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Schlosser the tosser
on 26 November 2014
A facile, long-winded, ham-fisted novel, without the courage of its convictions.
Dutchman Marc Schlosser is a cynical and jaundiced GP. He professes hatred for many parts of the human body. He deals with, or rather panders to, needy people in the `creative professions'. He is also a manipulative and casually deceitful husband. His opinions about women are tired and sexist; he believes they all enjoy being `half-raped'. His imagination is perverse and he is something of a Social Darwinist. Yet he believes himself to be charming, and though we have no evidence of it, perhaps he can make himself so - his attractive wife Caroline seems to love him, as do his characterless two daughters, aged 11 and 13 (who he wishes were boys). You can get away with narrators of this type if they are funny (John Self) or emblematic of or a product of the world they inhabit (Patrick Bateman); Schlosser is neither. Nor is he as compelling as, say, Tom Ripley. Schlosser is, well...just a tosser.
At the beginning of the novel he seems to have been responsible for the death of one of his clients, a lecherous rising actor called Ralph Meier.
We go back in time to find out why.
For an unexplained reason (mostly because she seems up for it, he doesn't describe her looks or personality) Schlosser wants to sleep with Ralph's wife Judith and so has inveigled a family visit to their summer house (and this despite Ralph very obviously ogling Caroline). It seems a hugely problematic way to start an affair, but then little in this novel is convincing or makes sense. Present too are that clichéd couple, a sixty-something film director and his seventeen-year-old girlfriend. Ralph spends much of the time naked; implausibly this doesn't seem to bother anyone despite the fact that there are two young girls present.
Two-thirds of the way through the book, the plot's main incident occurs. The reactions to it of all the characters are improbable. The author now wants us to empathise with Schlosser but we don't because we don't care about him. Thus we don't truly care about the incident either. In fact we don't care about anything. There's no tension, nothing is at stake. The author, Koch, wants to raise controversial issues about the sexuality of adults and children but treats them glibly. The dialogue is wordy and the characters use each other's names frequently, a dead giveaway that Koch has no ear for naturalistic speech. The novel fades away with a sequence of red herrings.