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Henry Peterkin, 30, has recently moved into his parents'' house in Moonville while they''re away on a church mission in the Philippines. In this rural, sleepy setting, he plans to focus on his oft talked-about but never produced poetry and painting, to serve as feudal lord and purveyor of beauty to the "uncivilized" cast of characters who surround him. However, the more his sense of noblesse oblige tugs at him, the more he watches these people through the eyes of the high-minded patron, the more he fights with the rift between art as concept and art as entity.
Through sparse and experimental narrative reminiscent of Charles Bukowski and J.P. Donleavy, Peterkin relates his struggles with oral hygiene, the Baptist church, a ruthless group of Japanese students, a cannibal housekeeper and the volatile, born-again dentist with whom he is infatuated--struggles that lead to the book''s conclusion, the bizarre baptism that takes place as the sun rises on Moonville.