Lust and Philosophy by Isham Cook is a hypnotic saga of a man’s desperate desire to be with a particular woman, even though she is not the first one in his life. This ‘being with’ is in no way spiritual or platonic. It’s a physical attraction to three ‘B’s- beauty, bust and buttocks’, to the extent that it even becomes an obsession. This is described by the narrator’s likeness of his state of mind to that of the situation in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’. It is as violent and mutilating as Lavinia’s rape and cutting of her tongue thereafter, or mother getting ready to eat flesh off her dead sons’ bodies. it is also cross cultural, as the story is set in China with an American protagonist in search of his Chinese love interest. And, there is not one love interest!
As is evident, there is a lot of reference to tradition, including religious, and a lot of questioning. Things are seen in a different light. Everything physical has a reference into the past, and ultimately, they merge into philosophy. The images of Madonna and the child, the description of the Anunciation, all are a representation of sexuality, and the argument is impressive. In fact, Simone Martini’s ‘Annunciation’ (1333) is even said to be hinting at Mary’s rape! (She is no where Mother Mary, or the ghost is the ‘Holy Ghost’.) There are references to other great philosophical works to, including Louis Althusser’s ‘Lenin and Philosophy’ and Jean Baudrillard.
Style wise, this book is rich with detail, drama and a lucid description. Juxtapositions, contradictions and satire is common. There are surprises. On the other hand, it is also a psychological adventure. It is a good read for those who seek to have deeper understanding of the relationship a man’s mind has with women and their bodies, which the narrator measures on the scale of nine and ten; ten being the perfect.
… Sahar Raman Deep (10/15/16)