When I troll the review request lists for Brandilyn, I realize that, for the Prism Book Alliance, I’m looking for books that I might not otherwise find. In particular, I’m looking for books by men I’ve not read before. This is to satisfy my ongoing curiosity about what gay men are writing these days; and I’m trying to explore the boundaries of m/m literature (which is to say, step outside those oft-too-narrow parameters).
Author: David Pratt
Publisher: Wilde City
My Rating: 5 (5-) of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
From the author of Bob the Book comes a funny, fast-paced, touching tale of love, laughter, family of choice and fabulousness!
Wouldn’t it be great if a porn character stepped out of the TV, into your life? Well, be careful what you wish for. Because that’s how Calvin and Peachy end up looking after Joey. And teaching him everything he needs to know to be be a gay man in New York City. His final exam? A fabulous Labor Day party on Fire Island. But first, they all have to get invited. This will involve a rogues’ gallery of eccentric Manhattanites, including portly, perspiring publicist Bunce van den Troell; theatrical investor Sir Desmond Norma; studly thespian Clive Tidwell-Smidgin; lubricant king Fred Pflester; and a mysterious young man named Jeffrey. Tender, wise, witty and often utterly deranged, Looking After Joey will make you wish that you, too, had a porn character at your kitchen table asking, “So, when can I have sex?”
David Pratt’s Looking After Joey will either grab you right away and drag you along; or it will leave you cold. I am in the first category. It is unlike anything I’ve read in the past year, and given all the interesting books I’ve been finding through the Prism review lists, that’s saying something.
Pratt is a wonderful writer; arch, crisp, literate. There is no sloppy dialogue and no filler. It is lean and fast and to the point. In the space of a paragraph he can take you from laughing out loud to rolling your eyes to feeling tears starting to build.
Although the point of view shifts around a bit in the course of the story, the reader’s main perspective on the action is through the eyes of Calvin Hodge, a New York City accountant who’s pushing forty and yearning a little too desperately to be part of what his best friend Peachy Sniegowski refers to as the “gayristocracy.”
If that makes Peachy (real name: Leland) seem a bit too much, don’t worry. Peachy is a bit too much. The fact that Calvin loves him and sticks by their friendship is one of the crucial facts of the novel.
By turns surreal and farcical, the plot turns around Joey, about whom I cannot say much without spoiling things. Suffice it to say that Joey is Calvin’s dream boy, a porn star of such perfect beauty that he is the focus of every supercharged ion of Calvin’s frustrated loneliness.
And while there is sex in this book, it is not sexy sex. Well, it starts out sexy, but turns increasingly unsexy until it is, well, comical.
Existential farce? Dark comedy? Social satire? Yes.
This is a book that, like Edmond Manning’s “King” series, seems to be written specifically for gay men—or at least for anyone trying to understand what it is to be a gay man today. It seems to skewer every one of the anxieties that young urban gay men have. It pokes fun at the absurdity of the quest for endless youth and flawless beauty. It lampoons the anxieties and affectations of urban gay culture. Yet, it doesn’t simply mock; it empathizes with these men and their fears; it makes us feel for them—with them. Ultimately Looking After Joey illuminates the truth that life is only as worthwhile as the people you care about and who care about you.
There is an odd fatalistic optimism that permeates the book which is, I think, the source of its emotional power. A favorite line says it all: “One day we all lose everybody. …We’re all just walking each other home. So you just give people the best walk you can, I guess.”
I have given this book five stars, but I give it a five with an asterisk, for one reason. Every gay man in the book who is older than the protagonists, however amusingly written, is either pathetic or repugnant. It is something I see all too often, and I have to confess, for a 58-year-old reader, it is disheartening. One of the deepest fears of the characters in the book is aging; and if the older characters here are any indication, that fear is justified.
I don’t think that’s what the author intended, and thus, like Calvin, I forgive.
I would like to thank Wilde City for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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