One more reason to pity billionaire Tom Perkins

(Courtesy of HarperCollins.)
(Courtesy of HarperCollins.)

Poor Tom Perkins. The Silicon Valley venture capitalist just can’t catch a break since he compared the overtaxed 1 percent to the persecuted Jews in Nazi Germany. He’s since expressed regret for that analogy — like, say, Hitler expressed regret for invading Poland.

But not every accusation being thrown at the tone-deaf billionaire is fair. In the New York Times, David Streitfeld recently claimed that Perkins is the author of a “supremely trashy novel.”

It’s true that, in 2006, Perkins published a novel called “Sex and the Single Zillionaire” (William Morrow). But describing it as “supremely trashy” does a disservice to trashy novels and will only frustrate teenage boys and prim school board members.

I’ve just finished reading all 306 pages of “Sex and the Single Zillionaire,” and let me tell you: It can’t hold a candle to Perkins’s history lessons. Sadly, this supremely boring novel is not nearly trashy enough. Celebrated romantic Rupert Murdoch may have called it “A great read!” but “Sex and the Single Zillionaire” is more confirmation that Perkins is no match for his ex-wife Danielle Steel.

The plot — based on an actual proposal Perkins received — revolves around a grieving zillionaire widower. Sixty-something Steven Hudson is waited on by a personal staff of 20 people, but he’s lonely because, as you know, good wives are so hard to find nowadays. Egged on by his hunky son, he agrees to appear on a reality TV show to select a girlfriend — possibly more. As a studio exec explains, “The ickiness will be part of the appeal.”

Even as geriatric erotica, there’s not much here to get the pacemaker ticking. Steven, with his “movie star’s chiseled looks,” has his pick of a dozen lovely ladies on “Trophy Brides,” but they’re a pretty unsatisfactory lot. “Extravagantly well-endowed” Crystal, for instance, is an animal rights freak who wants to tell him about her UFO abduction. We don’t get any sex until more than half-way through the novel when Steven and his son peep on two of the contestants engaged in a bit of late-night lesbian bondage, which is depicted like a Rube Goldberg machine made entirely of leather. “Father and son watched in silence,” Perkins writes. Cue “the ickiness.”

From there, it’s a long stretch on private jets and ski vacations until we finally reach a contestant named Eve, a porn-obsessed super-model who subjects Steven to exhausting bouts of “blitz-like” sex on his giant yacht. (“Blitz-like” sex must be like the Nazis bombing London….) Anyhow, “the taste of her was electrifying,” Perkins writes, “igniting him like a fuse. He quickly stripped off his clothing, and in moments they were locked in a writhing embrace on top of the silk bedspread. . . . The whole thing was over in mere seconds.”

Isn’t there an app for that?

But not to worry. By the end, our lonely zillionaire gets the girl of his dreams: “Steven found, not that he ever had doubted it, that the power of love trumped that of any blue diamond pill.” More romantic words were never spoken.

Toward the end of “Sex and the Single Zillionaire,” Steven seems to anticipate Perkins’s heartbreaking struggles with the enemies of wealth: “Gosh,” he says, “it’s getting expensive to be rich.”

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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