It took Libby more than twenty years to write “The Apprentice,” which is set in a remote Japanese province in the winter of 1903. The book is brimming with quasi-political intrigue and antique locutions—“The girl who wore the cloak of yellow fur”; “one wore backward a European hat”—that make the phrase a “former Hill staffer,” by comparison, seem straightforward.
Like his predecessors, Libby does not shy from the scatological. The narrative makes generous mention of lice, snot, drunkenness, bad breath, torture, urine, “turds,” armpits, arm hair, neck hair, pubic hair, pus, boils, and blood (regular and menstrual). One passage goes, “At length he walked around to the deer’s head and, reaching into his pants, struggled for a moment and then pulled out his penis. He began to piss in the snow just in front of the deer’s nostrils.”
Homoeroticism and incest also figure as themes. The main female character, Yukiko, draws hair on the “mound” of a little girl. The brothers of a dead samurai have sex with his daughter. Many things glisten (mouths, hair, evergreens), quiver (a “pink underlip,” arm muscles, legs), and are sniffed (floorboards, sheets, fingers). The cast includes a dwarf, and an “assistant headman” who comes to restore order after a crime at the inn. (Might this character be autobiographical? And, if so, would that have made Libby the assistant headman or the assistant headman’s assistant?)
When it comes to depicting scenes of romance, however, Libby can evoke a sort of musty sweetness; while one critic deemed “The Apprentice” “reminiscent of Rembrandt,” certain passages can better be described as reminiscent of Penthouse Forum. There is, for example, Yukiko’s seduction of the inexperienced apprentice:
He could feel her heart beneath his hands. He moved his hands slowly lower still and she arched her back to help him and her lower leg came against his. He held her breasts in his hands. Oddly, he thought, the lower one might be larger. . . . One of her breasts now hung loosely in his hand near his face and he knew not how best to touch her.
Other sex scenes are less conventional. Where his Republican predecessors can seem embarrassingly awkward—the written equivalent of trying to cop a feel while pinning on a corsage—Libby is unabashed:
At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest.
He asked if they should fuck the deer.
The answer, reader, is yes.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
How could we forget Scooter Libby's contribution to the genre?
by Atrios at 22:55