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BIBLIO WATCHDOG


CONSUMED David Cronenberg


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2014, Scribner, 308 pp., Hardcover $26, Kindle $11.89 Reviewed by Tim Lucas


robably to his own annoyance, though he has not directed anything resembling a horror pic- ture in this century, David Cronenberg continues to be synonymous with the horror genre. More to the point, he has always been—among film directors


of any stripe—sui generis; he emerged from a back- ground in offbeat (and sometimes Beat) literature and experimental cinema, managing to braid seem- ingly insoluble influences (William S. Burroughs and Vladimir Nabokov, for example) with his own per- sonal obsessions with the body (bodily urges, ex- pressions, extensions, diseases and deteriorations) in a manner whose only commercial outlet was the cinema of the bizarre. There was no way to de- scribe what he was, or why he was important, until enough of his work had accumulated to encourage the coining of the term “Cronenbergian.” He may well stand alone, among all his genre colleagues, not just those of his own generation, in terms of being a writer who directs rather than a director who finds it sometimes necessary to write. Indeed, Cronenberg seems to have spent the second part of his career—beginning around the time of M. BUTTERFLY (1990)—proving to the world (and perhaps to himself), his equal value as a director, leaving his original screenwriting largely


out of it, with the sole exception of his fin de siècle work eXistenZ (1999). It was always Cronenberg’s argument that he would end up expressing himself through his chosen projects whether he wrote them or not, by virtue of the choices he made. This is true to a degree, but not to the degree that anyone would ever describe A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, EASTERN PROMISES or MAP TO THE STARS as “Cronenbergian.” (Contrarily, one could probably say that the principal fault with his 1991 film of


Burroughs’ NAKED LUNCH is that it is, much moreso than Burroughsian.)


Now in his early seventies, Cronenberg has published his first novel, CONSUMED—and


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“Cronenbergian” it is, in much the same way that one of its characters, Dr. Barry Roiphe, lends his surname to a sexually transmitted disease. As one might expect of a first novel that took so many years to gestate, CONSUMED is well-written, stylis- tically assured, and steeped in a persona recogniz- able from its previous expressions in other art forms. In this art form, Cronenberg wears his literary influ- ences a bit more nakedly, and they are the ones we expect. His writing has both the clinical distance and the clinical passion of J.G. Ballard; the insect- fetishizing and surgical perversities of Burroughs; the deftly philosophic conceptual approach of


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