Cover image for Scream queens of the Dead Sea
Scream queens of the Dead Sea
Elbom, Gilad, 1968-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Thunder's Mouth Press : Distributed by Publishers Group West, [2004]

Physical Description:
295 pages ; 22 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



When a young graduate of the Israeli army decides to moonlight as an assistant nurse at a mental institution in Jerusalem, the job seems like a nice break from everyday life in the Promised Land. What could be easier than exercising power over a small group of heavily medicated zombies? But as the human inventory inside the insane asylum begins to mirror the psychotic norms of the outside world, the inexperienced ex-soldier finds himself trapped in a hilarious yet terrifying freak show, surrounded by a motley crew of mad patients gone madder: a religious poet who writes obsessive love sonnets to a Hollywood porn queen, a charming racist who wears only purple, a criminally insane murderer who doesn't believe in anything (not even in nihilism) . . . and that's just for starters. Here is a fast-and-furious first novel saturated with ruminations on sexual aberration, heavy metal, structural linguistics, horror movies, and satanic poetry - the good things in life.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Brazenly searching out black humor and even satire amid the political quagmire of the Holy Land, this debut novel offers a startling departure from the elegiac tone once so common in Israeli fiction. The affably irreverent narrator, an ex-soldier who now works in a mental institution, regales us with tales from the psych-ward patients; reflections on his dueling obsessions, heavy metal and linguistics; and blow-by-blow accounts of sexual trysts with his married lover. Writing in a self-conscious style, a la Dave Eggers, in which the novelist admits his indulgence in pseudo-reflective asides, self-referential ruminations, and amateur linguistic interludes, Elbom effectively captures the Jewish Israeli version of Generation X. His style is a little too self-indulgent and his plot a bit too meandering, but Elbom's acerbic wit offers more than enough compensation. Humor is born of pain, he reminds us, in this moving evocation of a country so rife with violence that our hero takes comfort in the fact that people can still die in normal ways, such as car accidents. --Misha Stone Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

What is sanity? In a smart, animated debut novel set in a Jerusalem mental hospital, Israeli writer Elbom searches for an answer (via a first-person narrator and literary proxy also named Gil Elbom) and burrows through sensitive subjects (sex, politics, religion, mental illness) with frank honesty and dark humor. Working as an assistant nurse on a psychiatric ward, the author-as-narrator transcribes his life into his book, serving up diverse characters that include his sardonic girlfriend who is awaiting her sick husband's death ("Sorry I couldn't make it last night. He's still alive") and an impersonal doctor who says that the "best thing to do when dealing with the mentally ill is to keep a distance." As far as patients go, there's an intelligent murderer who claims that atheism is a psychiatric illness called "Faith Deficit Disorder"; a man obsessed with writing purple love poems to a porn star; and a woman who's convinced she's dead. Elbom's lively, present-tense narrative pulls the reader into the story; at the same time, Elbom steps outside to include a considerable amount of detailed self-criticism, such as when he interrupts his tale to comment on the ineffectiveness of his use of asterisks between sections. The result is a multifaceted, hilarious and excruciatingly honest novel. (Oct. 17) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved