A complex, sometimes overly frenetic, look at one man’s experience of being black, queer, smart, soft, tough, artistic, and...

READ REVIEW

SINCE I LAID MY BURDEN DOWN

Sex, drugs, punk rock, and Sunday sermons.

When DeShawn takes leave of his fast life in San Francisco and returns to his rural Alabama hometown, he finds time to slow down and contemplate his past and the many men—fathers, lovers, and friends—who have made him who he is. Purnell’s debut novel (Johnny Would You Love Me If My Dick Were Bigger?, 2015, etc.) is structured as a series of flashbacks to DeShawn’s childhood and young adulthood, which is peopled with an abusive stepdad, a feuding mother and grandmother, and kids who share his love of 1990s punk music, partying, and sexual experimentation. Sex and self-fashioning are at the heart of this narrative, and the novel is refreshingly frank about desires both normalized and taboo. DeShawn, whose queerness becomes obvious to his family and community early on, must navigate sexual interactions with kids his own age and the leering adult clergy and teachers whose own desires are warped into power trips (DeShawn “marveled at how much of his young adult life was spent in a room getting spanked by a dirty old white man”). DeShawn’s path of sexual discovery is linked to his discovery of self, and as his story unfolds, questions of who, and how, to love become more clearly articulated. DeShawn is a wild child, but he is also an uncle, a nephew, a son, and a community member. Purnell treats his subjects with a heavy dose of dry humor, as when DeShawn’s “fag-loving aunt” gives him a handful of Klonopin after a funeral and tells him “Don’t overdose, bitch.” The novel’s style is messy, and DeShawn’s inner dialogue doesn’t always provide much depth. But DeShawn’s story, like any honest story, is a messy one and, for all its rough edges, entertaining.

A complex, sometimes overly frenetic, look at one man’s experience of being black, queer, smart, soft, tough, artistic, and constantly in motion between rural and urban cultures.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55861-431-4

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?

LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more