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Picano Felice : Ambidextrous (Plume) Paperback – 1 Oct 1989
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"A stunning tale." - San Francisco Examiner "Compelling and engrossing, it will conjure up memories of everyone's adolescence, straight or gay." - Out Magazine "A book worthy to stand besides those of Edmund White, Rita Mae Brown and John Reed... A vivid portrait" - The Weekly News "Picano deftly evokes those placid Eisenhower years of bicycles, boners and book reports. He makes us remember what it feels like to be a child. It really glows." - The Advocate --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Felice Picano's first book was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Since then he has published twenty volumes of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and memoirs. Considered a founder of modern gay literature along with the other members of the Violet Quill Club, Picano also founded two of the earliest gay publishing companies in the U.S.: the SeaHorse Press and Gay Presses. His novels include The Lure, Looking Glass Lives and Like People in History (all available from Turnaround). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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For all its faults I found the book a compelling read and wanted to turn the pages to find out what happened next but ultimately it was a frustrating book because it only really covers three small sections of his early life. I also ended up disliking the author as a person. It did not make me want to read the sequels.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
"Ambidextrous" bills itself as being about the secret lives of children. Not really so much of a secret, as just forgotten by people once they get to be adults. Most of what happens in this book will seem familiar to many readers, especially those are other than straight.
The book is apparently semi-autobiographical, and tells the story of a young boy's early sex and social life. It details how the main character loses his virginity at the age of eleven, and starts having sex with other boys not long after. There's a lot that happens in this book, but really it's the sex stuff that tends to be most memorable.
Admitedly, as I write this, it's been about twelve years since I read the book though obviously it stayed with me. I plan to read it again soon, at which point I may or may not change this review. For now, take it for what it's worth.
Overall the book is well-written and entertaining, but if you're someone likely to be put-off by the idea of kids having sex, then this is likely not the book for you. Otherwise, hey...
So about two minutes ago I finished re-reading the book for the first time in a long while. It's a bit more than I remember it being. Yes, the sex scenes are what stuck in my mind, but now I've also began to see it as the story of a young writer first starting to learn what he wanted to do with his life.
My life is quite similar to the main character's, despite the 30+ years that seperate us. I, too, was sexually active at a fairly young age (though not quite as early and not quite as far as he got). Like him, I also took an interest in Greek mythology (though I didn't read Homer until much later and I never have read "The Illiad" despite having a copy at home). And, like him, I've gone on to be a writer. I can understand the protaganist's annoyance and frustration at having a story rejected because I've been through that myself.
This book also offers a much more detailed slice of 1950's life than I recall from my first reading, though again, it was about twelve years ago. Even though my childhood happened 30 years after his, there's still a lot that I recognize, and I'm assuming the same is true for kids who are eleven or twelve now.
Ultimately I liked this book much better on my more recent reading and even more highly recommend it than before (even if I'm not sure about the grammar in that sentence).
This is a tale told in the first person of Mr. Picano's youth, from ages 10 to 13 and his many sexual encounters with both boys and girls. It is a time capsule of life of young teenagers in the fifties.
Unfortunately, the book is a slow tedious read and not Mr. Picano's best effort. His homosexual relationship with Richard Victor (Rickie) Hersch is genuine, and a marvel to read, but his heterosexual relationships with Susan Flaherty and Franny Solomon are tedious and not "real." One feels like the writer is working too hard to tell his story.
His prose is unorganized and jumps from the future to the past in an annoying way. His sense of self aggrandizement is at most boring and unbelievable.
To quote Mr. Picano: "...your first successful piece of writing is your best piece of writing--until you finally out achieve it with another piece of writing, terrifically new and phenomenally well done.' Ambidextrous IS NOT that piece....