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A light-hearted fantasy about molesting unconscious women
on 5 August 2015
The Fermata is a story about a male temp call Arno Stine who is unusually bookish and introspective – and intensely self-centered. Stine discovers the ability to stop time and he primarily uses this to undress and grope women when they are unconscious, being in ‘stopped time’. The story is provided in a matter of fact way, without any attempt by the author to judge or moralise, a point Stine takes pains to emphasise.
Stine justifies his actions by pointing out that the objects of his attentions (for they are essentially static objects he would love to sleep with) don’t usually become aware of the acts. Anyway, he generally seems to do a passable job of cleaning up the bodily fluids that he liberally distributes. In essence, Stine argues, what harm is done? He describes in close detail what it is he finds attractive about the women he abuses, and says he is genuinely fond of them. We don’t doubt that he is, in his own physically-oriented, lustful mind.
Another justification Stine gives is that the events normally occur during infinitesimally small moments of ‘real time’. However, tellingly, even this lame justification is not actually true: Stine often briefly starts and stops real time during his acts to try to elicit some kind of positive reaction or acknowledgement from the women. He seems to be craving the interaction of a real time relationship while wanting to retain the ability to strip and molest all the attractive women he sees every day.
There is no plot or character development to speak of – essentially the story is a snapshot of Stine’s current frame of mind written up as an autobiography. It includes a couple of pieces of pornographic writing by Stine that he leaves around for his targets to discover, so he can watch their reaction. These are explicit hard-core fantasies of aggressive sex acts. Interestingly, the author vindicates Stine’s view of the world to some extent through the positive reactions of one of his ‘victims’. Is the author indicating that Stine’s view of sex and women may be relatively normal and therefore acceptable?
To me, at best the book might be seen as an ironic look at a sex-crazed introvert who has difficulty in forming meaningful relationships with women. However, the story doesn’t go anywhere and it is not particularly funny - the irony is not that strong and nor is it really a farce in the way of say, Tom Sharpe. There are some faintly comical aspects to the situation - if you can somehow gloss over the glorification of molestation and gross invasion of privacy (not exactly a minor issue in today’s society). But ultimately the story lacks any real insight into anything other than male lust, so it just comes across as well written (but disturbing) porn. The writing becomes increasingly tedious, which the author tries to make up for by ramping up the shock factor.