A Novella of Sexual Obsession by Rikki Ducornet

“Netsuke” by Rikki Ducornet (2011) – 127 pages

The main character in the new novella “Netsuke” by Rikki Ducornet has a seemingly very good life. He is a psychoanalyst, lives in a big suburban house on a large property with his artist wife Akiko, no children. The couple frequently goes out to expensive restaurants. In his practice he makes a good living and his wife is quite renowned as an artist.

Yet this guy is sure to outrage most readers. He is driven by sex. Apparently he is quite attractive, because when he is out jogging, just by making eye contact he can convince a young woman to turn off the path into a secluded area with him. He gets involved with store clerks, waitresses, and cleaners who come to his house. But the most outrageous thing about him is that he has sex with his patients. His patients, who he calls clients, come to him ‘thwarted, famished, and lonely’. “If the client is attractive, I cannot help but wonder is she/he fuckable.”   He has two offices on his property, one called Drear for the patients he isn’t interested in and one called Spells which is devoted to “the pleasures of transgression”. His wife Akiko is busy designing and making her works of art, she usually doesn’t notice what is going on with her husband. Or maybe she does not want to notice?

A ‘netsuke’ is a Japanese toggle made of wood or ivory used to attach objects such as a tobacco pouch, a pipe, or a medicine box to a man’s obi. Akiko collects these miniature works of art.

In “Netsuke”, we have a tale of relentless sexual obsession. The entire story is told by this driven man. To me this novel seemed almost continental European in its matter-of-factness about these matters, and I was surprised to discover that Rikki Ducornet is from the United States. According to Wikipedia, she did live in France for seventeen years. Did I expect a United States or even an English writer to be more shrill and moralistic writing about sexual obsession?

I was extremely impressed with Rikki Ducornet’s style of writing for this outrageous obsessive man’s monologue about his life. “Netsuke” is a true tour de force that will leave you transfixed. The writer that first comes to mind when I think of Rikki Ducornet is Elena Ferrante which is high praise indeed.

Now a bit of trivia. Rikki Ducornet went to Bard College, and the singer-songwriter Donald Fagen of Steely Dan was also going there, and they became friends. Ducornet remembers Fagen giving her his phone number at a college party. How many of you remember the Steely Dan song, “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number”?

This is an excellent novella. I want to read more of Rikki Ducornet’s work.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kimbofo on June 13, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    I quite like the sound of this, and have added it to my Amazon wishlist. The cover is quite lovely.

    Oh, and I love the Steely Dan reference. I do remember that song!


  2. Hi Kimbofo,
    CoffeeHouse Press, the book’s publisher, re-tweeted my original tweet on this entry, so I got a goodly number of hits today. “Netsuke” is a fine little novella..


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: