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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Love Slave

Love Slave, by Jennifer Spiegel
Unbridled Books, 2012. Novel.
Review by Debrah Lechner.

If Dorothy had been transplanted over the rainbow to Greenwich Village instead of Oz, and if instead of insistently seeking her way home she was plagued by the fear that she was destined to return to the Midwest, I think you’d pretty much have discovered the character of Sybil Weatherfield in Love Slave.

“I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to go home.” Oh, Sybil. You’ve had the power to stay in exactly the same place all along. Wait, Sybil! Don’t crack me over the head with my own sparkly wand! I’m the “mentor” figure here. It’s my job to point out the obvious!

Of course, when we meet Sybil, she has aged beyond Dorothy’s adolescent innocence, so that her inherent adult innocence is a big embarrassment to her, as it would be for any of us.

She camouflages that quality of innocence in two ways. For one thing, she exaggerates her own foibles, such as her wistful but unproductive yearning for bulimia. There’s not a toilet anywhere near her face during the entire book. (There’s also no BDSM in Love Slave, in case you wanted to know, and I’m pretty sure you did.)

More notably, Sybil also writes a ruminative column for the New York Shock, which covers a number of subjects, including the recording and taxonomy of “freaks.” Sybil is either optimistic or paranoid about the number of people around her who can be classified as freaks, depending upon how you view her obsession.

Some of the most amusing parts of Love Slave are the columns for the New York Shock. The columns also include letters written to her by fans. In the first part of the book, a fan writes:

You’re a coward. Be a freak, or change the subject.
-Sue, SoHo

That was pretty much my reaction, too, but Sybil has already answered that objection in the previous column:

If I love freaks so much, why do I still go to the Gap? Why do I shop at Banana Republic? Why haven’t I even gotten a tattoo?

I’ll tell you why. Because I’m a voyeur.

Okay, well, the world needs voyeurs, too. Dorothy was certainly a voyeur. The variety and quick kaleidoscopic change of people that Dorothy met was bewildering to her. “My, people come and go so quickly here.” It wouldn’t have been at all satisfying for Dorothy to become inured to the shock of Oz. And really, who would want Dorothy to end up wearing a nose ring?

So Sybil remains, for lack of a better word, a Standard. Eventually, she falls in love. That outcome is either an epic fail or a happy ending, depending on your personal standing on the Standard-to-Freak scale.

In any case, Sybil is a charming character to meet, and Love Slave is available now. Jennifer Spiegel also has another book published in 2012 by Dzanc Books, The Freak Chronicles. I haven’t read it yet, but I imagine it will be an indispensible companion volume to Love Slaves, so make plans to pick up both at once.

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