Rent Boy - Gary Indiana
Coming right after Closer, this book was just a bit too much for me, although I enjoyed it more than the Frisk. Told in a very punchy first person narrative, a young man writing down his experiences in letter form for an anonymous other person, the small book zings along. Danny (only one of his names) is a rent boy, a student of architecture and a waiter. As a waiter he meets a succession of New York’s celebrities. As a rent boy he fulfils their desires—however extreme. What is it about scat? Is it becoming fashionable or something so that a book isn’t cool without mentioning it? Danny has become immune to the depravity and decadence of his clients, finding no request too extreme until through a friend he finds himself involved in an organ stealing scam.
What I’m finding increasing interesting about the books we’ve read recently is the very real danger of drugs they present. Every single character in Rent Boy is doing drugs, and the nihilism stems directly from this. It was very evident in Closer, too. Do the drugs take away moral certainties, or are these people missing something to start with and then seek to fill that emptiness with drugs? The tale is obsessed with human cavities being filled with sex or drugs or emptied out with repugnant acts or stolen organs.
Although you find out almost nothing about the man Danny is writing to, you get the impression that he loved Danny but couldn’t cope with the life he lead—wanted him to see just how depraved it was, thus getting him to write it down in minute detail and send him the letters. Danny does have a glimmer of conscience towards the end of the novel and tries to redeem himself. But in a world of dog-eat-dog, his act of kindness backfires.
The theme of organ theft is neatly woven into the tale—an ironic final hollowing out of these very hollow people.
Not a pleasant read, but it’s quite sexy in places and weirdly compulsive in others.
This book wasn’t at all what I expected. An easy read (less than an afternoon) it’s the story of 25 year-old Danny (well, that’s one of the names he goes by) a New York hustler, who is also a student of architecture and part-time waiter at the Emerson Club. If at times you don’t have a clue what it’s about, stick with it because it doesn’t matter. Nothing is what it seems.
Danny gives us information on a need to know basis. As the story goes on it becomes clear he is addressing someone through a series of letters, written about everyday life and experiences. He’s a slippery character, though engaging. Reading the book is like a long chat with a fascinating friend.
The writing reminded me of James Robert Baker, frenetic, packed with detail, stream of consciousness narration that left me dizzy. It begins like it’s going to be a love story then turns into a very dark thriller about organ stealers and crooked businessmen, rather like the B movies Danny likes. Throw a bit of Dennis Cooper into the mix as well and you’ll have some idea what you get.
There’s a lot of good sex, though Danny says fucking bores him most of the time and he’d rather have an ice cream. I wonder if there’s an element of Boy George and the cup of tea there, something said because it sounds clever not because it’s how he really feels.
Danny is involved with Chip, another hustler who is always scheming to get out, except he’s been whoring since he was 16 and doesn’t know anything else. A lot of what Danny says and does will be familiar if you’ve read HUSTLING.
Danny’s stories of clients and their sexual predilections are entertaining, though sometimes squicky. His apparent honesty about his life sucks you in. Then you remember he’s a hustler, a professional image merchant.
Though Danny is gay, I wouldn’t say this is a gay book. Like the movie Dusk Til Dawn it lurches from one genre to another, not entirely successfully, but I would definitely read more from Indiana.