WITH BRENDAN BEHAN: A Personal Memoir by Peter Arthurs

WITH BRENDAN BEHAN: A Personal Memoir

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Arthurs, an Irish seaman and would-be actor, was Brendan Behan's off-and-on lover/bodyguard/groupie during the writer's miserable last years (1961-1964). And this is the lurid, pathetic, dankly repetitious account of that relationship--a pulp-prose parade of degrading behavior which remains uninvolving (sometimes even unconvincing), thanks largely to Arthurs' dubious motives and mawkish self-dramatization. They met in a YMCA steambath in Hollywood: ""ugly little"" Behan followed Arthurs around, took him home to stoical Mrs. B. for a disgusting dinner (BB's nose-picking table habits), and after the meal came mutual masturbation in the bathroom (""Brendan had the biggest prick that I had ever seen""). Behan, indeed, was ""a living breathing cesspool of sexual perversion,"" a frustrated pedophile in constant heat. So, though Arthurs drew the line at sodomy (""Out of compassion and sympathy for him, I now was in the habit of periodically fucking Brendan between the legs, front and back""), he was soon a Behan intimate: witnessing BB's sexual foragings and wild monologues, many of which are recorded here; and suffering BB's alcoholic, sadomasochistic tantrums, which were heavy on ""saliva, snot, phlegm, urine and excrement."" What--besides ""love""--was in it for Arthurs? Self-importance (""He treated me as though I were the quintessential partner that he had searched for all his life""), vicarious celebrity, and a chance to get into movie-star circles. In fact, the big dramatic sequence here--a ludicrously petty one--comes when Behan intentionally causes Arthurs to miss a Hollywood party: ""My heart pounded. . . . Numbness flooded my every nerve. My heart pounded like an eggbeater out of control."" And so it goes--with reconciliations and fights in Ireland and N.Y., Behan's worsening alcoholism and paranoia, cruising in Brooklyn, etc. But, aside from one or two stray murmurs, Arthurs never considers his own role in this horror-show (he shouts his non-homosexuality to the end), and there's little projection of Behan as anything but a sad, flamboyant pathological case. As a source of information on Behan's last years, then: graphically detailed, but not very trustworthy. As a ""personal memoir""--tedious, unpleasant, and more than a little opportunistic.

Pub Date: July 22nd, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's