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Picture Achilles disguised as a auto mechanic, who "could get into polishing armor and stuff" but who thinks "rotating strangers' tires [gets] old pretty quickly." In this audacious retelling of the fall of Troy, Merlis (American Studies, LJ 8/94) constantly plays with the combination of ancient and modern, referring to television and the Vietnam War in the same sentences that mention sacrifices to the gods. The sharp and slyly witty narration consistently offers surprises. The thoroughly modern hero, Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles and a "hemidemigod," dreams of life in the "City," a gay mecca that could just as easily be 20th-century San Francisco as ancient Athens. He first appears dancing naked on a bar, making his living as a hustler and go-go boy. The story of his transformation as he is recruited to go to war and redefine himself is compelling and original, offering insights into modern gay life and identity. Highly recommended for all collections.Daniel Starr, Museum of Modern Art Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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In a boldly conceived narrative of uncommon artistry, the author of American Studies succeeds in making the implausible not only plausible but probable as he wryly juxtaposes contemporary icons and lingo with long-familiar schoolbook characters. Bringing to vivid life in the late 20th century figures from Greek mythology, Merlis tells the story of Achilles' gay 21-year-old son, Pyrrhus, and how he comes to embrace a destiny that takes him far beyond the urban gay ghettoand the half-hearted "job" of dancing nude and hustlingthat he's resigned himself to. One-quarter divine, Pyrrhus not only possesses extraordinary beauty and the world's most lustrous red hair, but his sense of himself is unflappable in the face of mere mortals whose truncated imaginations can't fathom gay love. Themes of destiny, the quest for personal truth, the nature of love and desire, even the very contemporary issue of gays in the military are explored in spectacularly imaginative style. In addition to his deft use of language and narrative technique, Merlis's insight into human naturethe nature of gay men in particularand his ability to find and articulate grace in the ordinary process of human exchange is remarkable. Among the many books written about AIDS and the gay experience, Merlis's novel is a stunning standout. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Merlis' American Studies (1994) won a couple of awards, and its successor is another winning work, an updated, alternative revision of the Iliad. Achilles' son, bar-dancing Phyrrus, is a restless young gay stud, hustling, waiting tables, and sitting around in his briefs watching TV in between, much to the discomfort of his roommate, the conservative Leucon. Phoenix, a eunuch retainer who has served the warriors in his family for years, comes to fetch the young man off to war and fulfill his prophesied destiny as the one who will claim victory. Not surprisingly, our hero is less than thrilled about giving up his soft lifestyle and urban depravity. But the dance job's coming to an end, and destiny is, after all, destiny in this smoothly written novel that so seamlessly merges the ancient and the contemporary that we never give a thought to anachronism. Merlis' craft and imagination will have readers gay and straight panting for more. --Whitney Scott