Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Experiment

My review of The Experiment by Patrick Skene Catling. Published in 1968.

There are some novelists who skirmish uneasily amongst the meat-pots of sex, dropping in the odd explicit paragraph for the sake of potential sales. Indeed, I have heard it rumoured that some publishers ask for such paragraphs to be inserted, yeast in the unrisen dough, white bread for the hungry masses. Patrick Skene Catling apparently reasons that if sex sells novels, the bestselling novel should be all about sex.
So for his subject he has taken a university-sponsored research project into the sexual responses of homo sapiens. If the leer is there, so is a sense of humour, and it is this which makes his novel bearable, even funny at times. The central joke is that one of the research workers is a young virgin whose innocence almost verges on ignorance. The perimeter of the jest lies in the fact that the research subjects are all prostitutes who feel that for once their profession can be used to further the limits of human knowledge and their true golden-heartedness will be a matter of record in the scientific libraries of the world.
The author can be congratulated on his skill at thin-ice skating. A little more or less finesse and he would never have found a publisher to partner him on the ice, but he judged the temperature of the times so finely that he was rewarded with lots of gold.
Worth a read? Yes.