A Memoir of Hustling
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Whitaker’s flaccid memoir of life as a gay male prostitute denies the reader even the giddy thrill of voyeurism in service of an existential life lesson which even Sartre would have decried as banal. Whitaker begins with the reason he began hustling: spite toward an ex-boyfriend. After such a startlingly shallow admission, the reader is off on a roller-coaster ride of cheap sex at high prices. Whitaker describes tricks and encounters with men, men, and more men—neurotic psychologists, horny doctors, businessmen from out of town, Broadway composers, even a celebrity whose identity he protects. We travel with him to the penthouses of New York’s elite for all-night orgies of sex, drug use, and debauchery. One of Whitaker’s chief concerns—will he be able to “perform” with men to whom he isn’t attracted?—offers a big clue to the failure of the book: if he wasn’t interested in what he was doing, why should the reader be? Interspersed with these recollections of the trials of life as an odalisque are existential ruminations on life, love, sex, and identity. Whitaker trudges out various philosophers and authors—including Wittgenstein, Virginia and Leonard Woolf, and Thoreau—more to prove that he’s college educated than to ponder the meaning of life as a hustler. His journal entries, which feature such detours as his maudlin commentary on actress Tallulah Bankhead and a reading list (Sontag and Shakespeare), bog down any narrative thrust he might have developed into a great slurping sound of self-absorption. Whitaker has apparently learned a life lesson through his experiences as a prostitute, and he’s obviously writing for some sort of emotional purgation; however, such a catharsis would be better achieved on a psychiatrist’s couch rather than boring the reader with sex so dull and journeys of self-discovery so morose.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1999
ISBN: 1-56858-123-8
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2000