NEONS by Denis Belloc


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 French writer Belloc's first novela slender evocation of a young homosexual hustler's life in 1960's Parisis minimalism to a fault: the stark tone here tends to keep the promiscuous episodes of sex and sexual violence from becoming too graphic. Narrator ``Denis'' (``I live in enormous loneliness'') is a neglected and abused child. His father, a drunk, was killed in 1951 in a sideshow boxing match, and Denis's motherafter sending him for a time to an old woman in the countrymarries a brick-mason and keeps Denis, though there isn't much affection (``Christmas, but without any toys, just one Christmas tangerine''). Meanwhile, Denis cares for two things: his painting and his brother Alain. The stepfather (``the Spaniard'') abuses Denis, whose mother, siding with her husband, decides ``he's turning into a real devil.'' Denis then begins to find solace in public restrooms, and, soon enough, he's living a life of prostitution and petty crime. There are trips to Holland, car-stealing episodes, portraits of lovers and fellow underworld lurkers, including ex-cons, transvestites, and a variety of johns. Finally, there's a stint in prison. By age 20, Denis has turned into a hardened ex-con, a self-described ``piece of trash.'' His mother, who works in an old folks' home, has begun to paint, and, by the close, Denis (``comatose'' after a gang-rape) may also return to paintingbut there's little to salvage the bleak lives here, certainly no salvation, save a sardonic black humor that's kept under strict control. All of this is written in a terse hard-boiled manner straight out of a pulp novela style appropriate for a dispatch about a life from which all sweetness has been blanched out.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-87923-869-0
Page count: 102pp
Publisher: Godine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991