Book Review: Voluntary Madness by Vicki Hendricks
I hadn’t intended on taking a two month break from my blog, but then again I hadn’t intended on taking a two month break from reading either. I guess that’s a consequence of reading and reviewing so many Philip K Dick novels a while back. Anyway, I managed to get through Vicki Hendricks’ Voluntary Madness as well as Helen Caldicott’s Nuclear Power Isn’t the Answer to Global Warming Or Anything Else on a recent trip to Melbourne, so we’ll have a brief review of the former here.
On first inspection, this is probably my kind of book. It’s short (210 pages), newish (published in 2000), by an American author (and a woman to boot), and noirish. It’s also somewhat pornographic, or at least highly titillating. I didn’t mind that either. The story is about a young and reckless woman by the name of Juliette and her older boyfriend Punch. The story is set in Key West, Florida, and what follows from a promising start is an increasingly zany adventure that the two undertake during what they have deemed to be the last year of their life, after which they plan to commit suicide.
The material is quite entertaining – there’s a nod or two to the film Bonnie and Clyde and even Punch and Judy puppet theatre. This is an easy read, but not a particularly enlightening one. Having read a lot of Harry Crews novels in recent times, Hendricks’ book seems to fit into the category of what I might term ‘sub-Crews’ in the sense that it shares Crews’ black vision but not his writing power. This isn’t a bad book by any means, but I feel that Hendricks is probably finding her feet in writing with this book. It’s more than an apprentice novel and less than a fully-realised vision. I’d be interested in reading one of this author’s later novels to see how she progressed after this.