REVIEW: Temper

Thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC.

Layne Fargo’s debut novel, Temper, is a thrill ride of obsession, passion, and what it means to be devoted to art more than well-being. Pitched in an email from NetGalley as something fans of the Darren Aronofsky film, Black Swan, would love, I figured I would give it a try and request. For the first time in a stupidly long time, I have been presented with a book that is exactly what I was told it would and so, so much more.

For fear of giving away any good stuff, I will make a lot of this vague, but the story follows two points of view, one from Kira and the other from Joanna. Kira is an actress fighting to make ends meet while she strives for her big break. Joanna is one of he two people behind one of the larger theatre companies in Chicago looking for what she truly wants. The one thing that ties these two together is a script written by an unknown author and the man who plays the lead, Malcolm Mercer.

When I say this book is like Black Swan, I am only talking about the aspect of passion, and striving for that perfection while being allowed to feel and move through a scene, through a performance as though it could be reality. That is really where the comparison ends and it because a dance of psychological warfare between unmovable forces. This is where I would compare it to the play adaptation of Venus in Fur (my favourite show of all time).

The way every character moves around the others is so complex as they all become intertwined to the point of being knotted in each others’ faces is hypnotic. The layers so carefully worked that even the predictable is set up as though that was the purpose of the moment. I saw the ending coming a mile away – the principle of Chekhov’s Gun is very real here – but I didn’t care because that didn’t change how beautifully executed it was. It’s a cyclical story of desperation and egos and arrogance while also one of desire, love, jealousy, and what it means to be obsessed with perfection.

I almost hate the degree these characters had me obsessing over them, but it has been a long time since a character like Malcolm Mercer has had my little queer heart racing. Even Kira had me wishing I was her more than once, while I’ve felt Joanna’s pain so viscerally it almost made me want to cry. I know these people, I want to be these people, I am afraid of these people, and I love all of it.

I know I am absolutely gushing without giving much substance here but this is a book I highly recommend going into as blind as possible. Don’t read the reviews on GoodReads. Skim the synopsis on the back. Pick this up and let it eat you whole. You won’t regret it.

REVIEW: Venus in Fur

This is an adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novel of the same name. The play focuses on Thomas and Vanda, as Vanda auditions for a role she shares a name with for playwright, Thomas. As the two of them read through the script, Thomas becomes seemingly mesmerized by Vanda’s looks and talent as she embodies everything that is the goddess, Venus.

12903397The play is full of less-than-subtle S&M themes and practices, and is also incredibly feminist as it tackles the idea of this kind of relationship between a man and a woman. Vanda is unafraid of calling out Thomas on the sexist moments in his play, even when he gets mad and lashes out at her, she refuses to back down. At times he even gets her point and Thomas will be the one to back down. Thomas is not a meek man, he is passionate and determined, and Vanda is strong without filling the “bitch in heels” stereotype. She is not a dominatrix, yet she has full control over him by approximately the half-way mark. He is not a pushover, yet he kneels before her without so much as a second thought.

I have not yet read the novella, but in terms of the play alone, this is what a true erotic drama should look like. No one is abused. No one is harassed. At least not to the degree than stories like 50 Shades have made “normal” in the eyes of the public. For a play with not even a kiss in it, it is one of the most erotic stories I have ever come across.


Author: David Ives
Published: May 21st 2013
Pages: 53
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service
ISBN: 9780822225331

Synopsis: A young playwright, Thomas, has written an adaptation of the 1870 novel Venus in Fur by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (after whom the term “masochism” was coined); the novel is the story of an obsessive adulterous relationship between a man and the mistress to whom he becomes enslaved. At the end of a long day in which the actresses Thomas auditions fail to impress him, in walks Vanda, very late and seemingly clueless, but she convinces him to give her a chance. As they perform scenes from Thomas’s play, and Vanda the actor and Vanda the character gradually take control of the audition, the lines between writer, actor, director, and character begin to blur. Vanda is acting . . . or perhaps she sees in Thomas a masochist, one who desires fantasy in “real life” while writing fantasies for a living.