WHAT IT MEANS TO LOVE YOU by Stephen Elliott


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Three characters in search of a life while on the skids in Chicago form the core of Elliott’s graphic and grim second outing, based in part, like his Life Without Consequences (2001), on the author’s own downtrodden youth in that city.

Anthony is a hard-working but aging dancer in male joints on Halsted Street; Brooke is a runaway teenaged call girl catering to the corporate trade; Lance, her boyfriend, is a good-looking, mentally unbalanced stripper and addict. Two years earlier, Lance brought 15-year-old Brooke away from her bleak, upper-class life in Michigan to the slovenly apartment they share, and where he steals her money and abuses her. They encounter Anthony in the Stolen Pony, a strip-dive he’s been forced to work in as age slowly but surely robs him of his appeal. Brooke reaches out to him even though he’s twice her age and wants no friends, and when Lance is jailed for being disorderly, she comes to rely on him. Lance is raped in jail, taking it out on Brooke when he’s released, so that she leaves him, going back home with the belief that she can be her father’s girlfriend. Her overweight, depressed mother still being in residence complicates her plan, but Brooke succeeds in bringing her rock-ribbed Republican dad down—which only disgusts her. So she returns to Chicago to be with Anthony on whatever terms he’ll have her, finding that he’s finally given up dancing to work the door at a different club. Lance, meanwhile, has vanished into Chicago’s Wasteland, where, homeless and addicted, his violent nature more than meets its match.

Crackling with authenticity even as it overflows with despair: this isn’t easy reading, but the raw power on its pages can’t be denied.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2002
ISBN: 1-931561-18-4
Page count: 195pp
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2002


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