New York, grime and erotica
Allow me to begin by saying Freak Parade is not normally the kind of book I would read; this, apparently, was one of the reasons I was asked to write this review – something about a different perspective, or a perspective “from the outside”, as it were. Now, I am quite familiar with the erotic, so perhaps that was another reason.
Enough of the introductions. Having accepted this review, I am glad I did so. Rarely have I picked up a book – or, in this case, my laptop since Freak Parade is selfpublished as an e-book by the author, Marilyn Jaye Lewis – and sauntered through the pages so effortlessly, and with such joie de vivre. Not since I was twelve years old, anyway. And this is a compliment to the author’s accomplished use of words in the service of telling a story.
That story is set in New York City – another attraction for me, I must admit – and no doubt reflects much of Lewis’ own experience of twenty-five or so years in the Big Apple (here I must say SDk’s editor granted me access to Lewis’ SDk profile and interview; valuable resources). Lewis moved to NYC from Ohio, and was involved in the music industry as a singer-songwriter,
and she studied audio engineering; the protagonist in Freak Parade, Eugenia Sharpe, moved to New York from a small town in Kentucky, and was in the music business, a onealbum wonder on the way down. She was still well known, and ridden with a neurosis about being recognised. The novel is narrated in the first person, so “Genie’s” voice comes across all the more personally.
Did I mention Genie’s neurosis? I did. In the early part of the novel it verges on paranoia, perhaps agoraphobia – a state of mind to which, I can assure you, I relate. But Genie’s state of mind is unhealthy; she suffers from a certain psychopathology, although, happily, she seems to come to terms with it, and has many an erotic frolic along the way, much of it lesbian. Genie is bisexual, you see, which is in character with much of Lewis’ previous writing (and, again, with her personal experience). In any case, I applaud Lewis’ ability to describe a neurosis-induced headache.
Oh yes, and the city: “Wanda turned out the bedside lamp but outside her window, the city was never dark.” I do like New York a great deal, and this
novel brought Manhattan to life in my mind, undoubtedly a major factor in my enjoyment of reading it. And then there were some of the memorable characters, for example, Wanda, from the quote above; Wanda, the “Kinsey 6 hardcore dyke” (a reference to the Kinsey scale, first produced by the groundbreaking American sexologist, Alfred Kinsey, in 1948). Wanda “was indeterminate and perplexing; she lifted weights; she was big-boned and masculine looking. Her bleached-blonde hair was cropped extremely short and yet her tits were real, every enormous inch of them”. Wanda is six-foot-two. Yes indeed, memorable. And there is Benny, the short Puerto Rican dyke with “a butch crew cut”.
Lewis was the founder of the Erotic Authors’ Association, credited with being the first international writers’ organisation to honour literary merit in the erotica genre, so that explains why characters were developed and scenes properly established before the first sex scene half-way through chapter three, which is not the way of popular, pulp “adult” fiction.
Dear reader, this is a finely crafted erotic story; if you have a weakness for erotica (and don’t we all?), or better still, if erotica is one of your vices, or you are curious (always a good thing), then I can recommend Freak Parade as an aid in helping to soothe your own neuroses.
Freak Parade is published by Marilyn Jaye Lewis in e-book format (2010): 290pp. Also available in print and Kindle editions.