Review

The Cutting Room

by Louise Welsh



The Bowery Auction House has been in business for over one hundred
years but is now on its deathbed. Thus, when the opportunity for a
huge sale comes Rilke's way, he doesn't think twice about taking
the job. "Antiques of that caliber hadn't seen the inside of a
Glasgow sales room for years, hadn't seen Bowery Auctions ever.
[The] sister must be the last of the line, crippled by taxes or on
the lam. She was selling the heirlooms too fast too cheap. It
should have smelt wrong but my senses were overwhelmed. I [just]
kept going, as pleased as Aladdin when he first rubbed that lamp
and discovered his Genie."

The evening of that first day finds Rilke in the dead man's private
office at the very top of the McKindless town house. He says, "I
was standing in a long thin room. Along the right-hand wall were
… tidily stacked cardboard boxes. The left wall was covered
in waist-high, dark oak bookcases, books neatly arranged. In the
centre were a plain office desk and chair … I was curious
about the contents of the cardboard boxes but turned first to the
bookcase."

Rilke is heartily impressed by McKindless's superb collection of
erotica and pornographic materials. He tells the reader that
Maurice Girodias, founder of Paris's Olympia Press (who published
writers like Henry Miller and William Burroughs) is well
represented in the cache. "Here was the private [collection]
confined to the attic like a mad Victorian relative." When Rilke
explores the desk he finds a card taped to the bottom of a drawer
inscribed with the cryptic words: "PM camera club." He pockets the
card and moves along a box at a time. "To anyone watching, my
investigations would have appeared haphazard, but I have the skills
of the searcher."

Among the detritus that comprises the McKindless legacy, he finds
an envelope full of snapshots. While clearly titillating,
especially for the era in which they were taken, he is only mildly
curious until he flips to the last three; here he sees a naked
woman on a rack. Can this be real? Is it possible that murder as
art exists? Something about the girl in the photos touches Rilke
very deeply. Her image haunts him inexorably and he becomes
obsessed with finding out the identity of the woman. Despite the
fact that the photos are least thirty years old, he embarks on a
journey into the ugly world of snuff porn and bears witness to the
dirty secrets mouldering in the underbelly of Glasgow's sex for
sale industry.

Welsh tells a harrowing tale of pornography, erotica, perversity,
homosexuality, friendship, betrayal, greed, dopers, and the
humanity that often survives even the most horrific of human deeds.
Louise Welsh is a wonderful writer. Her prose is pristine and her
characters finely honed. The images she creates emerge in full
relief on the page. From the buzz of the auction house to the
stillness of the night, readers are almost able to smell the
aromas, taste the beer, and feel the doom that pervades the
narrative. THE CUTTING ROOM is an extraordinary novel, and one can
only hope that Ms. Welsh is busy at work on her next. Enjoy!

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 21, 2011

The Cutting Room
by Louise Welsh

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Pub.
  • ISBN-10: 1841953830
  • ISBN-13: 9781841953830