"Epic in scope... astonishing, sensual, wise and often humorous," Bodies
and Souls is set in Los Angeles. Its diverse cast includes: the most famous
actress in pornographic films; a Chicano teenager who wanders into the punk world; a male
stripper for women who faces himself during a make-believe "slave auction"; the
doomed family of a prominent judge; a Mister Universe contender who discovers what his
physical perfection conceals; a Skid Row woman obsessed with conflicting memories of
roses; two teen-aged male hustlers who fall in love amid the violence of the city's sexual
streets and alleys; a news anchorwoman researching both in her sex life and for a
television series on "vice"--what she calls "the lower depths"; and
sister Woman, a mesmerizing, powerful evangelist whose Gothic background suggests incest,
Winding through these portraits are three recurrent characters--Orin,
Lisa and "Jesse James." They have inherited what the author sees as dominant
strains in the dark psyche of America--Orin the sexual repression of the Salem
witchburnings; Lisa, the falsely "romantic" and masochistic attitudes of the
1940's cinema heroines; Jesse, the melancholy glory of the outlaw. These three roam the
vast city of "Lost Angeles."
Using an innovative, smoothly integrated style, Bodies and Souls is
written in a rich prose which deliberately evokes classic Hollywood movies and in a
sometimes somber, inventive style that alludes to the dark views of contemporary European
cinema. Through it all a vision of Los Angeles never before depicted emerges.
Grove Press has reissued Bodies and
Souls. Read John Rechy's introduction to the new edition.
"It always astonished him anew, this city of bodies and souls. He did
not consider it the flippant land of inherited clichés. To him it was the most spiritual
and physical of cities, a profound city which drew to it all the various bright and dark
energies of the country. All the strains, of decay and rebirth, repression and profligacy,
gathered here in exaggeration--as exaggerated as actors in Greek tragedies. Its desperate
narcissism--which acknowledged death in extended summers under seasonless skies--and its
vagrant spirituality--which burgeoned into excess--were manifestations of a fury to live,
to feel, to be, here on the last frontier before the drowning land--the snuffed sun, the
from The Lecturer: "On Nothing"
Bodies and Souls