I. Merey's Reviews > Why Aren't You Smiling?

Why Aren't You Smiling? by Alvin Orloff
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's review
Nov 14, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: boy-on-boy
I own a copy

One of the things I love about Orloff's writing is its personability (is that even a word? whatever). When I finish one of his books, I have the urge to call him, to go have a coffee or tea and be his friend, [Let me clarify here, I don't actually know this man.], but his writing makes me feel like I do. Which is not to say his books strike me as autobiographical (who knows how much they are), only that there is an inherent sympathy in how they are written that I can't help but transfer to their author. Orloff's language is straight-forward and good, with a wry smart humor that doesn't have to be crude, cruel or sarcastic to be funny.

'Smiling' is about growing up and looking for truths: Leonard is a fussy, insecure suburban kid growing up in the 70s who's just started pondering the big questions. What is Love and the Meaning of Life; where can we find Love and who should we bestow it to, and most importantly, how does one get through the day without getting Punched and/or Humiliated at school? There to show him the answers with mixed results are Rick (slave name: Irving), a slinky-sexy Jesus Freak who's own past becomes a thread in the story, and Kai (slave name: Mordecai) a pretty sweet sounding dude who (to this reader at least) screamed to be played by Chachi-era Scott Baio. (Headband and all.)

I enjoyed the emphasis on names/nicknames and the power they wield, also, the proto-homo longings of Leonard, so wistfully written--and that subtle transition at the end of the novel into a scene showing how far Leonard had come, and how far he still had to go. I really could feel a new era opening up at the end of the novel (an era epically described in the author's earlier 'Gutterboys'.)

I gave it four stars because I loved 'Gutterboys' so much that I had to put it into perspective, but it's really more a 4.5. 'Smiling' made me laugh, not just smile, and I look forward to Orloff's future books.

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Reading Progress

12/11/2011 page 40

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