Email this review


Unconventionally structured novel of identity and relationship permutation: narrator John appears in alternate realities that usually involve paternal brutality and a gay lover named Martin--in a promising if somewhat insubstantial debut for a 24-year-old stylist. John and his guilt-ridden, closeted drag-queen father move to Kansas after leaving mother/wife Bea to die of a degenerative disease. No: John, Bea, and father Henry live together on the prairie; John discovers a boy named Martin in the barn. No: John is raped by stepfather Martin after his father's death. John has a stepmother named Bea. He and Martin fall in love and live in Kansas working nightshifts, dreaming of New York. Martin is an independently wealthy New Yorker who showers John with gifts. Henry is the stranger who tortures John throughout a long sadomasochistic weekend, blowing his mind clear of Martin's death from AIDS. A scar around the left eye, a hand crippled from abuse, a woman named Susan reappear. ""John"" also designates the older men the narrator sometimes hustles: ""a name that remains unconnected to any identity no matter how many times it is assumed."" Susan eventually ruptures what illusion remains, calling John by the author's name, ""Dale."" Later, the authorial voice explains that ""Each fiction is always opposed to some truth....Soon the stories I imagined were as horrible as the one I lived."" The multiplicity and truncation here eventually feel like a game instead of painful obsession or real probing into the imaginative life. Despite powerful, sometimes tender moments, then: ultimately more writing exercise than existential exploration.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0374530300
Page count: 188pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"