Monday, November 19

Lust – Geoff Ryman

Michael Blasco’s life is tranquil, predictable and okay. He’s quite excited about the research he’s begun, looking at the effects of imprinting on day-old chicks (as long as the animal rights people don’t find out), his relationship with would-be artist Philip is fifteen year old and seems much as it ever was, and his forays into anonymous sex fizzle but not in any new way.
Michael’s mildly disappointed when cherubic Tony the trainer at his gym announces his engagement – Michael always mildly fancied him, and the news spurs him on to yet another uneventful bathhouse trip. So when Michael sees Tony on the same platform at Waterloo station he’s surprised and a little piqued – in no mood for witnessing happiness and joy, all Michael really wants is to see Tony’s penis. He’s astonished when the Cherub pull down his tracksuit pants and boxers, rolls onto his back, and asks Michael if he “wants a piece.”
At first frankly flabbergasted, Michael discovers that he has the ability to bring to life a replica of any person he fancies, and they fancy him. Michael experiments with his newfound gift; from current fantasies to the objects of lust of his adolescence (Johnny Weismuller, Alexander the Great, Picasso) and even his younger self, it seems the only limitation is Michael’s imagination. And as he does so, Michael works through the end of his unhealthy, unequal relationship with Philip, and the traumatic event of his youth that forever tainted his sexuality.
When I was away a couple of months ago I discovered Ryman at a bookshop at Heathrow, and was surprised I hadn’t come across him before. I decided to hold off for the time being, as I was (and am), on a strict book budget, though it’s become a little flabby in the last few days. But I digress. I was, therefore, very pleased to discover that I actually had come across Ryman previously, though not read him, when I found Lust in an unopened box of unread books – who knows what other treasures dwell in the rest of the boxes!
It’s been a week since I finished Lust, and I’m still not sure what I think about it. The premise was interesting and the central characters (Michael, Philip and Philip’s new love, Henry) were developed. Of particular note was the unfolding of the underlying psychological aspects - where Michael’s problems stem from, and the unexpected identity of Henry. Yet despite this I didn’t really feel connected to the story, nor did I feel any great sense of resolution or satisfaction at the end. I’ll certainly try another Ryman novel (I’m considering Was, the blurb of which is similarly intriguing), but library not purchase. - Alex

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