O BEAUTIFUL by Jesse Green


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A very thin first novel-of-manners with some tepid social satire--all about an overrefined homosexual on the fringes of the theater world who falls in love and rooms with a man who's straight. The light tone here is neither quite comic nor very engaging. Martin, six feet five with ""a perfect combination of raised blue veins"" spelling the letter ""M"" on his right foot, feels he's destined to meet a man whose name also begins with ""M."" On such a slight thread Green tries to spin out a social comedy. Martin's friend Stella introduces him to Matt, and Martin, ""an excellent, entirely self-taught cook,"" takes the day off from work to make dinner. Meanwhile, the reader has to buy into Martin's whimsical flight through and from life: he sees ""his life as a fiction,"" grew up rich, and is always trapped into ""wanting something impossible"" and feeling ""threatened and mesmerized by beautiful people."" Such is the case with Matt when Martin discovers, during dinner, that his guest is straight. While Green develops the textures of Martin's life--impossible mother, his theater friends--Matt turns up again, needing a place to stay. Martin gets Matt involved in theater and teaches him the ropes (the difference between a condo and a co-op, for instance), while Matt does drugs and runs through a string of women. Martin is meant to be an endearing neurotic, but his shenanigans and frets wear thin very quickly, and by the time he has understood his life to be a ""Chinese water torture"" and fallen into the river only to be saved by a stranger's ""random act of love"" and to recover in time for an upbeat ending, the reader could care less. A sitcom posing as a novel about a person who is hardly there.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Available/Ballantine