July 11th, 2011

half shadow

Review: Finger’s Breadth

Finger’s Breadth by M. Christian. Zumaya Publications, $15.99 (trade paperback), $6.99 (e-book).

Finger’s Breadth hinges upon a serial crime in a future just a few years from now: someone is stalking the gay community of San Francisco, drugging men one-by-one and cutting off the tips of their pinky fingers. Not quite the bloody stuff of Hollywood thrillers, but scary business nonetheless, and the book has, of course, its cop (freelance, this one) trying to track down the perpetrator, as well as its cast of scared potential victims, hooking up in bars and wondering if the glorious hunk of flesh currently occupying their fantasies is Mr. Snip-it. The book also follows Varney, a newspaper columnist who was reportedly the first victim of this unknown attacker; Taylor, a translator by profession, who had a close encounter with the serial cutter (or so he thinks) and is now shacking up with a former lover, afraid to leave the apartment; Conrad, who goes seeking for the cutter because he wants “to do more than fuck and suck… to feel really big and powerful”; and many others, some characters making only a brief appearance before they disappear again.

But the story is bigger than this crime spree, for as more and more people show up with a bit of their fingers missing, others are soon feeling left out, and some even take to cutting themselves, just to fit in—like a yakuza initiation. And many discover, whether self-inflicted or not, that the experience somehow proves validating, as if the worst that might happen to them is now behind them. In a modern society that has largely left behind rites of initiation, and among a middle-class population whose struggles may seem tiny compared to those of our forebears, how many might long for such a valedictory and validating experience? M. Christian hits upon these questions with full force, and if at times I thought he was reaching too far, exaggerating the extent to which people would embrace injury and harm, I remembered—against my will, almost—a revival I attended in Colorado Springs (very long story). One speaker was a young woman who regaled the crowd with tales of her Christ-less past of rampant drug abuse and wanton sex, yelling tearfully at the audience, “I was a whore! I was a whore before I met Jesus!” I turned to the girl with whom I had traveled to this event, only to find her gently weeping at the spectacle. Finally, she said, so longingly, “I wish I had something like that in my past. It would make my Christian witness so much stronger.”

No, M. Christian nails it right on the head, and beautifully, too, with writing poetically spare (“A scream tried to claw its way out of his throat, the sharp edges of its shame and pain like trying to throw up a breakfast of razors”) and fully realized scenes of sex that run the gamut from the desperate and uncomfortable to the absolutely celebratory, all mixing effortlessly with the horror of the broader situation. Finger’s Breadth may well rank as one of the most psychologically astute erotic novels since Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, and it deserves to be just as widely read.

Mirrored from Circlet Press: Welcome to Circlet 2.0.