Grumley's last book—a short coming-of-age novel sandwiched between an introduction by Edmund White and an afterword by George Stambolian—is a modern homosexual updating of Huck Finn. Here, a midwestern boy discovers his sexual orientation and glories in it. A gift for language redeems the book's episodic nature and predictable development. Instead of Huck, we have Mikey, who listens to swing, shakes the hand of Herbert Hoover, works as a caddy, goes out for sports, joins the Cub Scouts—and then finds ``the potency of unspoken sexuality.'' After he spends a night with another boy, things are never the same. Instead of Jim, we have the black card-player James; Mikey floats down the Mississippi with him on a barge, and eventually joins his lover in New Orleans, about which Grumley is passionately evocative: ``New Orleans in early summer, with the sun shining through the balconies of the French Quarter, creating blocks of swirling Arabic letters on the brick and stucco walls behind them, mixing chirping patois and languid Gullah with the broad flat vowels of Texarkana, confounding the eye and ear at every corner—New Orleans in June is a sweet chunk of marzipan one could chew all one's days.'' After such an interlude with James, Mikey, overcome by subtropical passion and New Orleans jazz, engages in an affair, whereupon James leaves him and Mikey lights out for California. There, among other things, he works as a whore (``sexual capitalism was an entertaining step for any young man to take'') and makes his way on the sleazy streets before returning to the Midwest and finding James again. The informative afterword puts the novel in the context of Grumley's career and ``marriage'' to the writer Robert Ferro, both AIDS victims. Altogether, it's a worthy lushly-lyrical fictional reminiscence and gay road-novel, valuable for its New Orleans sections.
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