The Great Lover is one of Michael Cisco’s most audacious novels in a writing career that screams with audacity. It features some of the most visceral and viscous scenes he has ever produced in fiction. It also features some of his most memorable creations – not least, the bio-technological marvel of the Prosthetic Libido, a Frankenstein’s monster of the modern age – in essence, a quasi-human repository of actual human sexual drives.
Nothing in The Great Lover conforms to any formal narrative process, plot structure or linguistic regularity.
Reanimated after death, its protagonist is compelled to amble randomly through the sewers and subways of the metropolis, seeking out corpses, invading the spaces of women’s dreams through his expertise in “nerve projection”. He becomes embroiled in the antics of an underground cult, whilst exposed to the persecutions of the retrogressive socio-political order.
As such, events are conveyed not so much through a prism of narrative point of view as through a kaleidoscope of thwarted perspectives that switch between first and third person narrators with sporadic fleetness, which is all the more disorientating because they belong to the same persona – the Great Lover himself.
Authorial interjections and violations of standard approaches to storytelling further disrupt the sense of reality created in the novel. Yet, remarkably, The Great Lovereffectuates a self-contained world that is disarmingly real in spite of its many tumultuous oddities.
Its dream sequences, for example, are presented in realistic terms as fractured courses of logic that rebuild themselves at the very moment their narratives unfold, resulting in crazy juxtapositions of tenuously connected scenes, sudden leaps in timeframes and insane behaviours that are rendered sensible by the dream-logic in question.
The Great Lover is darkly Carnivalesque – a sumptuous verbal riot of subversive styles and slapstick humour combined with grotesque violence and misanthropy-fuelled ironic farce. It presents a stimulus of confusion that is relentless and all-consuming. It offers a reading experience that is unique and, above all, is as mind-bending as it is enjoyable.
“Hulferde’s newfound energy plus knowledge acquired in creation of the Prosthetic Libido equals creation of Prosthetic Death. That means the transposition of his mortality into an artificial vessel to do all his dying for him so he never has to.” – The Great Lover, page 251