"Everyone in Hell is a literary critic," says Mephistopheles in his prologue to The Evil Queen: A Pornolexicology, by Benjamin L. Perez.
What are we to make of this statement? Talisman, prayer, abuse? None or all of the above? And then some? Does it requires a literary critic—or a reader with the deep knowledge of a critic—to come to terms with this text? The depth and breadth attempted by Perez are fascinating, though the speed at which he moves through his self-proclaimed piece of “transgressive fiction” can be trying. Nonetheless, the text is a significant positive addition to a genre too often inundated with cheap and meaningless prose.
While written in English, The Evil Queen is equally at home in French, German, and Latin (translations are provided as an integral part of the text, offering a bit of language instruction for the reader alongside the Eunuch, central character and servant to the Evil Queen.) This serves to point out the limitations of each language, and indeed an early page offers a vocabulary list in the traditional strengths of each continental language; the ordered and rational Latin, the sensual and studious French, and the muscular, technological German.
Perez's deep interest in language is reaffirmed with each discrete segment of the text, which progress in a generally linear manner according to the three major parts of the book: the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension and/or Descension. A glossary completes the text and provides references in four languages, as well as scientific and religious-theoretical terms. In these individual segments, sometimes a fragment, sometimes a few pages long, the Eunuch serves the Evil Queen in every possible capacity, graphically and carefully catalogued by Perez. The formatting of these segments plays an important role in a reading of the text, imposing a pace and rhythm that owes as much to contemporary poetry as it does to hypertext.