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Morty Shallman
The Tyranny of Desire

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Publish)

PUCHY MUSHKIN is a big dreamer and an even bigger loser whose spectacular failure as a human being is exceeded only by the enormity of his penis. Think Seinfeld’s George Costanza without the “shrinkage.” In the depths of his despair, Puchy has an epiphany: could the endless series of screw-ups that define his existence be the result of his overwhelming desire for the success he believes is his birthright? To test his theory and, hopefully, change his fate, Puchy vows to banish all dreams, goals, aims, ambitions, and obsessions from his life except one: to assassinate desire itself and hang it by its feet like Mussolini. What follows is the hilariously dark, raunchy, and irreverent tale of one man’s twisted war with himself—an anti-story about an anti-hero whose only motivation is to have no motivation at all.

Puchy Mushkin, the hero of this ribald and incisive provocation from author/musician Shallman, has a problem: his overwhelming desire can only be matched by his enormous penis. Being endowed with that “Rubirosan love muscle,” it turns out, is “a double-edge sword.” Believing that all his many travails—among them a failed marriage, an ex-lover who literally crucifies him, and his recent exile from polite society—stem from his unquenchable hedonism, Puchy vows to start living life devoid of want, believing, “...desire is a dangerous thing. The source of all suffering and pain.” This seemingly noble pursuit backfires for Puchy, though Shallman has a ball conjuring up the wildest situations and transgressions in a carnivalesque Los Angeles, including a mayoral campaign, an odd irredeemable love, and involvement with a woman who sells her feces to the highest bidder.

The story may sound at first blush like the world’s biggest penis joke, but readers who relish irreverent literary play will be rewarded with insight and challenges to convention, especially when Puchy falls into his more introspective moments. By trying to live for want of nothing, Puchy finds out that being the anti-yes-man also has its cons. From one extreme to another, the fine line between being in control and being controlled sends Puchy into a host of extreme—and often uproarious—setpieces in the spirit of the norm-shattering, can-you-top-this? sexually frank comic novels of a generation ago, with a welcome queer edge. One of Puchy’s breakthroughs finds him thinking, “...when you murder desire, desire doesn’t suffer, only you and everyone around you.”

Jolts of such wisdom offer relief from the darkness and depravity. Much of the humor stems from its cast of politically incorrect characters, most of whom reveal surprising depths in what at first might seem the shallow swamps of their personas. Still, the comedy is proudly over-the-top, edging into the realm of bawdy vaudeville, destructive not just of what used to be called "decency" but niceties like narrative momentum and clarity. Puchy's just too much for this world.

Takeaway: The riotously bawdy story of a man finding it harder than it looks to live without a care.

Great for fans of: Arthur Nersesian, Gary Reilly’s The Asphalt Warrior.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-