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May 3, 2011

Book Notes - Rikki Ducornet ("Netsuke")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Rikki Ducornet's Netsuke is a slim but powerful novel. This dark psycho-sexual tale of a psychoanalyst's downward spiral is crisply written, engrossing, and impossible to forget, and has me searching out other works by Ducornet.

Library Journal wrote of the book:

"Pick up a book by the award-winning Ducornet, and you know it will be startling, elegant, and perfectly formed—like netsuke, those miniature Japanese sculptures used to fasten the cord of a kimono. This latest, an unflinching meditation on the twinned drives of lust and destruction, is no exception. . . . Writing about a satyr-psychiatrist could be so predictable, but Ducornet makes her characters real and scary beneath the ruminative, quietly observant prose. Highly recommended for literate readers."

In her own words, here is Rikki Ducornet's Book Notes music playlist for her novel, Netsuke:

Netsuke explores the shadow heart of sexual necessity. I wanted to take on compulsion, explore those rooms where sex excludes all else. If Eros enhances life, the sex in Netsuke is death driven. It is all about annihilation.

In the years before I wrote Netsuke, I had returned to painting. My world had dissolved, and everything was burning. I was teaching in Louisiana and falling in love with Zydeco and Cajun music: Feu Follet, The Red Stick Ramblers, The Pine Leaf Boys. And I was listening to the Blues: Bessie Smith and Ma Rainy, Howlin' Wolf and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Before I became a writer, I was a voracious listener. But in my experience, novels are ruled by imperious voices, each one defined by a singular set of qualities. All my novels are voice driven, and in those years in the South, painting and listening to all that good music, I was also waiting for what I knew might be a book of real ferocity. I was waiting for the voice to pounce. Somewhere Harry Mathews writes: in the hunt of my longing. Not the heart, but the hunt of my longing. As when one's losses are so big one feels hunted down by fate, all the while hunting for that crack in everything Leonard Cohen sings about, the crack that lets the light in.

Netsuke is ruled by the voice of a sexually compulsive psychoanalyst, who paces the pages like a creature caught in a ring of fire. In his paintings of Hell, Bosch causes fires to cluster against a sky that rises like a lid, no crack in sight. I wrote Netsuke in Tuscaloosa, where I taught for a semester. I was housed up against the woods. It was beautiful and quiet, and I had no music with me. But music haunts the book, nonetheless. For one thing, if I thought of Bosch's Hell, I also recalled Carl Orff's "Catulli Carmina," that driven, sexual music, and those wild voices singing of lust and hate and love. And also Phillip Glass's "The Photographer," it's relentless and resurgent themes, somehow propulsive and voluptuous and yet oppressive, the vehicle of a fascinating and yet reductive system, on fire and playing out beneath a lid. They foretell a deliberate disaster, after which nothing can ever be reassembled. My character's voice is like this.

Rikki Ducornet and Netsuke links:

excerpt from the book

Boston Globe review
Ecstatic Days review
Kirkus Reviews review
Library Journal review
On the Seawall review
Publishers Weekly review
Reading Lark review
Seattle Times review

Peninsula Daily News profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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