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"Lila Says"

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Supposedly submitted to a Parisian editor under the pen-name Chimo, the erotic novel Lila Says (Scribner; $20) spurred best-seller sales and unresolved front-page debates over the author's identity in Europe in 1996. Removed from that frenzy, it reads like an old man's pulp literotica. In the text, Chimo is a male North African teen who broods in the rough Old Oak housing projects near Paris, where his fascination with Lila, a raunchy Catholic schoolgirl, leads him to record her phallocentric stories of sex with older men, multiple men, and even the devil, who singes her with his smoke-spewing crimson erection. Chimo's much-lauded narrative voice may have been lost among the ragged clichés and trite get-out-of-the-ghetto-blues monologues of this translation. Regardless, it's sad that such hackneyed plots are the illegitimate legacy of classic mid-century works that editors like Barney Rosset risked jail to protect.


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