A BOY NAMED PHYLLIS by Frank DeCaro

A BOY NAMED PHYLLIS

A Suburban Memoir
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 DeCaro, a humorist, newspaper columnist, and contributing editor of Martha Stewart Living, offers an insistently breezy memoir of growing up gay in New Jersey. DeCaro was born in 1962, the only child of a propeller-factory worker and a beautician. He demonstrated a precocious predisposition to camp and an aversion to traditional boyish pastimes. Athough he played Little League baseball for a season to try to please his somewhat surly father, he was more in his element dressing in drag for Halloween and enticing his fellow ten-year-old boys into tentative sex play. There were family trips to Florida, where the author dreamed of catching a glimpse of the actor who played the cute older brother on the TV show Flipper, and less ambitious winter excursions to a local ski slope, where the family would sit in the car and watch. A ribald grandmother, a dishy aunt, and the free-spirited mother of a friend, not to mention the examples of such performers as Elton John and Paul Lynde, fed DeCaro's desire to escape the boredom of suburbia. At school his chubbiness, intelligence, and fledgling alternative sexuality made him a target for abuse. DeCaro dwells sadly and with some bitterness on the insults of his peers and the failure of his teachers to discourage homophobic slurs. Happily, by his senior year a combination of dieting, a precocious love affair, and theatrical talent (DeCaro got the Paul Lynde part in Bye Bye Birdie) had vanquished his insecurities and his classmates' hostility. Unhappily, whenever DeCaro's narrative threatens to become emotionally involving, silly one-liners tend to intrude; while the jokes can be hilarious when focused on inconsequential details of suburban taste and habit, they act as irritants in the passages describing adolescent pain, as if the author were frantically attempting to dissipate any incipient solemnity. While DeCaro can be an incisive observer, his book has about as much lasting resonance as one of his newspaper columns.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-670-86718-7
Page count: 219pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionTHE TOLERANCE TRAP by Suzanna Danuta Walters
by Suzanna Danuta Walters