52 MEN by Louise Wareham Leonard

52 MEN

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Neither fish nor fowl, these short pieces of "autobiographical fiction" detail the author's romantic conquests and her earlier abuse.

Maybe we don't always have to know what's true and what isn't to enjoy autobiographical fiction, but this slim collection from Leonard (Miss Me A Lot Of, 2007, etc.) straddles the line in a way that is irritating and perplexing. Among the 52 men described in Part I are guys named Michael, Jonathan, and Lou. These are clearly Stipe, Franzen, and Reed; in case you don't figure it out, their last names are given in the copy on the back cover. In addition to the public figures (there are more), other pieces describe men who have since died, giving verifiable dates and causes of death. More reality: in Section 22, the author refers to a list of words for sexual intercourse she made with a man named Sergio. A facsimile of this fascinating list is included in an appendix. So, believe it: men are mad for "Elise" (look, it's fiction). She's showered with expensive gifts, tortured letters, and declarations of love. As "the world's most famous North American novelist" says, "the best thing about this city is you." Though the writing has its moments, there's no attempt to present these vignettes in a way that adds up to a story. Then there's the 53rd man, the subject of a longer piece of writing in Part II. This is Elise’s stepbrother, who started sexually abusing her when she was 9 and did so for years without their parents' knowledge. This section further complicates the issue of factuality. Meanwhile, the book is dedicated to two of the author's brothers "in particular," two who aren't in the story. You're probably not supposed to be worrying about all this. Good luck.

A bad idea for a book.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-59709-996-7
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2015


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