PARISIAN LIVES by Samuel M. Steward


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In Dear Sammy (1977) Steward published his letters from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, along with a memoir; those pages contained (with merciful brevity) the story of Sir Francis Rose, a painter-friend of Stein's whose sexual compulsions led him into a series of degrading relationships with rough young men. Here, however, Steward offers a fictional expansion of that material--with Rose now called Sir Arthur Lyly and Steward himself appearing as narrator John McAndrews, a young late-1930s visitor to the Stein mÉnage. With a mixture of sympathy and disgust, McAndrews (himself a lustily carefree homosexual) documents four of guilt-ridden Sir Arthur's more unpleasant involvements. A tattooed gangster/masseur from Chicago (with a taste for bondage) turns out to be a thief and blackmailer. Sir Arthur's next passion is British sailor/bodybuilder Wally--who attempts suicide and is revealed to be a schizophrenic. Next comes Genet's pal AndrÉ, a French tough who subjects Arthur to whipping and other, kinkier tortures. (Says Arthur: ""Each blow was the start of a lightninglike ripple of. . . of ecstasy that flashed over my whole body. . ."") And finally there's 17-year-old Spanish runaway-peasant Juan--who turns out to be Sir Arthur's illegitimate son (a supposedly true Sir Francis Rose story). Here and there narrator McAndrews, who himself samples most of these hustlers' sexual talents, attempts some quasi-psychological insights. For the most part, however, this is a tacky, superficial mixture of name-dropping, unlovely gossip, and homoerotic nostalgia--with some of the passages lapsing into mere mechanical pornography (Steward's more usual genre, under the Phil Andros pseudonym).

Pub Date: March 13th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's