THE GENIUS OF DESIRE by Brian Bouldrey


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 Growing up gay in an extended Catholic family--in a first novel that, despite a self-congratulatory tone and a narrator who too often justifies himself without irony, makes for a credible eulogy to a long-lost age. ``At first I didn't even know that my prime lusts were of an aberrant kind,'' says Michael Bellman, who spends his quality time as a youngster in Monsalvat, Michigan, among a family that includes great-grandmother Kaiser and her six children--grandfather John, uncles James and Thomas, Aunt Teresa, and the sisters Charlene and Charlotta. There is also cousin Anne, who pulls the heads off of Barbie dolls, and, most significantly for Michael, her older brother Tommy. With his cigarettes, fringed suede coat, guitar, and boa constrictor, he is the secret love of Michael's life. The early parts of the story fill space with instances drawn from the eccentricities or cruelties of this motley crew--ranging from Anne's confirmation party to spearfishing with Uncle Tom to arguments about Catholicism. Then Michael, his sexual nature undefined, has a revelation one day in a drugstore when he finds himself drawn to the centerfold in Playgirl instead of Playboy. Later, Uncle Tom dies and cousin Tommy disappears, whereupon Michael moons after him and daydreams as to what might have been before diving into the ugliness and the adventure of reality. Michael, the self-described ``genius of desire,'' decides to hate his family and ``chase after the ugly.'' ``It's the familiar in the strange that terrifies me,'' he says. It's an overly familiar story, however, and not strange enough, replete with various types (often patronized) who owe as much to sitcom as to literature. Still, Bouldrey, and the reader, have a bit of fun with the story and the secondary characters, even if the narrator, coming-of-age as he comes out, takes himself all too seriously.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-345-38334-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993


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