The first of this author’s books, and undoubtedly the most difficult in terms of premise and characters, this black comedy is certainly not for everyone, and seems to skewer Lolita with a disturbing May – December relationship that is only the starting point for characters that will either alienate or disturb readers.
An eleven year old girl sets out (and succeeds) in seducing a 29 year old post-grad writing student with low self-esteem and other issues that feed his need for validation by this child. Add in the girl’s mother, black and white photography, train of thought passages that lead to nowhere at first, and what I have come to see as the author’s trademark skewering of every ‘politically correct’ belief in ‘normal’ society and behavior and you get this book. While it isn’t as polished as her later works, the overall story is entertaining, if in a way that had me guilty for laughing at some of the ridiculous situations and beliefs the characters held.
Most decidedly this is not the book for everyone: Filipacci’s writing style is deft with clever word play and a Dali-esque view of the world where everything is just a bit ‘off’. The subject matter is no more outrageous than Nabokov, but her treatment with the overlay of black humor and pointed satire will put off readers that are unable to lose themselves in the unique approach and conclusion that she puts forward.
I am a man without many pleasures in life, a man whose few pleasures aresmall, but a man whose small pleasures are very important to him. One ofthem is eating. One reading. Another reading while eating.I work at Screen
, a magazine on movies and celebrities, here inManhattan. For lunch I go to a little coffee shop that is farther away thanthe other standard lunch places. It is also more expensive, less good, andless exciting, but it has one tremendous advantage. No one I know goesRecently I discovered another coffee shop. It is even farther away,
but the lighting is better for my reading. And no one I know goes there
even less. Or more. Or whatever. You know what I mean.
This morning was exhausting at work. I sense that I will get one of
my headaches this afternoon. I am hungry for food and literature. As I
leave the office building for lunch, I try to decide if I have the strength to
walk the extra distance to my new, well-lit coffee shop or if I will settle
for the closer one with inferior lighting. I opt for light. After such a
morning, I deserve to have a perfect, intensely pleasurable meal. On top of
it, I want to see very clearly what will happen to Lily Bart in The House of
The restaurant is called Grandma Julie’s, and it’s as cozy as its
name. I’m sure everyone feels a little embarrassed walking into a place
called Grandma anything, but once you’re inside … the warmth, the
neatness, the sheer professionalism, make you forget your shame.
Today the place is full. I ask the waitress how long it will take to
get a table. She says two minutes. I wait, thinking my lunch might not be
ruined if I truly get a table in two minutes. A woman enters the coffee
Amanda Filipacchi NUDE MEN
shop and waits in line behind me. She’s in her late thirties and looks
perfectly nice, normal. Two minutes later, the waitress tells me there’s a
The woman behind me touches me and asks, “Are you alone?”
“Yes,” I say.
“Would you mind if we shared the table?”
I visualize my lunch spent sitting in front of a stranger. It would be
hell. Her eyes would be resting on me while I read. She might even want
to talk: “What are you reading? Do you work around here? It’s unusually
cold today, but they say it’ll get warmer by evening. There’s so much
noise in this place. I asked for tuna salad, not egg salad. I can’t eat this, I
have high cholesterol.”
My first impulse is to mumble, “It doesn’t matter,” and rush out
the door to my old coffee shop.
What I do answer, very distinctly, but with a slight grimace to
soften the blow, is “I’d rather not.”
“The woman and the waitress stare at me with more surprise than I
expected. I try to think of a justification for my response and come up with
“I … have to eat alone. But you go ahead if you want.” I gesture toward
the empty table.
“No, no, you go ahead,” she says, touching my arm with more
familiarity than I like.
I sit down, making sure my back is turned to the woman I have just
rejected so that she won’t be able to observe me. She has ruined my lunch.
Even though I’m alone, I won’t be able to concentrate on my novel
because I feel like a villain. I have never done anything like this before in
my life. I eat my grilled cheese sandwich, unable to read, furious, not
making eye contact with anyone. How dare the woman do that! I order
Jell-O to cheer me up.
Amanda Filipacchi NUDE MEN
I glance furtively at the customers around the room. I’m curious to
know where the woman ended up. I look at the people seated at the
counter. They all have their backs to me except for one, at the end. She is
turned in my direction, her legs are crossed, her elbow is resting on the
counter, and she is looking at me fixedly, with a slight smile. At first I
think she is my rejected woman, but when I look again I see that she
clearly is not. This woman is beautiful, sexy, late twenties. She has a very
thick upper lip, which gives her a pouting, capricious look, an air I simply
adore in women. Like the actress Isabelle Adjani, my fantasy woman.
She seems like the feminine type, the romantic type, the Sleeping
Beauty type, blond hair, the type my girlfriend would perversely say looks
jaded because she happens to have a charming face and laugh lines on
either side of her mouth.
I am not absolutely certain that she is looking at me. I don’t have
terrifically good eyesight, so although I was able to notice her plump
upper lip, I might be mistaken as to where her pupils are directed. She
could be staring out the window next to which I am sitting. Or she could
be looking at the businessman at the table in front of me, or at the
secretary behind me.
I decide to take a risk anyway. I don’t know why. It’s not like me.
Perhaps because after having bluntly rejected a woman for the first time in
my life, I need to bluntly accept one too. I gather every ounce of courage
in my body and smile at her, sort of unconsciously sticking out my upper
lip so we have something in common.