Kassa's Reviews > The Palace Of Varieties

The Palace Of Varieties by James Lear
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Aug 15, 09


In this departure from previous work, James Lear delves into the psyche of a morally bankrupt young man as he discovers and rampages the backroom gay scene of London in 1935. This wonderfully written and beautifully executed story is almost lost in the wealth of sex and degradation that fills the pages. The lack of redemption for the main character of Paul will inevitably turn some readers away while the author’s masterful handling of the prose will compensate for others. Overall, this is a powerful and graphic depiction of seedy gay life through the eyes of a sex addict with a small dose of morality, although some will argue Paul is without any redeeming qualities.

Paul arrives in London with barely any money to his name and is introduced to the world of rent boys almost immediately when engaging two wealthy men in a gentleman’s bathroom. This opens Paul’s eyes to possibilities as he supplements his meager income from a theatre with some behind the building activities. From slums to palaces, Paul experiences the best and worst within the rarified airs and the lowest ghettos. His incredible appetite for sex and lack of inhibitions combined with his surprising naïveté cast Paul into a unique world as he plays out his porn filled fantasies.

Paul Lemoyne is a young man with no education or prospects, but is clever, intelligent and willing to do anything to survive. His voracious appetite for sex is enhanced by his lack of boundaries. He will degrade himself and others to no end for the brief release and high of sex. Paul is an engaging and fascinating character taken through the pits and valleys of life as a rent boy. He makes quite a bit of money with his clients, able to quickly and easily discern what makes them happy and delivering with a rare flair and delight for his work. Unfortunately, Paul spends and looses his money as easily as he makes it, thus starting a long line of foolish decisions that he inevitably never learns from.

The story is incredibly well written as the author has a unique gift for language and prose. The vivid descriptions of London at the time shine through in both its glory and squalor. The graphic nature of the sex may be disturbing for some but other than the sheer volume of the scenes, the explicit erotica didn’t offend. The book is littered with sex, filled to the brim with scene after scene, each one more inventive and designed to show the depths Paul will sink to in his voracious appetite for sexual gratification. There is nothing too taboo and the kinkier the better for Paul. He flirts with crime but never develops a real taste as his thoughts are consumed with sex and the procurement of such. He has no preference over his lovers, giving sex for free or for payment, depending on his level of satisfaction and intelligence at the time.

Often Paul becomes besotted with various characters in the book, men who revolve around his orbit in the world. All of these men use Paul to some degree, rending him blind to their motives and lack of true feeling. He is kept on a string by his own attachment and need for love, yet carelessly breaks and ruins the few opportunities offered for somewhat more healthy relationships. His need for sexual gratification rules his life just as his lack of connection to people cause him to follow others’ control, most notably Albert Abbott. Paul never learns from his mistakes and displays a lack of moral integrity and compassion. Paul indulges gluttony and avarice to their very core and allows the hedonistic lifestyle to overwhelm his every thought.

Paul’s tale is fabulously written and explores a darker, seedier side to gay sex that is often degrading, humiliating, painful, shocking, and ultimately fascinating. This nonstop thrill from one trick to the next from Paul’s eyes has hints of deeper pain and need, but is hidden underneath a thoroughly dirty sexual romp. Paul is easy to judge and dislike, as are the wealth of unsympathetic characters that drift in and out of the story. Liked or not, Paul is a riveting character with an engaging voice and relentless pursuit for sex, to his own demise. I’m not sure if I enjoyed the book, but it was well worth reading.
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