January 27, 2009

Book review: "Muffy: or A Transmigration of Selves," by ST Gulik

(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)

Muffy: or The Transmigration of Selves, by ST Gulik
Muffy: or A Transmigration of Selves
By ST Gulik
AuthorHouse / ISBN: 978-1-42599-614-7

As regular readers know, I'm spending the week finally making my way through a whole series of books I found only so-so, some of which have been in my reading queue for months now; but it's important, though, that you not mistake these books for merely bad ones, because if they were merely bad I would say so, given that I've had no problems doing such a thing in the past. Take today's book, for example, ST Gulik's Muffy: or A Transmigration of Selves, which is actually not bad at all for what it aims to be, just that what it aims to be is something that has only a tiny fringe appeal among the general public -- it is one of those ultra-violent, absurdly comic erotic tales in the style of the Marquis de Sade, only in this case updated for the Riot-Grrrl age and with cultural references more suited for contemporary sensibilities.

But make no mistake -- in the grand tradition of anonymous French radical erotica from the Victorian Age, projects like The Story of O and Story of the Eye, Muffy is most definitely not for the faint of heart, a story that combines sex and gore in such outrageous ways as to become nearly fantastical, used as a metaphor for the pleasures to be had in embracing an all-consuming prurient attitude about life. And also like most of these stories, the plot fueling Muffy is a simplistic one only -- the tale of a suburban girl sexualized too early in life, because of the systematic ritual abuse suffered from her dad throughout her childhood, leaving her as a late teen ready to go prowl the parks at night in hooker outfits just to see what kinds of empty thrills she can find. It's at this point that we're introduced to our deliciously evil antihero, a sadistic dominatrix and serial killer named Sarah, who makes millions fashioning sculptures of pain out of the actual tortured bodies of her victims, sold exclusively to the perverted little members of the Illuminati secretly running the government. (Why, two of her sculptures are even in the White House, although of course the general public will never be aware of this.) Sarah had originally kidnapped Muffy in order to turn her into her next sculpture, but now finds herself falling in love with this deeply compliant masochist; and thus do the two form a twisted love affair of sorts, using their ridiculously squeamish sex sessions as an excuse to give us audience members lessons on the basics of BDSM, the importance of anti-authoritarianism, and the framework behind various leftist conspiracy theories out there, just for good measure.

Yeah, not exactly an eager realist cautionary tale about the dangers of abuse, this one is; in fact, anyone tempted to be offended by a story like this is completely missing the point, that the author is deliberately mentioning the most disgusting things they can think of precisely to show how easy it is to manipulate the emotions of most of the brain-dead sheep actually running society. I mean, when a book within its first 50 pages features a scene of a baby being dismembered while still alive and its limbs used as sex toys, you know that you've firmly left the realm of reality behind and entered the land of symbolism; Gulik clearly means for all this outrageousness to serve the same purpose as radical erotica from the 19th century did as well, as metaphorical stories about how important it is to think for yourself, to make your own conclusions about the world, to define your own desires and wants away from the suffocating influence of so-called "normal society." Those who like this kind of literature get this, and it's for these reasons that they become fans to begin with; it's just that you need a strong stomach and thick skin to do so, else run the risk of being profoundly offended or even physically sick just within the first ten or twenty pages of stories like these.

Ultimately Muffy is exactly what such people are looking for, a tale that takes all the great things about vintage radical erotica and sheds all the petticoats and top hats, a story firmly rooted in the world of early Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite, except much dirtier than the former and much funnier than the latter. It's just that there aren't very many fans of this stuff out there to begin with, and that those who aren't are sure to be disgusted and insulted by such a book; that's why it's getting an only so-so score today, despite being a fine example of what it's attempting to be. All of this should be kept in mind before picking up a copy.

Out of 10: 7.7

Read even more about Muffy: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

Enjoy this review? Hate it? Share your thoughts at the CCLAPocracy, the center's new community-driven microblog. Membership is free!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 2:26 PM, January 27, 2009. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |