PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN DROWNING by Charles Perry

PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN DROWNING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Not Kraft, not Ebing, not even Lucy Freeman could have found a clinical corker like Harry Odum, the narrator and central psyche of Charles Perry's fictional venture into that realm where Oedipus is king. This is set in Brooklyn during the depression where Harry grows up absurd, poor, and unweaned. ""I go to her. She pulls me in her lap. She holds me tight. 'Who's boy's best friend?'... 'You are, ma!'"" Following this bit of classic Freudiania, there's a chorus of ""One bright and shining light/ That taught me wrong from right..."" (The reader may well imagine, at this point as well as several others in the narrative, that his literary leg is being pulled by a renegade from the staff of Nichols and May. But not so. Perry is quite and unfortunately serious.) Mama warns Harry that this sex thing is ""disgusting"" and ""filthy"", so naturally he begins to have a few problems. He joins a local gang and becomes their ace goon. Everytime Harry hits a guy he makes believe it's daddy. Maddon, an alter ego, is invented to do all his male dirty work, including rape and peeking in on mother while she's in the tub. Finally, Harry Odum kills a guy whom he's quite certain is really his father and goes home to rape not-altogether-reluctant mother, chanting all the while, ""I am the shiek of Araby. Your heart belongs to me."" Joycean in its attempt at multiple memories and stream of consciousness techniques? Say rather, Runyonesque; though Perry's ear for speech patterns is extraordinarily bad. The reader with a sense of the satirical should proceed with caution. That's not what the author meant at all.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1961
ISBN: 0393314626
Publisher: Simon & Schuster