Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sex, Lies and Handcuffs

Long-Form Religious Porn

By Laura Lee Bahr

Publisher: Fungasm Press

Pub, Date: February 2016

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a delightfully subversive novel! Long-Form Religious Porn by Laura Lee Bahr is deceptively conventional at first. We meet one of the main characters right away, Madeline Hunter, who is a struggling writer and director in the tight knit Hollywood film industry. She is trying to make a movie on a shoestring budget and really wants to get George Clooney to star in it. At the same time she is dealing with her gay friend who is caught up in a vampire cult with its teeth proverbially embedded into several film celebrities. The novel reads like straight satire at first. Hollywood is rather easy to make fun of but the author's sense of humor is up to the task of giving it a new shine. Yet we soon find there is much more to this tale than that. There is a parallel story, starting ten years before, regarding a Dominique Colt "who in two years would be famous for two of the most brutal murders of white boys in Los Angeles County." Dominque is a psychology student on a doctorate track. She becomes involved in her own sexually complex and kinky menage a trois that will eventually lead to these tragic murders. It is at this point that this darkly humorous tale becomes more than just a Hollywood satire. Bahr takes this story down some deep and narrow passages while adding some thoughtful insights to that ever present wit. We learn eventually how the two stories come together. Yet all that initially humorous send-up of the film industry and cults takes a back stage to the tale of Dominique Colt which is a masterpiece of relational angst and eroticism. Bahr's almost casual writing style is actually dense with complex emotions and drama. Her characters are so well developed that they have enough motive for an huge epic of a novel rather than this 200 plus page book. It is a sly combination of a contemporary manners comedy and a psychological exploration of the mind. Even the somewhat ridiculous Vampire cult sub-plot, (most will pick up the "Hollywood cult" analogy quickly) takes a surprising and tragic turn that tells the reader there is so much more under the surface.

Long-Form Religious Porn is from the new Fungasm Press which is an offshoot of the Bizarro oriented Eraserhead Press. The other novels from Fungasm are deep into the more surreal Bizarro genre. This one was a surprise in its stylistic accessibility and grounding in the world we know. Yet that does not mean it is any less shocking or controversial. The more conventional setting is still fraught with surprises and deals with situations what some may call taboos. While it starts with a great deal of wry humor, it becomes very serious but it is the kind of seriousness made palpable with those turns of humor. The author 's great strength is the ability to carefully emerge us into the most serious of themes even before we realize just how serious it is becoming. It is a gift that will lead me and many other eager readers to her next novel and the next one after that and so on. I recommend you try Long-Form Religious Porn not just because it is on track to becoming one of the best novels of 2016 but also so you can say, "I read her first".

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