Who can we blame for the unforgivable publication of Corpsefucker, Carmen Adamucci’s debut novel scheduled for release this fall by Atticus Books? According to the jacket copy, Corpsefucker is “a tender, salacious ouevre in which magic and myth delightfully mingle,” leading this reader to wonder: what is this book really about?
Some readers will remember the name Carmen Adamucci from Jumpa Lahiri’s mesmerizing short story “Peach” (first published in The New Yorker in March of 2007), which featured a character named Carmen Adamucci, a peach farmer (like the “real” Adamucci), though Mr. Adamucci has denied ever meeting Lahiri despite possible evidence of the two mingling at a recent literary soiree.
We must accept Adamucci’s unlikely “insider” status as the only plausible reason for Corpsefucker‘s publication. It is a bad book, possibly the worst. It’s long (1149 pages) and does not hesitate to trample on the taboos of incest, cannibalism, even trichtillomania. Indeed, nothing is sacred in Corpsefucker. In an age of timid, self-serving book reviews, I had hoped that Adamucci’s work would give us the ammunition to open fire on this young author’s hopes and dreams, rend the work from his chest, as it were, and slaughter his vision. I had even chosen Corpsefucker so that I might finally have some fodder for an openly hostile book review (of which there are far too few these days, the critical importance of which Slate and Salon don’t fully understand). In an era when Brooklyn booksellers snatch seven-figure book deals (and have them positively praised by their friends), I had hoped to review Corpsefucker truthfully and peremptorily finish this age of literary handjobs and editorial reach-arounds. With what better book than Corpsefucker, I thought, might we thrust our critical balls back into the literary mouth of the American reading public and ejaculate, as it were, an honest opinion down our collective throat. Unfortunately, Corpsefucker had other plans.
“My chico rico farmhand died today,” the book begins, “or maybe yesterday. I ain’t so sure.” What a dastardly opening! Adamucci nakedly aligns his work with Camus’ L’Etranger, suggesting a palimpsest or collage – we can’t fault Adamucci for his ambition – but where the Nobel laureate succeeds with his nuanced portraiture of bleakness and despair, Corpsefucker reveals itself to be a book about happiness. “This here book is about happy hoopy poopy times, folks,” announces Corpefucker‘s narrator, a 33-year-old farmer named Jed, before devolving into an opaque, senseless monologue about peaches. If only the prose were clean, artful, or employed even a single metaphor in all of its eye-numbing 1,149 pages, happiness and peach farming might warrant this turbulent exegesis; instead, Corpsefucker reads like the demented rambling of a drunken psychopath. At least, I thought so at first.
What’s most disturbing, as the reader impales himself further into these pages, is that this darkly realistic rendering of a psychopathic farmer’s mind is exactly the intent of Corpsefucker. And in these scenes where Jed shares his thoughts with us, the novel gets interesting. What are we to make of this strange, beautiful hate-bird named Jed? The book’s early pages establish enough narrative tension to keep us engaged: we learn that the deceased farmhand, Ramon, has been romantically involved with Jed’s wife Lenore. Questions are (heavy-handedly) raised about Jed’s possible involvement in Ramon’s death (a tractor “accident”), and this propels the reader — against his better judgment — further into Corpsefucker. It even appears that Corpsefucker might deliver a sensible, compelling mystery, with some unusual erotic entanglements, the likes of which all too frequently catapult books like this onto the NY Times bestseller list.
Jed, in a bourbony rage, confronts Lenore about her affair with Ramon. The confrontation isn’t problematic per se; rather, the technical execution of this plot premise fails (though artifice and intent may lie in these failures). Jed’s voice becomes incoherent, his fundamental control of grammar and syntax devolve into idiotic nonsense, while Lenore’s diction elevates and evolves, improbably, into the aristocratic voice of an Englishwoman (the story takes place in rural New Jersey). They fight as lovers do, but it’s like people from two different centuries speaking with each other. In an admittedly entertaining scene, Jed says to Lenore: “You done done him, ain’t you,” which in the context of the plot must literally mean “You had sexual relations with [Ramon], did you not?” Jed rapid-fires a few more tautological accusations, his language conversely deteriorating in accordance with his escalating rage: “You roo roo pooed him!” Again, further still: “Cock a doodle do! Dintchoo? DINTCHOO??” To which Lenore coolly and amazingly replies: “Indubitably. Thrice.” Not surprisingly, Jed unbuttons his overalls and throws himself at Lenore’s indifferent feet, beseeching her: “How couldja? How COUDJA, Lenorrie?” As Jed cries “hot salty tears,” we, the reader, also cry hot salty tears and recognize how terrible (joyous?) our lives have become, such that a book like Corpsefucker exists and, worse, still, that we have purchased Corpsefucker and have even gone so far as to read it.
Corpsefucker‘s language is playful, demotic. We hear the lunatic ramblings of Jed, his pages and pages of unusually intimate details about “peach guts,” (845) and we recognize his thoughts as exemplary of what some have called a New Realism, if not an explicitly Joycean exploration of miasmata and narrative. Corpsefucker lacks Joyce’s erudition; it does not lack Joyce’s tantalizing vernacular, and, indeed, Corpsefucker delivers an aural pastiche of this unusual locale, a peach farm between Exits 7 and 8 on the New Jersey Turnpike, peopled with freaks, farmers, and farmhands from all over the nation.
To call the farm in Corpsefucker a miniature United Nations is, perhaps, taking it too far; to call it a demonaical Disneyland with extra fruit and fewer robots, is getting closer to the emotional truths of Corpsefucker. Jed, whom we must consider the hero of Corpsefucker, does not take a literal journey like Hans Castorp in Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg, but his teleological self-examination does echo that of young Hans in his mountainous travails. I am reluctant to compare Corpsefucker to the great European Modernist masterpieces of the 20th Century, and yet, after a second and (yes, I’ll admit it) a third reading, the undeniable influence of Kafka, Gombrovicz, and even Agota Kristof are all too apparent in Corpsefucker‘s dazzling pages.
Is this, then, a masterpiece? A masterpiece must engage its predecessors in dialogue, or violently overthrow all artistic antecedents, or, better still, cannibalize all prior known novels in order to regurgitate some new, primordial aesthetic. Eliot, in his seminal essay Tradition and the Individual Talent reminds us that “No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists.” Corpsefucker‘s complete meaning may elude this generation, as The Great Gatsby took decades to find its audience, and to appreciate Corpsefucker‘s intricate relation to the hallowed artifacts of yore might very well require years of critical extrospection.
I must acknowledge the contradictions in this review, for they are the contradictions of Corpsefucker: upon first entering this fictional nightmare, one cannot believe the thing has been published; upon conclusion, though, and indeed after a second read, the magic of Corpsefucker settles like a phantasmagorical snowglobe full of blood-red flakes, so that the reader has witnessed a miracle, but of whose importance and meaning it might be impossible to guess. I fucking hate this book. But I love it. Minutes after experiencing the emotions of Corpsefucker, one suspects the entire thing is a joke. And yet Corpsefucker remains, begging a re-read, to clear the conscience of some possibly faulty artistic judgment. We are confident that the thing is a piece of shit, but we are moved by it, horrified by it, aroused by it. We have been taken to bed by Corpsefucker. We belong to the peaches now.
Submitted by @stremainenelson
NOTE: an alarming number of people have started Googling “corpsefucker” thinking this was an actual book available for purchase; it is not; this was a work of satire, although Carmen Adamucci is a real author whose work you can read here.