"A HOUSE ON THE OCEAN, A HOUSE ON THE BAY: Vol. III, Memoirs" by Felice Picano


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In this third installment of his memoirs, novelist Picano (Like People in History, 1995, etc.) revisits his life amid the fabulous gay crowd in Manhattan and Fire Island during the libertine '70s. Picano begins by describing his life in Manhattan before his first novel was published in 1975, when he was 31. As his success grew, he began gradually to spend more time on Fire Island in the summers and came to feel at home among the other artsy types who frequented the discos and beaches--and who cruised the island's al fresco gay ""meat market."" Often Picano is incisive about his creative and romantic struggles, and he vividly captures the ebullient mood of gay New York in its pre-AIDS heyday. But scattered through the book are distastefully self-aggrandizing passages in which he asserts his personal and professional merits. For instance, he airily pontificates about the elements of his own childhood he put into one of his characters, ""the truly superior child who operates outside all norms, all conventions: for want of a better word, the genius. . . . I'd revealed a superior talent as a child."" Picano notes the sales figures of his novels Smart as the Devil (1975) and Eyes (1976) and, as if he's desperate not to be thought a hack, explains how complex and rewarding these books are. Without redeeming irony, he goes on at length about how supremely attractive and desirable he and his two closest friends were considered by the Fire Island smart set. Perhaps most off-putting is Picano's evident conviction that the endless drugged-up days of sex and dancing and more sex during the late '70s added up to some kind of golden age of gay culture. Those who share this conviction are likely to be Picano's most receptive readers.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1997
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber