Ah, Brazilian girls! There used to be a lot of Brazilian strippers in New York City. Haven’t noticed that many lately, although to be honest I don’t go out to the strip clubs as much as I used to. But the Brazilian gals were always sexy and full of fun. They seemed to enjoy peeling and flirting for its own sake, and not only to rake in those lapdance tips. Their sensuality was refreshing.
So I had fond memories of plush-bottomed Brazilian beauties squirming on my trousered crotch as I ordered Seven Days in Rio by Francis Levy from Amazon. It’s one of the funniest novels I have ever read. It’s only 148 pages but I took seven days to read it because I wanted to savor its hilarious lines. Published by a company called Two Dollar Radio, whose slogan is “Books too loud to ignore,” it’s also one of the strangest novels I’ve ever encountered.
It’s about a middle-aged guy named Kenny Cantor, a New York accountant who goes down to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for a sex vacation. He wants to have sex with “Tiffanys”–that’s his pet name for prostitutes. He has all sorts of hangups about his past, his mother, and has been in therapy off and on for many years. He has this idea that almost all the women in Rio are whores. Literally. The pay-for-play kind of whores, actual pros. As he says in the second line of the novel: “I was told that most of the women were prostitutes who would gladly sleep with me for a hundred American dollars.” He says this so matter-of-factly that you can’t help but laugh at his naivete, because it’s obviously such a ridiculous and absurd statement. But then a few lines later he says to a strange woman on a street corner, “I am new to your country and I wanted to introduce myself while also initiating myself into your highly permissive sexual culture. I will put my cards on the table: I’d be glad to engage you to perform sexual acts on me for a fee.” She doesn’t take him up on the offer.
Kenny imagines ordering a call girl from the concierge at his hotel and requesting a “sexy girl” with “all the best features.” This reminds him of how his mother used to order fish over the phone from a grocer: “I want a nice big piece of salmon, not too fatty.” Kenny is intent on definitely not having sex with women who will give it away for free. When a Frenchwoman says to him, “Do you want to play with my twat?…I want your balls in my mouth,” he turns her down because she is not a hooker, but a writer! Kenny rationalizes, “I had come to Brazil for the prostitution, not to have free sex with a French intellectual.”
This horny CPA doesn’t think quite like other men do…or does he?? Maybe he’s just not afraid to say it. This is one of the things that makes the novel intriguing and funny in an unnerving way—Kenny Cantor will blurt out ideas many men think at one time or another, but never say or act on.
At the hotel where he is staying, there is a convention of psychoanalysts, and he meets a beautiful part-Asian headshrinker named Dr. China Dentata. Yes, you read that right—China Dentata sounds like “Vagina Dentata,” the scary fantasy that women have teeth in their pussies. Kenny eventually experiences both psychoanalysis and blowjobs with China. But he pours out his problems to her in unusual therapy sessions that last only one minute at a time, as she licks his balls and watches soccer on tv.
Some of the stuff about psychoanalysis gets a little hard to follow, diluting the humor a bit, but whenever the book comes back to Kenny looking for prostitutes, it is full of great lines and amazing observations. Kenny meets a girl with the most bountiful bosom ever. When he recovers from “the enchantment of her mammaries” (wonderful phrase), they meet for a date in his room. “She unbuttoned the blouse of her uniform to reveal perhaps the sexiest bra I had ever seen on a whore…it was a bra for a woman whose breasts have long since declared their independence from support of any kind, as India did in 1948.” Huh? Kenny makes some odd associations when he’s describing things. But when it turns out she’s not a hooker, but just a horny chick, he loses his boner. “My penis wilted like a rotted carrot…the thought that she wasn’t a prostitute and that I didn’t have to pay for sex was so repugnant to me that I lost all interest in her.”
In another section, Kenny meets an old prostitute who has him take off his trousers and fits him into a thong, and he walks around Rio in a seersucker jacket and no pants, just the thong. He keeps searching for a sex club called Cafe Gringo, but when he finds it he gets a surprise and ends up somewhere even wilder. But the upshot of it is, days go by and he still doesn’t have any actual intercourse with prostitutes!
The only thing I’m not crazy about is this book’s cover. I don’t think it suits the tone of the novel. In fact, the cover below of a forgotten pulp novel entitled Make Mine a Harlot is closer to the feverish dreamlike tone of Levy’s story, even though nobody in Seven Days in Rio wears a tuxedo or brandishes a gat. I can’t remember for sure where I originally found this cover, some time ago; but you can definitely find it now at a site called Vintage Vixens, here.
Seven Days in Rio is about a fantasized Rio. Author Francis Levy has said online that he has never been there. According to an entry here on the publisher’s blog, some people in Brazil were upset by the book and demanded an apology. But as the author states in a preface, it is a Rio of the imagination that he is depicting, not the real city. Read this Q&A here to find out more about this provocative writer. He also has an interesting blog called The Screaming Pope here.
I found Seven Days in Rio to be psychosexual slapstick going on in his possibly insane character’s mind. It’s full of surreal emotional and mental pratfalls; it’s goofy, yet simultaneously serious. The dialogue in particular manages to break many of our global village’s current verbal taboos of political correctness–e.g., who uses the word “whore” anymore, aren’t they supposed to be called “sex workers”? You get my drift. So be prepared to laugh but maybe feel guilty about it sometimes too. Accountant Kenny Cantor, for all his oddness, is a character you’ve gotta meet. I just don’t know if I’d ever have him do my taxes.