Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Book Review: The Memoirs of A Beautiful Boy

The memoirs of a beautiful boy
By Robert Leleux
Published by St Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 8, 2008
Price: $23.95
272 Pages
ISBN-13: 9780312361686

“For nearly thirty years, Robert Leleux has remained internationally unknown as a celebrated bon vivant, fashion icon, and man about town. Neither the best-selling author of Highland Fling (1931) or Wigs on the Green (1935), Mr. Leleux's work is in no way associated with that circle of Bright Young Things who illuminated the London social scene during the interwar years. He is known not to have been portrayed by Julie Christie in John Schlesinger's Oscar-winning film Darling. In 1972, Mr. Leleux wasn’t made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He does not currently reside at Swinbrook House in the Cotswolds.” From Robert’s website


“Mother let Daddy’s letter fall to floor, twisting her engagement ring around her finger. ‘Jesus God’, she said. “This is a pig fuck.”

‘Pig Fuck” was Mother’s phrase for the absolute nadir of something. Lycra was, for instance, the pick fuck of fabrics, with English toile, pimento loaf, Japanese cars, and Miracle Whip serving as further examples. And because Mother was an extreme person, whose circumstances tended to swerve from the best to the worst, our life involved lots of pig fucks. (There is no such thing,” she once told me, “as a happy medium.”).’

Robert Leleux’s first novel, The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy is one of the funniest, off-beat and original books I have ever read. The author makes no pretense about what he is up to; he wants to entertain, to amuse, and make us laugh. The novel reads like you are out to dinner with a group of friends in a fancy restaurant in New York, and Robert is holding court. Order another drink, more shrimp cocktail, little Onion soup, salad, thick juicy steak, rich and way too fattening dessert, black coffee. Relax. You’re going to be there for a while. There are stories to be heard that seem best to accompany a good meal. Robert’s book reads like an old friend spinning yarns about his youth and young adulthood in Texas. The book tells us a tale about Robert’s father leaving his eccentric mother for a pregnant jockey, leaving mom and Robert almost penniless. Robert leads a totally outrageous life with his self-obsessed mom. Mom is a first-class drama queen, and a high maintenance woman. With high Texas hair, and lots of makeup and jewelry, she breezes through life. Or so it seems. With the divorce the days of driving a Jag and going to Neiman Marcus on Saturdays for a makeover of hair and nails come to an abrupt end. Evicted from their handsome home in Houston, Mom takes the step she needs to survive Texas style…by finding a new, rich husband.

Robert is not trying to write the great American novel here. But his humor is totally new, fresh and of course is completely offbeat. He describes how they have absolutely no desire to find work, and they just plain old loot the house for cash. Meanwhile, mom updates her wigs, undergoes hilariously orchestrated surgeries, dates and leaves new men with impunity, and undergoes a series of lip enhancements, which Robert describes in painfully funny and poignant detail. The sequence in the book where he describes the glued-on hairpiece may be the funniest passages I have ever read.

Amazingly, it pays off. Mom leaves one man on a plane ride for another, when she finally gets her man. She sees Robert as the next Truman Capote. When he joins a local theatre group, it is the first time that he realizes he is gay, even if mom had known all along. Robert makes his way in life, meets his life partner and finishes school. I found that his off-beat personality that shines through this book and his ability to make me laugh made me root for him. This book is loaded with the most original and big sized Texas humor that you cannot help but feel the author is one of your friends, and his big heart make this book special. This is a glorious debut. Have another cup of coffee. Push that chair back, and enjoy the unusual musing of beautiful boy. This is a great young author, and this book belongs on your bookshelf. This coming of age story is a luminous, glorious start. I hope there is more soon.

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