|Susan M. Brooks: Collecting Candace|
Small Dogs Press (Trade Paperback) ISBN 0-9729329-3-3
The nameless protagonist of this neo-noir piece first encounters Candace in a Florida bar. She instantly captivates him. Long legs, skimpy clothing, cute face, suggestive tattoo, ample tits -- what sensitive, reconstructed male could resist her? He picks her up -- or is it the other way round? -- but not for sex. She seems oblivious to the notion that sex might be anticipated, and he nurtures a psychological desire for her, not a physical one. An act of sex with her would destroy the iconic Candace he so swiftly creates for himself. He wants to discover her mentally rather than carnally…with the carnal option perhaps left open for later.
Then he discovers that all the previous males in her life -- notably her three husbands -- done her wrong in one way or another, perhaps most particularly through their quite inexplicable eventual dumping of her. It soon becomes plain to the reader why all this dumping occurred: Candace is a vapid moron of the most tedious imaginable kind. The protagonist, however, effectively conceals this patent fact from himself, finding her a constant maze of fascination and desirability. He casts himself into the role of her Knight in Shining Armor, and sets off, with her in tow, to exact revenge upon those males in her past who treated her so grievously. In merry road-movie-psycho fashion, the pair of them cheerfully and gruesomely slaughter Candace's exes, the inspiration for their crimes being almost as much the searingly hot Florida summer as the protagonist's obsessed quixotry.
This is a novel with a great deal going for it. Its central premise displays a sort of brutal effectiveness. However, using a bimbo/femme fatale who couples a love for the Bible with a total inability to understand the first word of its message as its central character means that the reader soon experiences the same urgent compulsion to escape her company as did her exes. The protagonist proves little better. The novel's conceit, initially intriguing, that he can be capable of such profound self-deception over Candace, eventually plummets to exasperation and even incredulity that he could be such a halfwit. If she were banging his brains out one could at least understand his addiction to her. Is there a male who cannot look back on protracted periods of gonads-driven idiocy? But that can't be: he made her into a figure of chastity.
Exquisite writing would save Collecting Candace from these problems. Unfortunately, the writing is rather clumsy. If the two central characters possessed one single scintilla of appeal, this roughness could add to the novel's overall noir ambience. Instead, the roughness soon begins instead to grate.
Oddly enough, Collecting Candace proves worth reading despite all these adverse comments -- if you can stomach the unremitting bleakness of its vision of the most Neanderthal aspects of (and indeed members of) modern American society. From such grounds spring the culture-of-ignorance whose current dominance has done so much to topple our country so swiftly from the position of world leader to that of international pariah. Brooks should be heartily and very sincerely congratulated on managing, in such a brief work, to do so much to explain this phenomenon.
here to share your