TABOO by Boyer Rickel

TABOO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sequence of autobiographical essays by poet Rickel (Creative Writing/Univ. of Arizona) kicks off the new series “Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies” with an elliptical whimper. Rickel offers only a few biographical specifics: he grew up in placid Tempe, Ariz., in the ’60s, scarcely traveled, and moved to Tucson, where he lives with his longtime partner, an artist. Here he offers mostly quick snapshots of meaningful moments in his emotional life from childhood to the present, in prose so humorless and smoothly polished that it seldom communicates the wallop these epiphanies apparently packed for the author. In one skillful essay, he tells how at age six, in reaction to vague household tension, he killed the family canary beloved by his pianist father; beyond this striking moment, the author offers scant details about his parents” breakup, though there are several sketches of his current dealings with his aged, crippled father. More central to the story is the history of his homosexuality, from precocious prepubescent sex play through sublimated crushes on a succession of friends, many heterosexual relationships in high school and college, and finally, in his early 20s, gradual self- acceptance as a gay man. He was troubled by the typical conundrums of repressed homosexuality in adolescence—and less typical ones, such as what to make of a teacher’s gift of colorful nylon underpants (Rickel gave them back). As an adult, he spent years pursuing fruitless relationships with younger Mexicans he met in bars; he acknowledges “the racist overtones to my obsession with these boys,” but rather than examine this, he writes about how he willed himself to be attracted to non-—brown boys” as part of a “process of suspending my need for a defining narrative.” Such cold language obscures what makes the author tick. An uninvolving memoir of an uneventful life. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-299-16260-5
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999