During a Mississippi barge trip, Mickey meets and falls in love with James, a black card player from New Orleans, and they set up house in the French Quarter--until a brief affair sends Mickey to Los Angeles
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Grumley's last book--a short coming-of-age novel sandwiched between an introduction by Edmund White and an afterword by George Stambolian--is a modern homosexual updating of Huck Finn. Here, a midwestern boy discovers his sexual orientation and glories in it. A gift for language redeems the book's episodic nature and predictable development. Instead of Huck, we have Mikey, who listens to swing, shakes the hand of Herbert Hoover, works as a caddy, goes out for sports, joins the Cub Scouts--and then finds ``the potency of unspoken sexuality.'' After he spends a night with another boy, things are never the same. Instead of Jim, we have the black card-player James; Mikey floats down the Mississippi with him on a barge, and eventually joins his lover in New Orleans, about which Grumley is passionately evocative: ``New Orleans in early summer, with the sun shining through the balconies of the French Quarter, creating blocks of swirling Arabic letters on the brick and stucco walls behind them, mixing chirping patois and languid Gullah with the broad flat vowels of Texarkana, confounding the eye and ear at every corner--New Orleans in June is a sweet chunk of marzipan one could chew all one's days.'' After such an interlude with James, Mikey, overcome by subtropical passion and New Orleans jazz, engages in an affair, whereupon James leaves him and Mikey lights out for California. There, among other things, he works as a whore (``sexual capitalism was an entertaining step for any young man to take'') and makes his way on the sleazy streets before returning to the Midwest and finding James again. The informative afterword puts the novel in the context of Grumley's career and ``marriage'' to the writer Robert Ferro, both AIDS victims. Altogether, it's a worthy lushly-lyrical fictional reminiscence and gay road-novel, valuable for its New Orleans sections. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Born to a middle-class Midwest family in 1941, Mickey, the narrator of this homosexual odyssey, has a comfortable but uncertain childhood: "Sexual confusion crept in at an early age." Fueled by an excess of Old Crow at 17, this latter-day Huck Finn sets off down the Mississippi to find the world, but discovers instead an 18-year-old black man--"it seemed the world was written all over him, and he fairly glowed with it." Their blissful New Orleans affair ends with Mickey's infidelity. After a failed attempt at reconciliation he gives up--a bit too easily, it seems--and follows the fabled Rte. 66 to "the soft green lap" of California. In that 1960 sexual wonderland, he leads a life of "determined profligacy" that includes a disastrous brush with acting. The early, atmospheric passages of this Life are replete with dreamy, lyrical descriptions and details that deftly flesh out a slim tale. Unfortunately, as the narrative progresses, so does the author's overwriting. Later scenes are marred by unlikely events and florid descriptions; the ending seems both excessive and abrupt. Though ultimately there may be insufficient material here for a novel, lush passages and a strong romantic sensibility are evidence of a talent cut tragically short--Grumley died of AIDS in March, 1988.
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Book Description Grove Press Books, 1991. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 009009
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