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Koja's uncanny blend of eroticism and gothic hallucination, her unabashed readiness to take on the larger issues of the human condition, and her sheer lyricism as a prose stylist have set an ambitious standard by which other writers of her generation must be judged. Kink explores the many dazzling facets of obsession--intellectual, emotional, and sexual--created and refracted by the ever-changing dynamics of a three-way relationship between a man and two women.
Narrator Jess, a happy-go-lucky temp worker, and his childlike hairdressing soulmate Sophie think they have it all just because they have each other: They play their game to the hilt, making out anywhere, anytime—and so much the better with an audience. Their lusty play maintains an earthy innocence, however, until they meet cool, sophisticated, exquisite Lena, who gives them a new word for their sport—"kink"—and with whom they immediately bond. What starts as a friendship with sexual overtones changes character when Lena moves in with them; her allure ties Jess in knots until he gains the object of his desire, and a menage à trois is born. But Sophie and Lena are a hot item, too, and so poor Jess is blindsided when—so overwhelmed by his passion that he wants Sophie out of the picture (and believing that Lena is in agreement)—he forces the issue and becomes the odd man out. Obsessed with Lena even after her betrayal, he compulsively tracks down her acquaintances, from space-cadet sculptor Edie to filmmaker Annemarie, and finally the powerful, aging Saul, who starred with Lena in Annemarie's XXX- rated "art film" Peril, gaining an ugly but consistent picture of her romantic conquests and mastery of the three-way from her wrecks of ex-mates. Eventually his new knowledge—along with a helping hand from Sophie—enables him to trade in his obsession for the hope of a more balanced relationship.
There's immense power here in the style and titillating subject matter but also a chilling sense that one is being manipulated, all the right buttons being pushed, from the first page down to the sap-happy ending.
Posted January 18, 2009
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