TUESDAY

If it weren’t for that great English triumvirate—affliction with Victorian prudery, fear of directness, and worship of the stiff upper lip—most of that ever-so-rigid isle’s greatest novelists would never have had anything to write about. And though poet and short-story writer James Lasdun’s first novel, The Horned Man, may take place in and around New York City, it’s as rife with Ye Olde English repression as the phrase “Lie back and think of England.” Lasdun, whose story “The Siege” was adapted by Bernardo Bertolucci for his film Besieged, has written a disquieting and disorienting tale about an expatriate professor of gender studies whose life is suddenly interrupted by an unsettling series of seemingly trivial, almost Kafkaesque mysteries. The professor/narrator’s wife has left him for unspecified reasons. He suspects someone is using, perhaps even inhabiting, his college office space at night. He discovers that its former occupant was murdered. The college’s female counsel begins behaving strangely toward him. And he mistakes a woman he sees in Central Park for his therapist and is aroused by her. As events begin to spiral violently out of control, it slowly becomes obvious that, far from being their victim, the professor is somehow their perpetrator. As suffocatingly eerie as Ian McEwan’s The Comfort of Strangers or John Banville’s The Book of Evidence, The Horned Man offers us a timely parable on the limitations of the New Male. And like the film Memento, Lasdun’s book underscores the unreliability—not to mention downright chicanery—of human memory. He reads at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. Free. (202) 347-5495. (Michael Little)