LADIES' MAN by Richard Price


A Novel
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Moving his Bronx characters downtown to Manhattan proves traumatic to Price (The Wanderers, Bloodbrothers); he picks up a bad case of angst. Kenny Backer shares lodging with La Donna: "She was a twenty-eight-year-old bank clerk would-be singer; I was a thirty-year-old door-to-door salesman and we both walked around all day like Back to Bataan." When La Donna ups and leaves him, Kenny is in for one very rough week. Desperately, he dives into anything and everything: adolescent nostalgia ("It had been the best and now it was over and nothing ever felt as good"), porno shops, singles-bars, even a look around the gay leather whip'n-sip establishments. What keeps this book afloat long past its torpedoing point is Price's Lenny Bruce-ish, shpritz-style riffery. The high point is a first chapter in which Kenny accompanies La Donna to an audition at a nightclub that perversely caters to connoisseurs of no-talents; next best is Kenny listening to a late-night call-in show, with its requisite I'm-gonna-kill-myself caller. But the voice becomes tiring. Price's disdainful eye, really interested only in watching Kenny, often just winks nastily: a girl in a movie-theater lobby is one of those "minor dancers living in body stockings, hair in a bun, shy, always giving and getting something ceramic and Chinese for presents." Like one of the callers to those phone-in shows, Price is mostly talking to hear himself maintain a solo; the message--we all need someone--is small beer, and Kenny's concluding, scouring descent into S & M depravity comes off less like fiery purification than like a letter home to Mom from Camp Gotterdamerung. Jazzy. Empty.
Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1978
ISBN: 0312566522
Page count: 258pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1978


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