On Guest Blogging by the Editorial Assistant: The Kiss Murder

21Feb09

In which Dante files a book report.

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Recently we heard from a publicist at Viking, who asked us to review the latest book in a series of “transvestive detective stories from Turkey.” Our editor agreed, although — because he does not deign to immerse himself into “genre” fiction — the task fell to yours truly.

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Admittedly, our expectations were low. We expected the book — The Kiss Murder, by Mehmet Murat Somer — to be populated by all sorts of tedious stereotypes, cliches and lolcats (not every cat is a lolcat!) that would ultimately make it a real snooze, if not offensive.

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But we were pleasantly surprised! Although the book clings to the over-baked structure of the mystery/detective genre — there is a murder or two, followed by blackmail and widening conspiracy, all of which is slowly unraveled by the narrator — and is filled with wooden dialogue, tired pop-culture/campy references and improbable plot twists, all of this is conveyed with a (mostly) knowing wink by the author, so that on the whole we don’t feel like we are watching a freak show, but part of it. (Big difference!)

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Thus, while we may get tired of hearing about how much the narrator loves to model herself after Audrey Hepburn, we are genuinely amused when she kicks the shit out of a thug who tries to kidnap her at one point in the story; and while the ideas of what is and is not masculine and feminine feels unduly constrained in other places, the notion of gender is so completely fluid as to make the book frankly revelatory in comparison to 99 percent of what we typically encounter in the United States. The same can be said for sexual orientation; we appreciated that the narrator was unapologetically gay and moreover not a eunuch, as so often happens in more stereotypical depictions of effeminate drag queens.

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Best of all, coursing through the book is a sense of (for lack of a better word) “empowerment” that comes from stepping outside of the mnstm — which is not to say it’s in any way about “consciousness raising” — but which ultimately makes you feel good reading it, even as you groan and sigh here and there; in a just world, it would be made into a movie with equal sensitivity and appeal. Not every cat is lolcat!

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