HIS BUTLER'S STORY by Edward Limonov


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In this second fictionalized memoir of his time in New York City (It's Me, Eddie, 1983, was the first), Limonov, a Russian ÉmigrÉ poet, arduously uses his debaucheries and boisterous cynicism to peel off the world's civilized husk, but, all in all, he remains a sort of house-trained Henry Miller. It's Me, Eddie recounted his years in flea pits of the old Upper West Side, living on welfare and taking up back-alley homosexuality out of a hatred of women, especially his ex-wife. Here, however, we find his circumstances much improved; he's the live-in butler at an East River townhouse owned by a buffoonish tycoon, Steven Grey, whom Limonov sarcastically dubs Gatsby. Gatsby isn't there much--his Connecticut family life plus business travel keeps him busy--but he appears at times for a lecherous spin of his own, although he's on training wheels compared to Limonov. More a picaresque chain-collision than a plotted story (Limonov's whores, booze, two-week affairs, the sarcastic acid he pours over elite society, the literary life, etc.), the book's first half reviews his climb out of seediness through an ambivalent affair with the maid who precedes him at the townhouse. When she leaves for a man in California, giving Limonov his job, the story becomes a series of set pieces about Grey's visiting friends, a Dionysian party thrown by his teen-age son for a home movie, and Limonov's more serious efforts at finding an American publisher. Limonov is such a demanding figure, however, that no one else amounts to more than a caricature-which is a problem especially for the women who deserve to parry better with his misogyny. Here and there, this Henry Millerish take on Upstairs, Downstairs offers some rewards, but gradually the entertainment wears thin.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1987
Publisher: Grove