SAUL'S BOOK by Paul T. Rogers

SAUL'S BOOK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Rogers' ashen novel is the first to win the Editors' Book Award sponsored by Pushcart--for the most distinguished manuscript passed over, for whatever reasons, by the commercial houses. The book is the story of Sinbad (born Steven), a Puerto Rican kid working as a hustler on ""the Deuce"" (42nd Street); he's into and out of heroin, methadone; and he has a long relationship with Saul--alcoholic, learned, sly, desolate, amoral, and very likely evil. The book's stylistic felicity, in the main, is its cross-cutting between narrator Sinbad's two verbal styles. In the past, he delivers absolutely coin-true street talk: ""So now everybody's smiling and yakking and slapping skin all around and Saul peels off three tens which the box really was worth four hundred at least. But nobody's mad since after all we were only keeping the game polished which is what it's all about anyhow and Flacco he may be a dummy, but he knows he gonna smoke up at least a dime of herb for free plus the tab which is at least eight when you can get it so everybody's happy."" But in the present there's the retrospective Sinbad--who educated himself during a penitentiary stay, who's now looking back and trying to put things in order in tones of unsophisticated over-eloquence: ""Against his scorn I set my intransigence; his infidelities required my endurance; his passions were my temptations and his betrayals, my passions; his mockery compelled dissection of self, while his approval demanded self-justification. . . ."" This contrast is wholly credible--with heartbreak in the fact that the change in language can't really positively rearrange Sinbad's sad life. And the bathhouse, gay-bar, and street atmospheres are grittily documentary. (Rogers makes John Rechy's books seem like Readers Digest editions.) Still, the scheme of the book--Saul/Sinbad, dependence/enslavement--is astigmatic, with little room to expand out past melodrama. And there's no real plot movement, with very little feeling other than that sparked now and then off the Saul/Sinbad love-friction. Uncompromisingly vivid, then, and full of talent-but also very flat in its limited, static emotional material.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1982
Publisher: Pushcart