Adam Ross, author of the acclaimed novel, Mr. Peanut, and former teacher at the prestigious Harpeth Hall Girls’ School in Nashville, Tennessee, has been nominated for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Presented annually by the British magazine Literary Review, the judges hope “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.”
The nomination of Mr. Peanut is richly deserved. I would offer some quotes, but I’d rather not.
Page one, line one, David Pepin dreams of killing his obese wife, Alice. Like any good wife, she obliges. She downs a handful of peanuts and dies of anaphylactic shock. Police are called to investigate.
The two detectives assigned to the case have their own marital problems. Detective Hastroll’s wife takes to her bed for no apparent reason. There she stays, for five long months. The only explanation for this behavior is that her husband “doesn’t get it.” Hastroll never suggests that she see a doctor or a psychiatrist, but he does dream of smothering her and dismembering her body.
The other detective is a “reincarnated” Sam Sheppard of Bay Village, Ohio. The real Sheppard was convicted of the brutal murder of his pregnant wife, Marilyn, in 1954. He served ten years in prison before the verdict was overturned. Shepperd went on to become a second-rate boxer and to marry a German woman whose sister was the wife of Joseph Goebbels. An alcoholic, Sheppard died of liver failure in 1970.
None of this phases Ross, who brings Sheppard back to life for his story. Much of the book is an imagined version of Sam and Marilyn’s life.
This is a novel that might appeal more to men than to women. It has been praised by none other than Stephen King and Richard Russo. I find the female characters shallow, unbelievable, unrealistic.
In fairness to Ross, he seems to be saying there exists within marriage a love-hate dynamic, that most, if not all men, at one time or another, want to kill their wives. I find that hard to accept. It’s as disconcerting as believing all women want to kill their husbands, that all marriages are potential killing fields. They’re not.