mum-III- The game of an
American thriller writer and law student James Gabriel Bergman expores the morality of artificial insemination in his latest novel. He talks sperm with Ann Donald.
In American thriller author James Gabriel Berman's ‘eugenics' novel Mislwgunwr there is a poetic ‘ode to the sperm' delivered by a weird character called Dr Dotterweich whose Inserninology Institute beckons donors at $50 a go. so to speak.
‘Sperm are elegant. lithe beings in their normal state. They meander. swim. ptrlsate with life's strength. They are single-minded in their purpose. They descend upon the female with irrepressible delight. A healthy sperm is God‘s goodness — a tail. a head. a healthy dose of genetic gel — the beginning of all beginnings. A healthy sperm is fantasy. miracle. Sperm in motion are the most elegant of human phenomena: rhapsodic. graceful. a ballet.‘
Sperm are intrinsic to Mishegollwi’s plot — a walk on the wild and occasionally grisly side of insemination
street. Caitlin Bourke is bored. lonely and desperate for a child that her workaholic husband cannot provide. Cue Dr Dotterweich‘s intervention via donor Billy Crapshoot. a nasty little scam merchant initially tempted by the $50 ‘prize money’ but latterly obsessed by reclaiming ‘his‘ child. It‘s a thriller in the gory genre with a dollop of Hitchcock suspense and a spare prose style oft cited in the company of Messrs Hammett and Chandler.
So what makes a nice. clean-living 27-year-old Harvard law student who describes himself as 'shy but curious'
opt for the utterly disreputable and
James Gabriel Berman: exploring the big sperm debate
seamy elements of the insemination business? ‘Well.’ he says. ‘this particular novel (his second) was partly inspired by a news story I read two years ago about a doctor who set up a fertility clinic in America advertising that he sold ‘prime sperrn‘. but in fact it was all his own. It made me think about the huge and scarey potential in the field ofbiological breakthroughs and technology and the possible abuses and uses implicit to the whole situation.’
In fact Berman's interest in ethics both as lawyer and author is not unusual when one considers the CVs of such figures as Franz Kafka. John Grisham
and John Mortimer. "Both writers and lawyers mangle and distort and abuse words for their own purposes.‘ laughs Berman. ‘Though I don‘t think I have the quick wit or presence to be a trial lawyer I am very interested in the philosophical aspect of law.‘
In retrospect. the writer‘s confession of a ‘Iife-long fascination. not with the ugly acts of crime. but the motivation behind them' falls into place when one considers certain biographical details. Having grown up in New York‘s Bronx he was mugged three times before the age ofeighteen. started writing murder mysteries in seventh grade and founded a high school magazine titled Legal Fiction.
'| find it such a tragedy that over the centuries no one has come tip with the answer to that eternal question.’ he puzzles. ‘Psychologists. sociologists. lawyers and even historians cannot corue tip with the motivation behind the criminals‘ actions. It aruazes me that no matter how many books I read on Jack the Ripper. not one can tell rue anything about what was going on in his mind.‘
Having satisfactorily explored the world of insemination. Herman‘s task for novel number three is to try and get into the mind of a teIe-evangelist. ‘It's about what happens when a mtrrder occurs in that very “pure” cultural religious world that seems to be so prevalent in huge regions of America.‘
He insists there will be no allusions to virgin births. Billy (iraham will be pleased. ‘Misbegullwr by James (itl/)I'I(’/ [for/mm
is published by I’uurI/r lisluli' (H [8.99.
crime. . .double. . . feature with
(mr blue from Reservoir Dogs)
Who will be’talking about his extraordinary life, and signing copies of his latest novel Dog Eat Dog
("The best novel about Armed Robbery ever - James Ellroy)
PLUS a special screening of Straight Time
(Starring Dustin Hoffman and based on Edward's book “No Beast So Fierce” described by Tarantino as "The best first personal crime novel I've ever read")
AND a late-night screening of Reservoir Dogs (In which Ed.makes an all too brief appearance!)
Tuesday 23rd July
Straight Time talk/signing Reservoir Dogs
concession) (Available from WATBRSTONE's East End & Tn:
7pm 9pm 10.30pm
The List I2-25 Jul 1996 79