Apr 20, 11
Read from April 15 to 20, 2011
Now I know why Stephen King recommended this book: He has a long history of creating predatory, pathetic gay characters in his novels ("Needful Things" is the worst--couldn't finish it). This book has a record three sad, tortured, variously criminal gay characters. Oh, and a black girl who rejects her race.
I realize Childress is trying to deal with the destructive impact of racism and homophobia in the Deep South in the 1970s, but in his effort to push readers' limits he just offends in his own pseudocomic fashion. Even the narrator is unlikeable, alternately paralyzed Into inaction, insensitive and exploitative to his loved ones, and a standard-issue liar and delinquent.
The "comic" elements, such as making fun of white Baptists -- none of which was particularly funny -- clash harshly with the tragic touches, especially the dark, anachronistic surprise twist finale. As a result, the book is neither amusing nor touching.
I'm giving it two stars instead of one for three reasons: I can tell Childress meant well, and that his tone and sense of humor simply don't resonate with me. Two, once it gets going, the plot line does draw you along, even if it is to a contrived apocalyptic finale that's either poignant or offensive, depending on your mood. And three, I loved the scene backstage at the Sonny and Cher concert. That at least made me smile.