"Fucking hemos," the cabbie muttered.
--Throat Sprockets, Tim Lucas
Throat Sprockets, by Tim Lucas, is a bizarre novel about an obscure film that sparks an all-consuming obsession. The protagonist, an essentially nameless advertising writer, encounters the film "Throat Sprockets" in an X-rated theater, and is immediately intrigued because the film appears to contain no nudity. It's badly edited, as well - full of abrupt splices - and poorly dubbed. Yet as he watches he discovers that the film does convey an erotic charge, of a specific and overwhelming kind... it documents, and creates, a fetishistic lust for the throat... and for blood.
The previous work to which Throat Sprockets is most noticeably comparable is Theodore Roszak's Flicker, and I shall perhaps have to reevaluate Bret Easton Ellis (with whose own novels I have been, shall we say, Less Than Impressed) in light of the fact that he also recognizes this comparison, as quoted in a back-cover blurb I read after finishing the novel. The rest of this article, by the way, draws heavily on this relationship between these two books; if you haven't read Flicker I would strongly suggest doing so before starting Throat Sprockets, as I thought the latter work benefitted greatly from the context provided by the former.
For example, Throat Sprockets shares Flicker's fascination with film as a medium of communication that can penetrate the mind's defenses more deeply than most, and with a certain kind of artistry that intentionally appears artless, even crude, in order to subvert the jaded viewer, the sophisticate bored with sophistication who can only be intrigued by the raw and unmediated experience (or a subtle imitation thereof). There is also, as there is in Flicker, a not-so-subtle odor of decay surrounding Lucas' view of our fin-de-siecle culture, although Lucas' protagonist describes it with somewhat less moral posturing. And the endings of the two books, although widely divergent in specific detail, share the same general tone of exhaustion, the same post-natal lassitude that inevitably occurs just after the birth of Yeats' rough beast.
But Throat Sprockets departs from Flicker in that it lacks the conspiratarian backdrop and historical sweep of its predecessor. It also moves much more smoothly, especially in the endgame, than Flicker, and as mentioned above does so with less self-righteousness. These things, in my opinion, serve to make Throat Sprockets a much lighter but altogether more entertaining read.
Although this book is shelved with generic horror, it should not be dismissed on that account (anyway, that's another thread). The prose is lucid, even playful at times ("'Fucking hemos,'" is NOT a typo), and the plot contains enough unexpected yet obvious-after-the-fact turns to have kept me from putting it down. Although I would not elevate it to the ranks of "Great Littrachur," Throat Sprockets is a seriously interesting work with something to say about the darker side of human nature.
"My father died, and it was as if a library had burned down."
--Laurie Anderson (interview on NPR)
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