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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
12th novel of the month. Saving the best for last, apparently. 
28th-Oct-2005 04:24 pm
Sometimes I scare myself with how much I read. (^^;

And now I need to hunker down and get some serious work done! No more reading. Time for writing! *trumpets* Good God, someone kick me back into line already...!

Berlin, Adam. Belmondo Style. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004.
Summary: Ben's cavalier, pickpocket father Jared models his life after Belmondo in the movie Breathless. And he has never gotten caught because he has never done any "big stealing." However, when the high-school aged Ben, who is gay, is made victim of a terrible hate crime, his father crosses the line and extracts a terrible, private revenge on the perpetrator (a la The Godfather). Now they're on the run from NYC down to Miami, accompanied by a Jared's lover Anna, a photographer who specializes in portraits of criminals and the deceased. Becoming ever more crazy and desperate, Jared breaks his own rule and holds up an armored car. The end of the line is, appropriately, in Key West, where Jared dies like the movie hero that he so admires.
Comments: Recommended to me awhile ago by Lawrence Schimel, this novel was. So. Good. From the telling, whimisical photograph of a father and son on the cover, to the way in which Berlin takes a cliched Hollywood caper plot and runs with it so gloriously. The prose is deceptively simple and straightforward, but not a single discordant note is struck in the book's 275 pages. I loved that it was set in parts of the country that I have seen; not to mention that the novel had an immediacy that touched me deeply. Post 9/11, it's quite possible that I was lying in the hospital suffering at the same exact time that Berlin was writing about Ben doing the same. Indeed, it resonated in a way that Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain" did not; gay youths aren't killed for kissing on the streets anymore, but they may get really beat up and tortured still if they're not careful. Ben was 100% convincing as a gifted high school student with much academic and athletic potential. He was the kind of semi-outcast that I would've been friends with in high school. :P On the other hand, at times Jared seemed too big to be real, but I know that was intentional, and, regardless, he really did love his son more than anything else in the world. So, yes, this is a growing up story about Ben, but it is also a love story between a boy and his father, and that love is breathtakingly beautiful. I felt filled with a sweet, all-embracing love just reading about theirs! (Not many books can do that for me.) That Jared dies at the end is not the least bit surprising. Death has become an integrally woven into the fabric of the gay male psyche, but the theme here is done so well that you won't begrudge the author it in the least. I promise.
Notes: hardcover, 1st edition
Rating: 8/10 - A softly shining, luminous pearl of a novel. It isn't flashy, but it's so strong on its own terms it doesn't need to be. Go and read it. Now.
28th-Oct-2005 09:48 pm (UTC)
Wow, that review sounded almost positive.. Feeling okay? ^_~
28th-Oct-2005 10:06 pm (UTC)
Hey, hey, hey now! I give credit where credit is due.

And let me remind you, anything above a 7 is the equivalent of WHOA. A 9 is like The Hours. A 10 is like Beloved or The Bluest Eye.
28th-Oct-2005 10:39 pm (UTC)
A 10 is like Beloved or The Bluest Eye.

Err, those are books right? ^^;;
28th-Oct-2005 10:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah. By Toni Morrison.

You shouldn't air your ignorance in public like that. ^_~
29th-Oct-2005 01:00 pm (UTC)
*dies laughing*
That's a good question^_^ And why am I not surprized that someone dies again in a novel Rythia-chan likes.
29th-Oct-2005 01:03 pm (UTC)
Hey, hey, hey! The only other novel I've given an 8 since starting this new review system had absolutely NO deaths in it!
29th-Oct-2005 01:08 pm (UTC)
Which one was that?^^

And maybe not the new system but you sure have a high tolerance for death and angst^^
28th-Oct-2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
I'll probably sound like I'm fussing... but I'm still stopped at the "like Belmondo in the movie Breathless"... since Jean-Paul Belmondo is the name of the actor, not the character he played in À bout de souffle...

[Just happened to have seen the movie eons ago, when I was a kid (don't remember much of it, I must say... it's been that long. After all, this movie is even OLDER than me... and I was a big fan of the man when I was younger (AND Alain Delon ^_~ (him for the gorgeousness factor first then for his movies as he was a good actor))].
28th-Oct-2005 10:43 pm (UTC)
I'm still stopped at the "like Belmondo in the movie Breathless"... since Jean-Paul Belmondo is the name of the actor

*stares* I don't see why this sentence is a problem for you. People talk about actors and their behavior in movies all the time. "Like Mel Gibson in the movie Lethal Weapon."
29th-Oct-2005 12:59 pm (UTC)
The summary sounds a lot like the story from "Road to Perdition" but in a more humorous style.
29th-Oct-2005 01:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it does, actually. This is a standard kind of "run til you can't run anymore pop plot"--you see it in a lot of places.
29th-Oct-2005 01:07 pm (UTC)
The movie was actually nice. Lots of dramatic moments.
29th-Oct-2005 04:27 pm (UTC)
I've just added this to my To Buy list, as a result of your great review! Thanks for the heads-up.
29th-Oct-2005 10:15 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
15th-Nov-2006 03:32 am (UTC)
So glad you liked it!

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