From Pen Quarterly, November 1972
Not since the Marquis de Sade has any other man written pornography ostensibly marketed as philosophy --- that is, until today. A.E. Vithano's new book is a pornographic page-turner of the most unabashedly depraved variety that has somehow found its way onto the shelves of bookstores usually reserved for books on Plato and Marxist structuralism. All of a sudden, prepubescent boys have been spotted wandering between the shelves of bookstores, searching for that "Beast book". If Vithano has not succeeded in convincing us of the philosophical value of pornography, he has at least given these boys the chance to find out what the interior of a bookstore really looks like.
But is Gentle Beast really so horrible? Most of us think so, but if the test of a great book is its power to attract controversy, then the Beast must at least be worth a second look. First off, let's have a look at the book's history: it was first published in the summer of 1981 under an author by the name of Joe Silentio. Amidst the public outcry that met its release, it emerged that Joe Silentio was no real person, but the artful fašade taken by one A.E. Vithano, Professor of Philosophy and English Literature at White University. Professor Vithano has since then declared his having had nothing to do with the book whatsoever, although he did admit that he liked it a lot.
One could well believe him. Vithano's previous works have mostly been scholarly essays and poetry of a formidably intellectual stamp; he has never published a novel. Gentle Beast, on the other hand, is a novel; its material is oftentimes titillating and its humor bawdy. And yet, there are those who see in Beast Vithano's famous style: clear, sparkling prose always effortlessly elegant. Moreover, there are those who say that the author of Gentle Beast is more like the real Vithano than we have ever seen him in his other works. The final conclusion seems to be that Vithano is a very smart man with a very filthy brain who is playing a dirty trick on the rest of us.