SACRED LIPS OF THE BRONX by Douglas Sadownick


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 Side-by-side portraits of a gay man at two points in his life: This first novel contrasts the closeted teenager, high on first love, with his older self, the veteran of a crumbling gay marriage. Mikey Kaplan comes of age in the Bronx in the 1970s, a time when the borough's Jews and Puerto Ricans were fighting turf wars. Looking for more than quick sex in Times Square movie theaters, Mikey notices Hector hanging out with his PR buddies as he escorts grandmother Frieda to the synagogue. The teenagers fumble their way to sex and love in a context of ethnic rivalry; through love's alchemy, their insults become endearments. Surprisingly, Hector is accepted warmly by Mikey's parents; the storm comes when Mikey's brother Stan (``the Jewish mambo whiz'') brings his black girlfriend to dinner. By now Frieda is dead, but Mikey's most beloved relative will appear to him in visions; then Hector splits, his attempt to get cautious Mikey to elope with him a failure. Fifteen years later, Mikey is a journalist in Los Angeles; his long marriage to AIDS activist and performance artist Robert is being destroyed by Robert's brazen cheating. The Bronx passages are noisy with ethnic friction; in Los Angeles, Sadownick pumps up his material with the drama of AIDS. Two demos and an anxious buzz about HIV status supply the emotional charge lacking in Mikey's odyssey and relationships with his lovers and grandmother (his Jungian anima, his shrink observes helpfully); he is the cipher at the novel's hollow center. Sadownick has not yet found a voice that will sound clearly through the static of his turbulent worlds.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-312-11052-9
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994


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