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Boulevard    by Jim Grimsley order for
by Jim Grimsley
Order:  USA  Can
Algonquin, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Boulevard follows the experiences of a charming and relatively innocent country boy who has come from Pastel, Alabama to seek his fortune in 1976 New Orleans. The very inexperienced Newell is open to all that the city has to offer, probably too open. He lands a job at an adult bookstore, cruises the gay bars, and, intoxicated by all the images around him, begins to experiment with a new lifestyle.

The story builds slowly with Newell's establishment in the French Quarter and his daily life until he forms a brief relationship with a young man, Mark who is obsessed by an ancestor's Paris encounter with the Marquis de Sade, and with the New Orleans Lalaurie family whose mistress tortured her slaves. Mark introduces Newell to acid. He has dangerous friends, in particular Jack who quickly develops a predatory interest in Newell, leading to an abrupt ending.

The latter part of the story seemed at times disjointed, though held together by the observations of 'the world's ugliest transsexual, Miss Sophia'. I found him/her a very sympathetic character, who 'could almost see himself as if he were outside himself, and the spectacle he made, the wig and dress and boa, the shoes, the purse, the liquor, the walk, the whole parade, that gave him a feeling of soaring over all the rest of these people ...'.

Though Miss Sophia is sadly engaging and the city nightlife comes alive through the author's sentences, Boulevard is definitely not a novel for all tastes. Read it for an empathetic perspective on the 70's gay experience in New Orleans.

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