The Blond Box uses cultural notions about genre fiction, pornography, and performance art to explore the dynamics of voyeurism and erotic desire as they relate to art's strange and mysterious ability to effectively reverse the course of the gaze, and ogle and penetrate those who would ogle and penetrate it. The novel, set in the town of Courbet, Arizona, initially conforms to the conventions of the mystery novel: that is, it begins with murder. El Malabarista, pianist and juggler for a troupe of sexual performance artists, is found dead in the dusty wilderness, his fingers crushed. From there on, however, Box persistently frustrates reader expectations. The narrative itself juggles the "real" events of 1949 and 1969, and a draft version of a hack sci-fi novel that serves (much like the "novel-within-a-novel" in A.S. Byatt's Babel Tower), as a metafictional commentary on the efforts of retired sex-theater artist, Roberto Mendoza; hairstylist/pulp writer, Dick DeLay; doctoral student, Sandy Redcap; and a host of other characters to, not only solve the murder, but uncover its motivation, which seems to be linked to El Malabarista's knowledge of the whereabouts of a certain unspecified boxed treasure. By turns lyrical and scatological, puerile and cerebral, Box is at once a daring formal experiment and a good yarn, but, ultimately, a beautifully rendered meditation on the weird sexuality of art.
"The Blond Box, like all of Toby Olson's novels, proposes a world whose ordinary elements are gradually seen to be messengers of the uncanny and mysterious. By the subtlest of means, we are led to recognize the strangeness that informs both art and life. It is, in all respects, a wondrous book by a superb writer." —Gilbert Sorrentino
"Of all the writers of his postmod generation, Toby Olson is the most forgiving. Even when writing of the most mundane acts-performing in a backwoods porn show, for example, or inaugurating an outhouse-he grants all his characters the full wonder and mystery of their lives, and strokes language as a lover might the flesh of his beloved. The Blond Box, like the most memorable of his work, skirts borders-geographical, artistic, metaphysical-and explores the mysteries found there, especially the unfathomable mysteries of art. Toby Olson is one of America's most important novelists, and The Blond Box is perhaps his best book ever. A rich compelling read.." —Robert Coover
"The Blond Box shimmers in a rich sheen of mystery... At every turn Olson reminds his reader how information inevitably recovers ambiguity, how the tidiest sense of remembered history and constructed plot are more journeys into accident and chance, how everyday lives must play out against and amid the luminous, albeit clumsy, mystery of attraction and want. The language, as always with Olson, is broad, adamant, and stunning, this text a conjured place fit for extended habitation." —Review of Contemporary Fiction
It was late in the sixth month of the year 2069 when Peter Blue arrived at the ruins of the town of Courbet for the examination and eventual opening of the jeweled box.
The Blond Box
The Blond Box