|Publisher||Fantagraphics Books (first edition)|
|Media type||Print (clothbound hardcover)|
Laura Warholic; or, The Sexual Intellectual is a 2007 novel by Alexander Theroux. The plot concerns the relationship between Eugene Eyestones, the writer of an advice column called "The Sexual Intellectual", and his editor's ex-wife, Laura Warholic, whom Eyestones pities more than likes. This basic story provides the jumping off point for Theroux's satire of American culture.
The book was published by Fantagraphics Books, a comics publisher who had published Theroux's monographs on Edward Gorey and Al Capp. Notably, it is the first all-prose novel released by the publisher. Theroux stated they were the only ones "willing to publish the full manuscript without carping or cozy abridgements."
The cover design by the author showing an unreferenced photo of Evelyn Nesbit taken by Rudolf Eickemayer in 1901, has been criticized to be "misleading at best" as the title character has no resemblance to her beauty, and the subtitle refers to a magazine column.
The Sexual Intellectual, a column that discusses anything related to sex, is written by Eugene Eyestones, an erudite recluse and spectacled Vietnam veteran, as a contributor to Quink, a monthly magazine published in Boston by (Minot) Warholic prone to pepper his verbal outbursts with Yiddishisms. Quink has an eclectic group of coworkers and collaborators, an unlikely “universe” of colorful and diverse people full of disagreement and prejudice, that include characters named Discknickers, the “pseudo-fascist” accountant, Ratnaster, the atheist interviewer, Duxbak, Eyestones' only friend, Mutrix, the homophobe lawyer, Chasuble, the homophile movie critic, Harriet Trombone, an outspoken Caribbean islander, and the lesbian pair of Ann Marie Tubb and The Krauthammer.
Laura Warholic, the estranged former wife of the publisher, had moved from San Francisco to Boston and is being befriended by Eyestones. Younger than he, she is “long and sexless as a rolled umbrella” with the “small white face of a vireo”, lacks charm, interests, drive, and ambition, is unable and unwilling to work, and interested only in rock and rock musicians. He does not find her attractive but feels sorry for her; pity appears his main attractive force, yet he also exploits her for his writings. Eyestones has secret longings for Rapunzel Wisht, a beautiful young woman working at the local bakery.
After writing a misogynistic and controversial essay - even Warholic finds it "harsh on the chicks" -, opining that women who create "abrogate their own psychobiology", Eyestones takes a break from writing and invites Laura on a Summer vacation drive across the country. During their tour their incompatibility becomes more apparent. Back in Boston, they start to drift apart, and Laura becomes obsessed with the Craven Slucks, a local rock band, throwing herself at its lead singer Jeff. Eyestones, after the Christmas Party of the office, joins his coworkers for a trip to the strip bar. Crayola de Blu, the seductive main attraction, is none other than his adored Rapunzel; he is angry, feels cheated, lost and deprived. In his crisis he determines that all this was his own shortcoming and that he had exploited Laura. Confessing his failures to Duxbak, Eyestones realizes that he has to ask for forgiveness. He tries to see Laura to amend, but due to a misidentification gets shot and killed. Laura, lonely and desolate, hangs herself.
Carlo Wolff calls the novel "a gallimaufry of minimal action and maximal thought" as well as "a "credible stab at writing the Great American novel." “Unrepentantly erudite and opinionated, Theroux is a prolix polymath with a predilection for employing the proper word (even if you’ve never before seen it) and for chronicling obsessive behavior, usually between men and women,“ writes Anthony Miller. Full of “ten-dollar words and killer factoids” the novel has similarities to his previous work, Darconville's Cat, describing love and hate, loss and longing in the human male-female relationship. The reader has to wonder why is Eyestones so involved with Laura who seems to be kind of a "muse in reverse"? Distinctly politically incorrect and misogynistic the novel presents characters that are cartoonish, according to David Bowman. Scott Bryan Wilson sees the novel as a "compendium of vituperation against contemporary society, jabs at pop culture, exposés of office politics, and exploration of life and love in modern times". He notes that the "semi-plotlessness of the book echoes the aimlessness and desperation of Laura's life, and really, most of the other characters' lives as well." He describes the work as a "funny, sad, and original satire of our funny, sad contemporary culture". Jeff VanderMeer opines that the use of metapher is daring in its brilliance but criticizes that almost every person is made to look "morally, ethically, and intellectually ugly."
Mark Burstein bemoans the absence of good editorial help in the novel’s publishing. In the years leading up to publication, Theroux added a good deal of material to the original manuscript, completed in 2000.
- Anthony Miller (November 11, 2007). "The Satirical Intellectual". LA CityBeat. Archived from the original on January 20, 2008.
- Mark Burstein. "On Editing the Novel (a Primer): Laura Warholic by Alexander Theroux". February 8, 2010. Retrieved March 1, 2011.
- Her surname is Sparkley on p. 423. Cf. the poem “Laura Sparkley Takes Her Sketchpad to a Café” and “The Gospel According to Laura Sparkley,” among other poems, in Theroux’s Collected Poems (Fantagraphics, 2015), pp. 189-202.
- Carlo Wolff (February 27, 2008). "Laura Warholic or, the Sexual Intellectual". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
- David Bowman (December 23, 2007). "The Object of His Obsession". New York Times. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
- Scott Bryan Wilson (December 9, 2007). "Encyclopedia Warholica". Powell’s. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
- Jeff VanderMeer (January 20, 2008). "Looking for Love". Washington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
- We Told You So: Comics as Art (Fantagraphics, 2016), p. 586.