This intensely explicit story burns the way mesmerized moths burn. In obsessive sex matters, it seems to say, survival is a shaky goal. Survive what? The shocking messiness of intimacy. Hendrick’s CRUEL POETRY crowds you; it does not give you room to catch your breath, or gain one car’s length distance. Everything is on collision course here, though not always in a hurry: flesh moves over flesh in a Miami Beach flophouse, sickly evidence seeps into the reader, and the prose has an awkwardly numbing sense of rhythm. Noir does not comfort nor cover, and Hendricks applies this principle 100 percent, as things are 100 percent cotton. This is not about interchangeable porn with a yawn factor, but about eerie Erotic Noir: Hendricks does not need perverse undertones to introduce a true neo-vamp, an independent, modern seductress who insists on her freedom to keep everybody at arm’s length – except her pet python.
Renata (Rennie) in this demanding central role is a perfectly crafted character – a young woman who goes too far in her emotions and reactions without even knowing it. Too physical, too urgently immediate, too carefree, too radiantly alive, too overpowering hot for the timid, restrained people who cannot help but become obsessed with her. Rennie quickly convinces you that she really believes her life would be hollow if she did not share her every iota of being with the world. She has a hot affair with life itself, and a natural appetite for sex that does neither hint Mae West, nor the overused, Lolita-esque child-women shtick. Rennie is simply a catalyst, a crazy hot number who makes people feel alive, a source both of delight and death.
Hendricks writes as sober and aching as any fallen angel, stuck between heaven and earth, would probably dream. With straightforward boldness and clear cut images she makes you crawl out of your igloo of self-control, and invites you to a lava skinny-dip in a very clever, almost leisurely way.
Rennie’s next door neighbor in the shabby beachside hotel is Julie (Jules), an unhappy not-quite writer who peeps through a hole in the wall to live on borrowed erotic and energy. With loneliness closing in on her, she is a vulnerable drifter, buried in a luckless life, who seeks Rennie’s nearness with an urgency like clinging vine. Along the way, another character who falls prey to Rennie’s magnetism is Richard, a poetry professor who desperately tries to be more than just a casual sex opportunity to her. His obsession holds him like a nauseating shock, and kicks him out of lethargy. The only character who seems to be able to keep the right distance to Rennie is her semi-serious SO Francisco, who deliberately shrugs off her being irresistible.
There are glimmers of an unworldly terror and claustrophobic victimization in this book, and aloofness appears to be the magic word out. An abundance of hidden references and metaphors matches the plot and subplot maneuvers, and drags you deeper into thought. When nightlife and passion turn into crime, witnessed by voyeur Julie, the consequences teach the characters some of the uglier facts of
life. This book is a mental shake-up and a dark symphony you should not miss.