Death in Venice, California
by Vinton Rafe McCabe
The Permanent Press. 192 pages, $28.
NOVELIST AND POET Vinton Rafe McCabe presents a compact story that’s as compelling as it is disconcerting. Though darkly comic and at times quite erotic, this is not a light read. It is, however, an elegantly written and artfully plotted gay novel that will make you think seriously about art, relationships, obsessions, ageism, philosophy, pornography, and sex.
At the center of Death in Venice, California is a character named Jameson Frame, a fifty-year-old writer of some renown, who has published exactly three works during his career: a pair of novels titled Pennyweight and The Antecedents and a very slim collection of poems called On Scrimshaw and Others. Beyond that, he’s a professor of creative writing at an unnamed university in New York City. For all his modest success, Frame suddenly finds himself dissatisfied with his life and disturbed by the endless gray, cold days in Manhattan from November till spring. So he heads west by commercial airplane and takes up an extended residence at the posh Hotel des Bains in Venice Beach, California.