The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
|Just another day at the sacrificial virgin and iron ore smelting factory.|
The book opens in a seemingly terrific suburban enclave in Michigan, or maybe Wisconsin, I'm not sure which because the descriptions of lawns and mowing machinery would seem to suggest Grosse Pointe but then sometimes a buffalo or bison comes walking across the grass, so your guess is as good as mine. Although the leaf blower portrayals lean heavily towards the eastern side of Lake Michigan, down Bloomfield Hills way, almost spitting distance from downtown Detroit unless you're spitting hot lead from a Glock 26, in which case it's a little closer.
"The day almost amplified the idea of mid-western life in its fetid breeze and pale sunlight that dappled the foliage where a raccoon had recently died after eating poisoned cheese. But this was of no concern to Renaldo as he strapped the leaf blower to his shoulder. Raccoons were one thing but sacrificial virgin daughters were a whole new ball game. The 30cc engine had the weight but the shoulder pad bore it well as it vibrated through Renaldo's body in the waning summer heat. The machine had a 485 CFM air volume and an air speed of 180 mph. Add to that a variable-speed trigger throttle and you weren't just blowing leaves, you were executing them. Much the way the Great Balalabub sacrificed virgins behind the naugahyde bar in his rec-room. If Renaldo listened closely, just beneath the thrumming of the leaf blowing machine, he could almost hear the voices of his lost daughters and likewise all the daughters in the community, offered up to Hymie Kugelman who oddly used denture cream to keep his toupee in place, a fact that he had hid from all three of his wives, even after they had divorced him because he felt a man who has lost both his hair and his teeth was really broadcasting his lack of virility, especially when some good-looking broads were on the menu that evening. But if guilt were a three-piece suit worn by a moribund salesman peddling flange gaskets for a phosphate mining factory, then you could easily put Renaldo on that sales team and book him into a motel on the outskirts of Kapuskasing where a hooker is still the same price as a dozen doughnuts from Tim Hortons and a man's word is as good as the blood that floods his mukluks after a snowmobile has crushed his feet. Still, in Wisconsin, the buffalo continue to roam, their snorts and mucous drips and the mighty swings of their scrotal sacs holding sway over the warp and weave of the prairie grass and the inhabitants feel the weight of the land and sky pressing to their temples like an ice cream headache. Renaldo blew the leaves to hell and back somehow wishing that it was himself that he was blowing to the underworld instead, so great was his remorse and his soul felt under the waning Detroit sun, misted with the vaporous debris from the automotive factories, as stained as Satan's underpants after a Szechuan buffet."
Whew! I don't know about you but when I read that passage the blood drains from me like a chicken under the knife of a kosher butcher in Poland, circa 1883. By 1884 the chickens weren't as tasty and by 1885 you couldn't find a decent chicken in Poland if your life depended on it. It wasn't until 1939 before any good chickens returned to the country but then the Nazis arrived so that's the end of that story. Anyway, the interplay of soul-stirring prose and semiotic coldness is as much a structure for the author to hang his carefully chosen words on as it is a warm, cozy bathrobe that Renaldo Lingmire likes to wear when he's down in the sewers drawing up new blueprints for his engineering firm. What everyone doesn't know, except for Renaldo of course, is that he owes his job to the Great Balalabub who got him an interview at Corky's Sewage Engineering and Pipe-Fitting, thus facilitating his happy upper-middle class existence and all the trappings that a bubble machine and a fancy cheese tray can bring (besides supplying Balalabub with sacrificial virgins, Renaldo also poisons all the neighbourhood raccoons as the above passage describes, using a lovely combination of Roquefort, Wisconsin cheddar and a Trappist monk hard cheese that he orders directly from the Our Lady of the Bleeding Gums Abbey in Berryville, U.S.A. and for this he has no regrets as his mother was killed by a family of raccoons when they tipped a load of bricks on her head as she was spying on one the workmen doing renovations to the family mansion in Montauk where she suspected him of lolling around naked, smoking cigars, eating corn dogs and drinking whiskey when he was supposed to be building a wall, and so she had slid beneath some scaffolding, which required that she too had to remove her clothing so as not to snag any fabric on a stray nail and there they were both found, naked as jaybirds and the family of raccoons chittering merrily over their crushed skulls). So Renaldo has made a pact with the devil, or balding and toothless Aztec deity in this case and when Balalabub begins demanding fresh virgin blood, Renaldo offers up his own daughters for sacrifice. Then, once they're gone, Renaldo must continue to procure more virgins using his Margaritaville Minivan Tour as enticement and sometimes when he can't find any girls he lures some teenage boys and dresses them up in wigs and yoga pants after he knocks them out with a large, frozen salami he keeps under the front seat of the minivan next to the Margarita mix and Balalabub, who really likes his peppermint schnapps, doesn't seem to notice after six or seven shots. And Detective Vactate continues to believe each one of these cases is a suicide instead of a sacrifice plus, to complicate matters, he's also fallen in love with Pinky Lingmire, which just goes to show you love is blind, especially when that love is unrequited and the object of your affection throws hot pork dumplings at your eyes. It's not completely Vactate's fault though working the suicide angle because Renaldo, once Balalabub is through with the bodies, poses the corpses over various sewer gratings in such a way and with certain objects that makes suicide look like the only deductive option. And even when Pinky Lingmire discovers her husband's indiscretions and murderous abetting ways, she so much loves the leather seats of her Lexus that if she were still of child-bearing age, would definitely continue to procreate to provide more virgin daughters for the great Balalabub and thus maybe trade up her Lexus for a Maserati not to mention upgrading their home entertainment system and kitchen appliances.
|The author taking a break from a hard day of writing, spending a little quality time with his beloved buffalo and his partner, Mitzi, wearing her famed buffalo horn cocktail hour headdress.|