In this novella, the author has grafted the myth of Venus and Adonis onto the tale of a young computer analyst who leaves his research position to take a job at stodgy Cormorant Bank in San Francisco. The analyst, Randy, soon discovers the bank is dysfunctional and he is being set up to fail. Should he struggle to succeed or relax and go with the flow?
The flow includes sex with a couple of attractive women. They represent Venus, the sensuality that could rule Randy’s existence. Instead he takes his job seriously, with disastrous results. In the long run his decisions won’t matter. The story is set in the late 70s, not long before the collapse of hundreds of banks in the United States. Cormorant will become one of them.
The prose is spare except for an occasional strained simile, and descriptions are vivid without overloading on adjectives and adverbs. Publius writes great sex scenes. Too bad the story has so few.
“Venus and Adonis” is billed as erotica but focuses on the bank and Randy’s colleagues there. The story aspires to satire, but most of the characters are so flat and wooden that I have trouble remembering who they are, let alone caring what they do or what happens to them. Only the secretaries are memorable – Kate, the office virago, and the pathetic Dottie.
The fundamental problem with “Venus and Adonis” is lack of focus. Its connection to the myth is tenuous despite the ocean imagery and an allusion to Adonis. The narrative meanders through lengthy descriptions and scenes that are good in themselves but add nothing to plot or theme (for example, the scene with Gary, the gay realtor). The subplot of Randy’s estrangement from his parents suffers from lack of development and, again, flat characterization.
The parts just don’t fit together, resulting in a lack of unity, the last thing I expect from a story that claims a kinship to classical literature.