Sheeper (French) Paperback – 18 Aug 2004
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The narrator is supposed to be Sheeper, a gay teenboy, but there seem to be other narrators and letter writers, as well as an editor who intrudes once in a footnote. The main narrative voice seems to be much older and well-traveled. There is a huge gallery of minor characters (some actual, some fictional). It's a roman a clef, but with tricks. Is it possible that William Burroughs and Professor X are the same person? I would love to know if Charles the California playwright is a real person or at least a composite.
The prose is hardcore XXX-rated gay porn. An early paragraph about George Washington must be read to be believed! A later riff on Melville would have given one of my grad school professors (a Melville scholar) his heart attack years earlier had he read this in 1967. A passage about Jesus would probably lead to this book being burned if people knew of its existence.
If you want to know how the drugged-out queens partied and loved and shared pharmaceuticals in their squalid tenement apartments, but told to you in a brilliant shimmering prose-poetic style, you need to read this amazing novel.
The language is audacious, but there are many precedents. The intrusive narrator insults Burroughs, Bowles, and Gingsberg--not just their writing (without which Sheeper could never have been written), but the men themselves. For example, in Chapter 42, "Style," the narrator praises Naked Lunch only to dismiss the cut-up as a bad experiment later on. The book gets tiresome. A good editor might have taken out numerous repetitive chapters and scenes. There is too much pointless sex and drug-taking.
I loved Chapter 41 ("Mexican"). This chapter is filled with tenderness and beautiful language ("...he would wake from his nap just enough to raise the covers with one arm and beckon me, impatiently, with his hand."). Likewise, in Chapter 40, Sheeper differentiates between being in love or just having the hots for a man. "If you just have the hots for his body," he recommends not to have sex in order to "forestall that half minute after orgasm when the only bridge between two people has been blasted away, and you lie in a lonely annihilation, embarrassed and naked..."
In the chapter entitled "Fingers" there's a wonderful description of masturbation and a few lines that remind me of Frank O'Hara being channeled through Whitman:
"Do the great American forests invite the country boy to lie down on pine needles under a tree and jack off? No, they are impassive. They do not invite him and do not reproach him afterwards."
Sadly, the book (it does not read like a novel to me) fluctuates between lyrical passages about insects and unnecessarily vulgar descriptions of sex. I understand how daring some of text was in 1967. However, after reading Isherwood's work from the 50's, it is clear that other writers were successfully broaching queer liberation much earlier than Rosenthal without knocking anyone down in order to do it.
If I had never lived with Rosenthal, I might have a different opinion; however, his voice came through clearly in the text, and I could not separate the narrator from the man.
Manuel "Luna" Bello, Dec. 31, 2013
he like those days are long gone..the book lives on!