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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Boy by Naeem Murr 
17th-Mar-2006 11:00 pm
For some unknown reason, the cover design of the copy of this book that I have is subtly different from what is pictured below. It also fails to cite earlier editions--even though I KNOW that this novel was released first in hardcover in the US.

Murr, Naeem. The Boy. New York: Mariner, 1998.
Summary: Sean blames the boy that he fostered who may also be his son on the deaths of his children Megan and Liam as well as his estrangement with his wife. Since leaving Sean's home, the boy has run away from the charity home and become a street hustler, becoming a sinister, emotional lynchpin of a different sort for everyone around him. When Sean finally confronts this apparently soulless boy who becomes what those around him most want, he kills him.
Comments: Deliberately obscure but nonetheless tremendously compelling, the boy is a British incarnation of the Dennis Cooper variety, oversexed but essentially empty, looking futilely for some meaning with which to fill the void, the object to other mens' subject. This is hypermodern disillusionment at its very best, and though the characters do get awfully preachy at times, and the prose gets unnecessarily over-the-top in places, there are some elegant touches that put Murr's debut novel quite the cut above the average. A little thrill, a little grotesque. Not too much. I thought the juxtaposition of the father, who occupies a single lifestyle lie, and the son, who occupies many was especially well-done, and there are a few occasions where their mannerisms mirror. Also, the boy's mother is an interesting character, hopelessly compartmentalized. The author himself is half Irish, half Lebanese, but, unfortunately, this interesting cultural heritage is not overtly exploited in this novel--more's the pity. Class is explored to some extent, but not ethnicity or race. In fact, you'd never guess from the story itself that the author were anything other than the whitest of breads. *sighs*
Notes: trade paperback, 1st printing
Rating: 7/10 - A solid, though not timeless, example of so-called "blank fiction." Well worth checking out for what it does well.
18th-Mar-2006 10:08 am (UTC)
I thought he was an arab from his name.
18th-Mar-2006 12:08 pm (UTC)
Half Lebanese doesn't count?
18th-Mar-2006 12:34 pm (UTC)
It counts but not really. Didn't I explain to you once how Arabs regard Lebanese people? Or was it someone else.
18th-Mar-2006 02:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, you told me that they weren't "real" Arabs or something...but how much of that is quibbling? Do people move around a lot? If his name sounded Arab, his father's family may not be from Lebanon for time immemorial. ^^;
18th-Mar-2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
While Arabs do quibble a lot about that, Lebanese people really don't look like arabs. Nor is their society or culture much like the ultra conservative arabs. It's a justified distinction at times.

Many Lebanese people like going abroad and living in western countries so you could be right about that. And many settle there too, not like other arabs who're there only for the money.
18th-Mar-2006 07:21 pm (UTC)
*chuckles* "Look like"? As in physical features or just affected appearance? I thought Arab was basically a Semitic person whose native language is Arabic and that the rest is quibbling. I bet most are so mixed in reality anyway that "they are if they say so and they aren't if they don't." The Middle East has been a major, MAJOR crossroads for most of history...
18th-Mar-2006 07:37 pm (UTC)
Physical features. There's a joke that says you can't tell a Lebanese from an American if they're both not speaking^^

It is a major crossroads. Especially in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iran. Those are the places you're likely to see arabs who don't look or act like arabs. It's a really messy thing, you need to see it for yourself to understand.

If you think an arab is simply someone who speaks arabic... let's say I've seen a lot of misunderstandings end badly because of that^^
18th-Mar-2006 07:41 pm (UTC)
If you think an arab is simply someone who speaks arabic...

Someone of Middle Eastern descent who speaks Arabic as a native speaker, rather. Anyone from anywhere could hypothetically speak Arabic. Anyway, yes, yes, I know that the word is tied up with various ethnic, national, religious issues and implications--but I think the above two criteria cut through the bullshit quite nicely. ^_~
1st-Apr-2006 01:26 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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