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The Romanian: Story of an Obsession
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The Romanian: Story of an Obsession

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  181 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Winner of the 2004 Prix de Flore—one of France's most distinguished literary prizes—a wildly romantic, true-life love story

History follows a trail of sputtering desire, often calling upon the delusions of lovers to generate the sparks. If it weren’t for us, the world would suffer from a dismal lack of stories," writes Bruce Benderson in this brutally candid memoir.

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Paperback, 401 pages
Published February 2nd 2006 by Tarcher (first published 2004)
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Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Famous liner on why many favor (het/hs) pross de touts: They leave after an hour.

In fact, I knew a French film producer who'd say, c 8 am, "Cherie, you must go now. The maid will be here shortly." If you dont understand these 2 grafs, you're naif and know nothing of life.

Herein, author Benderson, in his mid50s+, who has been around, arrives in Budapest to do an article on the underbelly sex trade, and, first night, meets a lad (Romulus, age 24) and instantly is smitten beyond belief. Romy is a
Jim Coughenour
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Few projects can sound less promising than a 400-page chronicle of a pudgy middle-aged Jew's erotic obsession with a scraggly Romanian hustler, but Bruce Benderson has written a minor classic. What so easily might have been pretentious soft-core sociology intent on justifying its author and titillating its readers has been transformed into a tale that is by turn comically masochistic, depraved, psychologically lacerating and finally luminous. There's no redemptive arc, no gratuitous groveling or ...more
Rick Powell
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Benderson had to publish outside of the U.S. his brilliant, funny, wildly pitched account of his relationship with a straight Romanian rent boy. I've had my own run-ins with Romanians of various sexual orientations and every word of this account rings more than true. Steeped in both culture and history and also firmly committed to his own obsessions, this is the kind of gay writing apparently American homosexuals don't want to read any more, which is more than too bad, it's a great loss.
Also found here:

I could not, for the life of me, like this story. I tried and tried, I even re-read some parts, but no.

Maybe because it's such a depressing and dark story, if you ask me. Because Romulus is nothing more than a glorified thief and prostitute, the people Bruce meets through him are the same and the Bucharest he sees is gloomy and dejected, which is not true now and wasn't true back when Benderson wrote his book.

Maybe because I never once considered that Romulus might have real fe
David Corvine
Oct 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Found the regurgitated history/art material tedious and irrelevant, any linkage was tenuous. Overall the work was fantastic... but unfortunately not in a good way. The narrator is a fantasist imaging or manufacturing "dramatic" situations. If you block book a sex worker to the exclusion of all other clients it doesn't mean you are in a relationship. The narrator sometimes displays flash of realizing that he is self-deluded but continues to behave in the same illogical manner.
Ива Блажевич
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Sheila
Jan 02, 2008 rated it liked it
I had a hard time liking this book, mostly because Bruce Benderson seems way too impressed with his own wickedness. The historical bits and the bits with his mother are well done and interesting; the bits with Romulus (the titular Romanian) made me pretty deeply uncomfortable, if only because I felt like I was being involved in a threeway relationship that was none of my business and in which one of the parties was oblivious of my presence. (Bruce Benderson, I do not want to mess around with you ...more
Jun 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Liked: insight into and information on Central/Eastern Europe and its people, reminding me of my own trips to Budapest, Transylvania, and Bucharest.
Didn't like: the author's gloomy masochism on one hand and his self-indulgence on the other. The tale of obsession seems to be with the author himself, which made this story go on and on. instead, the book could have made its points in half the pages. At points In several sections I wanted to yell, "ok... I get it, you've made your point, please move
Dec 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
I wanted a book on contemporary Romania and came across this--a memoir of one middle-aged white American's relationship/obsession with a young Romanian hustler. Reading it made me want to become friends with Bruce Benderson--he doesn't flinch away from examining anything that might be too revealing or taboo, there is a rare honesty there, and for that reason alone, I'd say this is a memoir very well worth reading.
Bill Arning
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating well described story

The unhealthy relationships in this memoir are given a philosophical gravity due to the author's deep insights into his own obsessions. While if he were a friend I would want to slap him, few readers will not have lived through similar if less dramatic self destructive romances.
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Seeing a quote of this book today made me remember reading it, I think probably 3 or 4 years ago. This is not an easy book to read, you have to be in a certain state but it’s worth the time you put into it( it’s pretty long – I read the Romanian translation and it’s almost 500 pages). I think a single word can sum up everything about this book: REAL. It’s real, it’s obsessive , it’s painful, it’s life……. for some of us. So if you like to read about happily ever after ( which I do), better skip t ...more
Sep 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
A decent travel essay could probably be extracted from what is otherwise an atrocious memoir about a middle-aged gay man who claims to have been obsessed with a Romanian prostitute. I'm not familiar with the Prix de Flore, but am mystified as to how this book could even be nominated for a major literary prize. Where to begin with what is wrong here? The problems start with the author's voice, which is mostly humorless and embarrassingly vain. Bruce Benderson is way too proud of his transgressive ...more
May 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
"Don't you know sex is dangerous?" - Romulus, 24 year old Romanian prostitute.

I found this memoir fascinating and beautifully written.
I was incredibly frustrated with the author. Nearly screaming through the first half of the book- 'This isn't love, Bruce Benderson.' Knowing that the full title is 'A Story of Obsession' I read on. Nervously waiting for whatever events that finally cause the author to come to the realization that his paid relationship with a heterosexual Romanian could not poss
Feb 10, 2008 rated it liked it
I felt troubled about this book - in, I guess, a good way. Member of the White Gay Literati and Friend of Camille Paglia Bruce Benderson was assigned to write a magazine story in Romania, where he met and fell in love with a hustler named Romulus. The book chronicles the initial meeting, numerous trips back to visit, a short period of time in which Benderson moved in with Romulus, and finally their bitter break-up. There is obviously plenty of room for there to be weird power issues in the relat ...more
Jul 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I must say I really enjoyed this book. Yes, there was an experience of voyeurism in reading this book, especially in regards to homosexual desire and practices. But I what I especially appreciated from Benderson is his portrayal of his keen awareness that the only reason why he has access to a beautiful younger man is because of his position of privilege coming from the West. Benderson portrays his privileges as a product of the West, who now has access financially and legally to cross to underd ...more
Bryan Basamanowicz
Nov 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Finally made it out.

The story in this book is one vastly outside my personal life experience, and, as is often the case in such reading endeavors, has resulted in exposure overload.

It was difficult to get through as I had so much trouble relating to much of it, but the book ended up a sledgehammer, laying waste to heaping, black pockets of my ignorance.

Another challenge/reward bundle comes in Benderson's supreme intellect and talent. What a writer!

The four-star in lieu of five-star rating here
Weston Ochse
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I picked up The Romanian at the bed and breakfast I stayed at in Valencia, Spain. It had a vivid cover, which initially drew me. On the heels of Middlesex, the subject matter was easily accessible. Basically, it's a (semi-autobiographical) docudrama about a male journalist who becomes emotionally and physically entangled with a Romanian street hustler. It's one of those odd books that I couldn't put down.

The author, Bruce Benderson, won the French literary Priz de Flore, as the only American to
Antonia Crane
Sep 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Benderson tangles Romanian History with his own as he develops a one-sided relationship with a Romanian hustler he picked up on the street. He has an unlikely affair with Romulus-a boy who is gay for pay. Benderson's descriptions of the setting of modern and archaic Bucharest in all of the wretched poverty and the pride and survival that is necessary to the proud gypsies is captivating. Benderson's phrasing is at times, stunning. He is also an admitted exploiter. I loved this book.
laura barrett
May 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Fabulous re-telling of author's obsession with a young Romanian street hustler. What makes this book so interesting is the way Bruce Benderson flawlessly weaves Romania's history into an alluring narrative of his own experiences in the country.
Larry Pierce
Apr 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: bohemians
Benderson plays with three themes in this quick read; lusty Romanian royals, his deeply ambivalent relation with his mother, and his personal obsession with a Romanian hustler. A bold effort to relate these themes to each other. I'm not certain that he was successful.
Feb 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
The writing itself is more than fine, I just didn't like what the book is about-it wore on me. Somewhat affluent (not too cute)gay man from New York falls "in love" with Romanian hustler and I think we're supposed to sympathize with writer but I just felt sorry for the 21 year old Romanian.
Kwesi 章英狮
Nov 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Book #167 for 2011
Book #87 for Off the Shelf!
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Josh Mintanko
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Aug 30, 2016
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Bruce Benderson is a novelist, essayist, journalist, and translator.
More about Bruce Benderson...
“Of course, a blow job given in friendship isn't the most arousing, but it stays in the memory longer.” 7 likes
“For a gay you are good driver.” 1 likes
More quotes…