Please Note: This post is thoroughly NSFW.
Last time, I explored the labyrinthine innards of John K. King Used Books. This time, I’ll show you what I fished out of said innards: Joan Lee’s staggeringly stupid 1987 sex novel, The Pleasure Palace.
Never before or since has a novel containing so much sex been so thoroughly unsexy. The characters kiss, lick, and boink their way down a non-stop stream of soap operatic misadventure, yet they fail to ever look cool doing it. Before we get to the boinking, though, allow me to mention my biggest problem with this book.
This tagline is complete bullshit, because the god damn Pleasure Palace–a much referenced luxury cruise ship–doesn’t even show up until the last 30 pages of the book. This novel should have been called Lots of Pointless Screwing, and Then There’s a Boat at the End. By the way, when the Pleasure Palace does show up, no one finds dreams there. One person finds danger, but we’ll get to that in a second.
First, let’s look at the characters…
Nick is the guy who builds the Pleasure Palace. He’s the main love interest and he totally sucks. His mother shoots him to death at the end.
Far from having “uncontrollable passions,” Jan is actually the boring good girl of the bunch. She falls in love with Nick.
Nick’s mom who goes mental after her husband has an affair and winds up killing her son under a wacky set of circumstances aboard the Pleasure Palace.
I don’t care about this character.
I don’t care about this one either. All you need to know is that she has amnesia.
Lear, a transgender woman, is easily the most interesting character in the book, which means she gets the least screen time. She’s actually pretty good at withstanding the lusts of the world–she makes it through the whole story without doing the do even once. I don’t think the person who wrote these blurbs actually read the book.
Jafaar gets his own section, for two reasons:
- He’s one of the strangest supporting characters I’ve ever encountered.
- His name is Jafaar.
Jafaar is an grotesquely obese Saudi Arabian businessman. He’s impotent and lives in a castle. The author describes him this way:
He shows up in one scene and gives Nick a boat. Then he shows up in another scene having inexplicably given Lear gender reassignment surgery, married her, and helped her conceive a child. In between those two incidents, this happens:
This is the kind of nonsense we’re dealing with in this book! Even Jafaar, a character who serves as little more than a weird-ass plot device, gets his own thoroughly unsettling sex scene. There is absolutely nothing necessary about this incident. It certainly has no bearing on subsequent events. Joan Lee literally woke up one day and thought to herself: “You know what this book needs? An impotent ship magnate receiving a nurturing BJ from his masseuse.”
See? I told you this post would be NSFW. And we’re just getting started.
Everyone in this story is turned on at all times. The level of sexuality on display in The Pleasure Palace bypasses titillating and lands squarely on absurd. I’m not that into sex generally, so I suppose you could call me biased. But, come on–do you find any of this erotic?
GOD, THAT DIALOG
And it doesn’t get any better when the characters talk about something other than sex…
Okay, okay, so we’ve established that these characters are oversexed and talk like 12-year-olds trying to sound “adult.” Is there any mitigating circumstance–any cause to see them in a more charitable light? In fact, there is! Every single one of them is an orphan.
I’m not joking.
EVERY SINGLE ONE
I don’t know if Joan Lee wrote each character’s tragic back story having forgotten that she’d given every other character the same tragic back story, or if she literally has no other tricks up her pathos sleeve. In a way, though, I guess it makes sense. Had I given birth to any of these characters, I’d want to die too.
MY FINAL THOUGHT
As weird as this post has been, I guarantee nothing is stranger than this last thing:
Joan Lee dedicated this cringe-worthy cache of sin to her daughter. My God.