by Ivan Jenson
Hisel Media, 268 pp., $24.95
April 15, 2015
Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2qaECdz
It is our unfortunate lot as human beings to perpetually have our pleasant and terrifying thoughts intertwined with each other. It’s not possible to eliminate pain from our lives, because often what is painful is the memory of the loss of something precious. At other times painful memories, even the most painful, are the most useful in our personal growth.
The concept of a technology that can target specific memories was also employed artistically in the 2003 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, when two people decide to have their relationship wiped from their memory after it not working out, but then regretting the decision as the memories were pried away. The film successfully examined this memory dilemma, and Mr. Jenson is also able to do so successfully in Erotic Rights.
The story begins thirty years in the past with a group of four boys trying to find an adult to help them gain entrance to an X-rated film. After the movie ends, the projectionist invites the boys to see how the films are shown and indulges them in further pornography. When Renaldo (the film projectionist) is able to later convince the boys to come to his house, an event happens that permanently scars their memory. Now, after thirty years, Renaldo is leaving prison. The boys, now grown men, have to decide between vigilantism or a new drug capable of erasing their painful memory.
We are all nothing more than the sum of our experiences as we have recorded them in our memory. As such, a desire to forget is a desire to lose yourself and begin again. It is ironic that as we seek to better ourselves, we so often emphasize what must be lost rather than searching for additional pieces. For decades, the barbaric practice of the lobotomy sought to cure psychiatric illnesses. But so often, with pain and joy bound up together, we can never lose the pain without losing also the joy in our lives.
The premise of the book is not so far-fetched. A few years ago MIT researchers discovered that an HDAC inhibitor could block painful memories in mice and began investigating the possibility of using the drug to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. If such a drug were available, would you want it? We have evolved to incorporate trauma into our psyche in order to avoid future events and this trauma becomes a part of us. Or as Aeschylus said more profoundly, “He who learns must suffer.”
Ivan Jenson is able to stay respectful of the unintended consequences of our desires throughout Erotic Rights, and in so doing presents the complexity that such decisions entail. More importantly, although the subject matter is serious, Mr. Jenson does not fall into the trap of taking it too seriously. As the mystery of the past is slowly unraveled, he is able to keep the readers’ attention and incite him to remain interested in both the mystery and how the protagonists resolve their pain. The book is structured by means of short chapters of about six pages each, making the book easy to get through and compatible with reading while traveling.
The author of the book is an accomplished sculptor and painter, who now also writes fiction and poetry. His natural style and choice of interesting subject matter make him someone to watch as he releases future books.