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Sheeper (French) Paperback – 18 Aug 2004

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars 5 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dazzling gorgeous glittering sewage 8 Mar. 2013
By adorian - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This 1967 fantasia deserves more current-day fame and acclaim than it has. It is a fascinating mixture of hallucinatory gay sex and insect imagery. "Insex"? Our narrator smokes roaches; he studies the many roaches in his apartment. The connection is obvious. If it weren't for drugs and insects, there wouldn't be much about which to rhapsodize. How does our Author do it? Take the Beat writers (Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Paul Bowles, Jack Smith), add some Genet and Whitman, and throw in heavy doses of the drugs of the 60s (LSD, peyote, pot, cocaine, heroin) and lots of prescription drugs, and you will end up fueling this glamorous, delirious stream-of-(sub)conciousness writing with its constant colorful visions.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plotless, Derivative, Campy, Bitchy 31 Dec. 2013
By Manuel A Bello - Published on
I lived with Rosenthal in the mid-eighties at Kaliflower on Shotwell Street in San Francisco. While I lived at the commune, Rosenthal wrote and published a series of short sketches in the commune's magazine (Kaliflower). These were disparaging portraits that were thinly veiled attacks on people who had gotten on Rosenthal's bad side. I found the same bitchy/gossipy style in Sheeper.
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
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Fear The Sheeper! 9 Aug. 2014
By Ronald V. Palmer Jr. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pure genius! Uncanny. Captures a lost language --hip/hep 1960s -- a decade fraught with gender f&@k & dire political scavaging; Rosenthal is the unsung hero of the 20th century queer novel. As acutely visual as John Horne Burns in his seminal book "The Gallery", Rosenthal doesn't flinch or squirm or hide anything. His talent for capturing the queer mind at work in this thinly veiled autobiographical novel with Ginsberg (of course he's here as well, omnipresent as cola cola) showing up vaguely disguised as a hounding poet; there's NYC without decoration; there's 'trade' sex without censuring; there's real thoughts about his repulsive parents. Astoundingly fresh half a century later, the mercurial Sheeper pulses off the page and lives inside you.
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the greatest American books 18 Aug. 2013
By James Tressler - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book, with praise from Burroughs himself, ranks as one of the loveliest books in the American language. Now that it is available in French it can be justifiably compared to Madame Bovary.
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars HE WAS DIFFERENT 7 Dec. 2008
By K. Gleason - Published on
Format: Hardcover
HE irv...was the head of a commune called KALIFLOWER in san fran back in the had to be there!
he like those days are long gone..the book lives on!
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