From the Publisher
"Klein's highly unconventional book has a gemlike quality of its own, scattering light in every direction."–W Magazine
“Brilliant . . . [A] carousel of inventiveness.” –The New York Times Book Review
"Fun to read... This is the work of an unusual imagination."–The Boston Globe
"Part fiction, part treatise, Klein presents the history and lore, magic and secrets of glittering rocks."–New York Daily News
Klein, a literary critic best known for his audacious deconstruction of the popular mythology surrounding cigarette smoking (Cigarettes Are Sublime), offers an equally provocative first novel. The work, written in the hybrid style of a letter and a treatise, and devoid of dialogue, carries an "introduction" by its narrator, Abby Zinzo, who calls it both "a novel thesis" and "an anti-memoir." Abby inhabits the transgendered world where one's sex is almost mathematically calculated as the sum of one's fetishes. Officially, he's a "TransGendered-Bisexual-fully-Cross-Dressed-TransVestite-woman." At Harvard, Abby started a thesis about Diderot's famous pornographic classic, Les Bijoux indiscrets which can be translated as The Talking Jewels. In Diderot's case, jewels were a metaphor for female genitalia. Abby takes Diderot's metaphor seriously, entwining a discussion of the polymorphously perverse around the history of brooches, rings and other opulent ornaments. These objects have genealogies, and Klein is most interesting when summing up the adventures of some famous diamond or diamond hunter; as a lagniappe, the text caries photos of famous jewels and fashion icons. The third braid in Abby's story consists of his record of his affair with an Algerian immigrant, Amad, a "boyfriend from hell... rich, ugly, and female." A child called Zeem was born to the coupling of this alternating current of a couple, and given to Abby's sister, Zanzibar, to raise. Though genuinely clever and imaginative, the work doesn't fit conventional notions of a novel. While Klein attempts a lightness of tone, it's hedged by nervous pedantry. Moreover, his discussion of the dialectic between femininity and jewelry isflawed by his relentless focus on a restricted set of fashionable, rich women, which unconsciously leads him into unjustified and even absurd generalizations about the entire sex. (July) Forecast: While its audience will be limited, this book will appeal to fans of Wayne Koestenbaum and Margery Garber who enjoy cultural criticism adulterated with pop culture references. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Klein (Cigarettes Are Sublime, 1993; Eat Fat, 1996) adds to the recent spate of novels without events (or with mighty few). And he does so brilliantly, in a book riveting to anybody interested in sex, celebrities, monarchies, gossip, history-or jewelry. Lucky is the girl named Zeem, who, though invisible in these pages, is the one to whom they're all addressed: by her great-uncle (last name Zinzo), who is nearing death, who will bequeath to Zeem his entire collection of jewelry (inherited from his courtesan mother), and who has always wished he'd been a woman, trying all his life to live as one-earning the wrath of Zeem's "sonofabitch of a father," a character also invisible in these pages. But who needs him? Who needs anyone else when uncle Zinzo is here, talking endlessly, abstrusely, wonderfully, not just about his own life but about the lives of those who have fascinated him most: Coco Chanel, the Duchess of Windsor (along with a choice bit or two about the Duke), Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and a good handful of the most remarkable (sexually and in other ways) denizens of the court of the Louis XIV. "I am my jewelry," declares Zinzo at one point, while elsewhere (amid his many admonitions to Zeem about femininity, poise, dress, manner, etc.) he explains that "I've assumed the project of wearing jewelry like a woman because it strikes me as the highest form of prayer." What could he mean? Enter, dear reader, and find out, along with info about his years as a female dancer at the Alcazar in Paris "in the fifties," his meeting of his life-partner Amad (a female, technically), his learning the "secret language of jewelry" (my, my, such things it says-and sees), andmuch, much more. Seamless, sophisticated, and compelling: fiction that wears its learning lightly, makes "gender" become again something fascinating, and weaves out of words a richer dish by far than another old "story" might ever be.
Read an Excerpt
Campy, bitchy, outrageous, and quite a bit more than over the top, Abby Zinzo describes himself as “a cross between Auntie Mame and Louis the Sun King.” Abby has lived a life dedicated to pleasure, and nothing has given him more pleasure than owning, wearing, or merely contemplating the lustrous objects with which women and men have always adorned themselves.
In this sexy, funny book that is part novel and part thesis on jewelry, Abby sits down to record everything he has learned over a lifetime, planning to leave this story along with his collection of valuable stones to his beloved niece, Zeem. He recounts the history of famous gems–like the fabulous Koh-i-Noor and the brilliant blue Hope diamond–and regales us with naughty tales of the women who made the beautiful jewelry their own, including Coco Chanel, the Duchess of Windsor, and Elizabeth Taylor. He also narrates his own sensational life, from Harvard undergraduate to dancer in a notorious Paris drag cabaret to his twilight as a man for whom gender is just another glittering ornament. Sharp, fascinating, and sparkling with its own inner fire, Jewelry Talks is precious gem in and of itself.