All the Dirty Parts
Daniel Handler’s new novel, All the Dirty Parts, lives up to its name. Brief and visceral, Handler’s novel recounts the story of average high-school student Cole, who is consumed and driven by his sexual desire. Cole has slept with a host of girls who are mostly interchangeable and who he treats less than well—until new student Grisaille comes along. Cole enters a new and exciting relationship, all the while negotiating the fallout of an intense friendship and continuing to consume pornography.
Though the book is comprised mainly of descriptions of Cole’s sexual activity and sexual fantasies, Handler manages to use Cole’s fixations to tell a more complex story. As Cole moves from one sexual encounter to another, deeper questions of love and sexuality emerge. Cole’s voice permeates his explicit recounting of sexual conquests, revealing to the reader Cole’s emotions, even if they aren’t ones Cole names or recognizes himself. The book is made up of “all the dirty parts,” but it’s the undercurrent of pain, regret, and emotional longing that drives the narrative.
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