Neal Pollack is the author of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature (McSweeney’s Books, $16), due in March in an expanded paperback edition and as a 3-CD spoken-word boxed set from HarperAudio and Bloodshot Records. Here he chooses six “bad books that I like anyway.”
The Bridesmaid by Ruth Rendell (out of print). Check out this plot: A Milquetoast interior designer gets sucked into a twisted sexual affair with a crazy-beautiful bohemian actress, and the result can only be murder. In my 20s, I often found myself in relationships like this, with only slightly less disastrous outcomes.
All Shot Up by Chester Himes (available in The Harlem Cycle, Canongate Pub. Ltd., $17). I will always love this badly plotted tale of a Harlem heist for two reasons. First, the opening scene, where a guy witnesses an old lady getting run over by a decked-out Cadillac. Second, Himes’ description of a dish called “chicken feets”": “the white, tender gristle of the chicken feet gave a solid packing to the guts.”
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The Alcoholics by Jim Thompson (Vintage Books, $10). This is a typical Jim Thompson novel in that it contains a sadistic nurse, a lobotomized monster, and a sleepless protagonist veering near madness. If you’ve ever wanted to read a book about a sham L.A. drying-out hospital called El Healtho Sanitarium, I recommend this one with every ventricle of my evil heart.
The Amorous Exploits of a Young Rakehill by Guillaume Apollinaire (Foxrock, $10). After the teenage protagonist of this French surrealist pornographic romp undergoes an erotic awakening while being bathed by his mother, he subsequently has sex with a pregnant woman, his aunt Margaret, and both his sisters. By page 100, he’s enjoying a four-way with the kitchen help.
Clementine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain (Modern Library, $14). The most sexless book about a French woman ever written, this 1940s memoir is full of great recipes. I will be preparing the Rognon de Boeuf au Vin Rouge with turnips in bordelaise sauce very soon. I already have a room reserved at the University of Pennsylvania medical center.
The Wayward West by William J. Barker (out of print). This 1950s collection of humor pieces includes one classic called “Eye, the Jury,” in which Barker examines the rumor that glass eyes explode when dropped in bowls of steaming-hot soup. Since I own the only copy of this book left in the world, it is my duty to tell you that they do not.
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