David Cronenberg has crafted a novel that is just as provocative and indicative as you’d expect from the best of his movies. With both subtle and not-subtle-at-all tones, he points us in two excessive examples of consumption: human and electronic. Cronenberg asks: which is the more horrific?
Naomi Seberg and Nathan Math are both yellow journalists, kept together by salacious news and love of technology: “brand passions was emotional glue for hard-core nerd couples”. Naomi is focused on crime. Here, she covers a “French philosophical sex-killing murder-suicide cannibal thing”. Nathan is focused on medical. He’s led into such things like Apotemnophilia, or “body dysmorphic disorder” and folks that “roam the earth looking for a doctor who will cut off a perfectly good arm or leg” and the corresponding people stricken by Acrotomophilia, or “a sexual attraction to amputees”. To know Cronenberg is to know transgressive media.
Interestingly paired with the plot is a strong focus on brand awareness: the latest gadgets and gizmos with the highest megapixels and fastest speeds. The first signs, aside from the blatant and purposeful brand placement, is the French cannibal’s fascination with Karl Marx. This later translates into the “Philosophy of Consumerism” with its “fearsome beauty and provocative weirdness” (and you thought the above paragraph was provocatively weird?). Cronenberg looks at modern society for his best examples, including YouTube’s unboxing videos as the “epitome of consumerist fetishism”.
These worlds—digital and organic—all collide toward the end of the book. There are many chapters where the French philosopher—wife eater—Aristide Arosteguy, narrates in first person (as Naomi records it) which shows the building/declining of the couple and the mix of film and consumerism and human decay. Again, Cronenberg. Nathan talks about a reemerging sexually transmitted disease and “the politics surrounding the disease. All sex, all hysteria, very American.” He talks about “name that people are terrified to hear [such as Alzheimer’s]. Afraid that their doctors will speak those names to them.” Perhaps the girl that he later finds that is into “3D philosophical tissue printing” is a link to it all.
This book is not for everyone. However, for those willing to delve into the depths of Cronenberg will be well rewarded with his genius perspective and unique social observations. Movie fans will appreciate his taking of characters to the panel of the Cannes Film Festival and awarding of the Palme d’Or, as well as his nod to the recently deceased Oliver Sacks (writer of THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT, among many others, along with a book with film adaptation, AWAKENINGS).