Cover image for Scar culture
Scar culture
Davidson, Toni.
Personal Author:
First Amer. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, 2000.

Physical Description:
247 pages ; 21 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Library

On Order



Reminiscent of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", this darkly humorous novel is about a dysfunctional therapist who uses a dangerous experimental technique to bring his two clients out of a stupor induced by child abuse.

Author Notes

Toni Davidson is the editor of "And Thus I Will Freely Sing" & "Intoxication: An Anthology of Stimulant-Based Writing." He lives & works in Glasgow.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Davidson takes the reader into the tortured minds of the abused children at the center of his latest novel in the only way that seems reasonable. His hallucinatory prose is perhaps the best vehicle into their horrific memories with their only slightly muted horrors. Davidson artfully weaves together sentence fragments, cryptic remarks, and obscure details to describe a child's naive, nightmarish world. The kids, known only by the mysterious pseudonyms "Click" and "Fright," are in unreachable stupors in a British mental institution. "Sad," their renegade psychologist, plans to draw from the radical fringes of psychotherapy to bring his patients back from their unnatural state. Sad is hardly a neophyte when it comes to children and sexuality: he and his sister have a full-time incestuous relationship they've been perfecting since childhood. It's a painful, difficult topic around which to base a novel, but Davidson's very original prose style elevates the subject to a new level, challenging the reader to enter a nightmarish world. --Ted Leventhal

Publisher's Weekly Review

Already a cult hit in Europe, Glasgow author Davidson's first novel tracks extremes of incest, abuse, desire, cruelty and illness as it uncovers the warped past and present of two grown boys named Click and Fright and their obsessive therapist, Curtis Sad. The adolescent Click lives in a trailer with his hideously abusive "mobile family," parents named Panic and Exit. Part one mixes Click's narration with descriptions of the photos he snaps as his family takes to the road, trying to outrun child welfare agents. Fright's tale (part two) details his father's incestuous brutality, conducted behind a mysterious flower curtain in the bedroom Fright shares with his brother, Jake; Fright's father may also have murdered Jake and their mother. Articulate therapist Sad narrates the rest of the book. Sad's greatest pleasures have long been his sexual dalliances with his little sister, Josie, about whom he keeps having hallucinations. (He also enjoys the pornographic hidden-camera footage given him by his more precarious patients.) When Click and Fright finally enter the mental health systemÄtraumatized and uncommunicativeÄSad decides that he's the man to treat them. He and his thuggish co-workers go in search of his patients' memories via drugs, isolation and experimental regression. Sentence by chilly sentence, Davidson is a fine writer, proud of looking where others would turn away. All the scenes add up to a narrative composed mostly of rape, incest, confinement, violent erotic fantasies and their creative enactmentsÄpart Dennis Cooper, part Marquis de Sade. Davidson aims first and last to shock; on those terms his book is a roaring success. Judged by other standards, it seems forced and thin. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Like its literary forebears, Scar Culture is as representative of t he psychiatric climate of the Nineties, with its reliance on psychology web sites and experimental interventions, as The Bell Jar and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest were of the treatment culture of the Sixties. The novel opens with two powerfully disturbing case studies of abuse that involve patients "Click" and "Fright," both victims of severe childhood violence. The latter half deals with the experimental treatment these patients receive from Sad, himself no stranger to psychological interventions. Having perpetrated an "inter-familial sexual relationship" on his younger sister, Sad has managed to become a therapeutic practitioner at the Breathhouse Institute where he regularly corresponds with a like-minded colleague across the Atlantic, who sends videos, tapes, and faxes documenting his own psychosexual research. Sad attempts "milieu therapy," an unconventional treatment that involves removing patients to an isolated location and re-creating scenes in which their abuse took place. The Glasgow-based Davidson, editor of And Thus I Will Freely Sing, has written a gritty, compulsively readable novel that is recommended for readers with strong constitutions.DBarbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.