Title: Men, Women & Children
Author: Chad Kultgen
320 pages, Published by Harper Perennial
Buy The Book: Amazon
Chad Kultgen, cult hero and author of the buzz-generating illicit classics The Average American Male and The Lie, cuts to the quick of the American psyche like no other author writing today. In Men, Women & Children he explores the sexual pressures at work on a handful of troubled, conflicted junior-high students and their equally dysfunctional parents. From porn-surfing fathers to World of Warcraft-obsessed sons, from competitive cheerleaders to their dissatisfied, misguided mothers, Kultgen clicks open the emotionally treacherous culture in which we live—in his most ambitious and surprising book yet. (Summary provided by Harper Perennial.)
Explicit. Disturbing. Unforgettable. Men, Women & Children by Chad Kultgen is all of these things and much more. Told in the voice of a detached, omniscient narrator, this novel tells the story of a group of junior high aged children and their parents. After the very first sentence in chapter 1: “Don Truby thought about Kelly Ripa’s anus.” I initially thought this book would rely heavily on shock value. However, once I was into the story I realized this was more of a look at how society has largely become desensitized to extreme depictions of violence and/or sex due to the availability of such material online.
The detached narration has an almost clinical feel at some of the most disturbing scenes in the book dealing with a teen suffering from anorexia. The clinical voice of the narration also leant humor to the story at times. When describing in extreme detail one of the teen character’s World of Warcraft persona and playing habits, I found myself laughing aloud at the descriptions of how he and the other players talk to each other online. (My husband used to play WOW which is another reason I thought it was so funny.) Kultgen’s ability to shock and horrify readers in one paragraph and then just a few paragraphs or pages later have readers laughing at something the same character has said or done is the hallmark of an excellent writer familiar with the workings of his or her craft.
In the shocking universe Kultgen has created most women are manipulative shrews while the men (with a couple of exceptions) are either sex-obsessed cave men or cuckolds beholden to their wives every whim. Just when you think a character has a redeeming quality Kultgen smashes that notion into the ground. Kultgen’s writing in Men, Women, & Children functions like a fist punching over and over again until the reader is left looking at the jagged hole in the sheetrock feeling both awe and disgust.
Note: While I think this book is really good, it is definitely not for everyone. It contains explicit descriptions of sexual acts.
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