Wednesday, April 13, 2005

While there are things I dislike about working at a library, if you're a reader like me the perks manage to make up for a lot of that dissatisfaction. For all the problems we've encountered in the process of becoming a merged city/university library, I love having instant access to all the university materials. In addition, with the merger, we became members of a large consortium of libraries (through Link +) which means easy access to pretty much any book you can think of. If we don't have it, someone will and I can get it quickly and for free.

All this is by way of introducing Happy Baby by Stephen Elliott which I was able to get through Link + after reading about it on several lit blogs (which seem to have become my latest source of titles to read). The subject matter in this book seems to belie the title; there is nothing happy about this story. It begins with Theo visiting an old girlfriend in Chicago and each successive chapter moves back in time. We discover Theo likes to be dominated and hurt and as we move backward through his life we find out why that is. We follow him to when he was a ward of the state and learn about the abuse he suffered at the hands of adults and the other kids in the system. It's truly heartbreaking stuff. Appropriately enough, the book begins with a quotation from J. T. Leroy, whose The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things covers similar territory. While I appreciated the structure and writing, Elliott's book lacks some of the immediacy and rawness of Leroy's, which serves to rob it of some emotional impact. It's possible Elliott's restraint came with the age and distance (this book, like his others, has been described as semiautobiographical) that Leroy lacked when his were written. Like with Leroy, I can't say I loved it or enjoyed it, but I thought it was well written and affecting.

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