Dan's Reviews > Of Tender Sin

Of Tender Sin by David Goodis
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's review
Nov 22, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: 2011

a big disappointment.

as a native philadelphian, i thought this would shed some light on what the dark depths of my city looked like in the late 40's. i guess it does do this occasionally (who knew that K and A used to be safer than 8th and race?), but not enough to override the cartoonish melodrama of nearly everything else in its pages.

i'm sure in 1950 the novel's themes of incest and drug abuse were very controversial, but there are plenty of other writers of the time who explored them with far greater complexity. the story is superficially similar to the "hard novels" of georges simenon - normal bourgeois man abandons his life of comfort to descend into urban underbelly, etc. unlike simenon, the existential dread that propels the descent is never enigmatic or elusive. instead, it's explained away in the broadest freudian therapy-speak imaginable, with a goofy horror-of-drugs message tacked on at times like a nancy reagan tv testimonial. worse still, the mystery at its core is easily decoded, and populated by laughable stereotypes at each hard-boiled corner. when the blond-haired femme fatale makes her inevitable appearance, the book transforms into full-blown camp - unraveling any semblance of a serious narrative with a few pages of uninspired s & m. were it a movie, it might make for bizarro, midnight-movie viewing a la edgar ulmer, but as a book i found it ugly and idiotic.
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