I swiped it from my parents' book shelf in 7th grade (I was a wee 12 or 13)and tore through it. I still have the entire plot - hardcore sex scenes and all - seared (sorry) into my memory.

Huntington said...

No idea what the second book is, but I will note that Gregory Maguire appears to have stolen the plot device of having a medieval figure (in his case, from Mont St. Michel) channel her rage into the protagonist and have the resultant ravings mistook until an expert is brought in. This was in Lost, his reworked version of A Christmas Carol, which, like all his books, I recommend. Even though I just spoiled the plot.

Anyway, it doesn't really surprise me that The Searing is seared into your memory. I don't know about you, but when I was 14 or 15, orgasms loomed large in my imagination, so it only stands to reason.

My trashy book memory? Celebrity by Tommy Thompson, a lurid novel set mostly in mid-century Texas. Three high school buddies commit a sordid, sex-based crime the night before graduation, and it haunts them as each becomes famous in his own way. Of course there's a major confrontation at the scene of the crime at the end. Glorious! And made into an equally trashy TV miniseries in 1984 starring giants like Debbie A;;en, Hal Holbrook and a pre-fame River Phoenix.

BigAssBelle said...

it is indicative of my advanced age that the only trashy novel i remember from my parents' reading material was "Fannie Hill" . . .

but the searing . . damn, i think i read that book :-)

at least i read a book about women having electrodes implanted in their brains which brought on intense, serial orgasms. ultimately, their brains were somehow removed and floated in some kind of fluid while the orgasms continued. i think the detached brains and bodies were connected by some kind of a cord.

odd that i still think about that book ~ either the searing or whatever the hell it was ~ with some regularity. kind of a chilly thrilling willy kind of feeling :-)

reading is becoming a lost art. yay for your mom. and you. and all of us who still pick up books.