Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsBook Review

Book Review : 'Strange Ailments': A Lustful Rx for a Strained Marriage

November 21, 1986|ELAINE KENDALL

Strange Ailments; Uncertain Cures by Bruce Goldsmith (Mercury House $15.95)

How's this for a contemporary update on the traditional cute meet? The hero, a prosperous straight arrow, 35-year-old pharmacist, dashes up to his Brentwood house to pay the baby sitter and finds her in flagrante with her low-life surfer lover. So long Mr. Nice Guy, hello passion, lechery, violence, danger and notoriety.

Despite his thriving business, his beautiful wife and his adorable daughter, Michael Marcus has been somewhat uneasy. His wife, Marilyn, has become so obsessed with the deteriorating quality of urban life that she wants to chuck her medical practice and open a holistic resort in Escondido, a plan that has put a considerable strain on the marriage. Michael has no desire to sell his drugstore and abandon his profession to begin life catering to overweight substance abusers. Visions of himself dispensing carrot juice and leading aerobics classes have not only depressed him but sadly diminished his sex drive, rendering him extraordinarily vulnerable to the sight of a ravishing 17-year-old energetically disporting herself on his living-room sofa.

By the next day, the fantasy is in full bloom when the drugstore is held up by a pistol-brandishing junkie. In the store at precisely that moment is the luscious, unthinkable Genie, who has stopped by to ask Michael not to tell her father about the activity he witnessed through his living-room window, a reasonable request to which he willingly agrees. Genie is barely outside the office when Michael hears the robber shout "Give me the money, all the morphine, amphetamines and dilaudid you got or I'll blow the girl's head off."

The addict's gun turns out to be a water pistol, a discovery seriously compromising Michael's legal position. Although initially hailed as a hero, Michael is now a highly controversial figure, sued by the victim's wife and publicly excoriated by civil rights activists; developments bound to precipitate his incipient mid-life crisis. Genie, doubly obliged to him, generously offers the solace Marilyn is in no mood to provide.

In a mere seven days, he revels in enough sexual and physical excitement to last for the rest of his life. The experience not only revitalizes his marriage but brings him fame, respect, an increased net worth and undreamed of career options, all of which he owes to that pathetic junkie with the toy gun.

Flippantly satiric when dealing with contemporary trends, "Strange Ailments; Uncertain Cures" raises the complex and urgent issue of vigilantism only to exploit it, ultimately evading and trivializing the entire question with a glib and facile ending.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|