Saturday, January 7, 2012
"History of Pleasure Seeker," by Richard Mason
"History of a Pleasure Seeker" is a randy, raucous romp through belle epoque Europe.
It descends from a long line of young-man-seeks-fortune-in-the-big-city yarns by giants such as Balzac ("Pere Goriot") and Guy de Mauppassant ("Bel Ami").
What with cable networks morphing novels into television series, author Richard Mason may have a winner on his hand if he'll only go with snappier title, "Bourgeois Behaving Badly."
The scene in "History of...," mostly, is turn of the century Amsterdam. Our hero is the humble-born Piet Barol who is skilled most at enjoying life and given the rapier tool best suited to this pursuit: beauty.
Barol is vain and ambitious in calculating, but it must be in a way that we all are, because the reader wishes him well and prays for his escape from some of the scrapes he rather hungrily gets himself into.
He's installed as a tutor in a burgher's house on an affluent Amsterdam canal as a tutor.
The man's wife is hot and unloved, his daughters flowering and enigmatic in interesting ways. A puritan runs the house staff, a pervert the service crew.
highwayscribery will avoid mentioning the ways, crafty and not, Barol navigates these seas while still reaching better shores.
Mr. Mason does what they call in comedy, "blue." If homosexuality or hearing the name of that thing hanging between men's legs called by its street name offend you, let us recommend Jane Austen.
"History of a Pleasure Seeker" is an easy read, rendered in efficient prose, and blessed with curious insights about Old World ways.
Mason permits himself no artistic indulgences, working with a strong forward moving structure, few flashbacks, al palatable tableaux peppered with good visual and historical detail.
It is really an Old World book, pulled from Old World ways of writing literature, with the novelty found in the voices of past masters sort of blended or woven into it.
Here you'll find erotic drama, laced with humor, with strong accents of Austen, Georges Bataille, de Sade, and Henry James.