Lightning RodsBook |
Sex in the workplace takes on a whole new meaning.
Joe, the protagonist of Helen DeWitt's Lightning Rods, is probably not unlike many men. He wants to succeed professionally more than he actually does, he fantasizes about sex that he isn't having—and he's looking for solutions to both problems. What finally distinguishes this mediocre salesman is his creation of "Lightning Rods," a sex stall for bathrooms in which men can release their sexual frustrations on the exposed lower body of a woman while her upper body remains hidden behind a wall. This device, Joe believes, will deter on-the-job sexual harassment; if men are provided with proper sexual outlets, they won't engage in unwanted workplace groping. Naturally, not only do the stalls become a giant hit in the corporate world, but there are plenty of willing female applicants ready to fill them. Even the FBI wants them installed for reasons of "national security." Throughout this wonderful farce, DeWitt makes us privy to Joe's thought processes, including his masturbatory inspiration: the fantasy of a sexual game show in which well-endowed male contestants go to town on female contestants. It never occurs to Joe that his creation is offensive. He's as misguided as he is sure of himself, and that combination elevates DeWitt's portrait of Joe to darkest satire. Intelligent, funny, and absurd, Lightning Rods critiques contemporary perspectives on sex, capitalist logic, and the workplace.