Author:Barry Stewart Levy

Publisher:Create Space


Very much in the tradition of literary existentialism, Mr. Levy has created a familiar but nonetheless fascinating lost soul searching for life’s true meaning through the relentless pursuit of pleasure without much direction from any moral compass.

The principal character of European Son, who coyly refuses to disclose his name, speaks in the first person. His story is told in choppy “chapters” which in turn are divided into even shorter sections. One such “chapter” consists of a single sentence, albeit a compound/complex one; another is comprised of a single simple sentence repeated dozens of times. Bits of poetry are sprinkled here and there as well.

The novella’s action alternates between present and past and bounces among the United States, Amsterdam, and finally France—where else?-- like pieces of a puzzle akin to the model-less jigsaw puzzle which occupies some of the players at one point. This highly fragmented narrative technique works well in maintaining reader interest throughout this short and stylish work.

The book’s “hero” is as compelling as a loose tooth. He’s irritating, but you can’t ignore or fail to be fascinated by him. Orphaned and adopted, he joins a “sister” already in residence, with whom he develops a tortured and gripping relationship. His sexual ambidexterity is well expressed as he fits easily into, and sometimes generates romantic triangles, in one case acting as a kind of pro bono pimp. On two occasions, he shows an inaptitude for drowning and both he and his sister approach bondage half-heartedly, binding only one ankle and one wrist of their respective playmates. And let’s not forget to mention that our European son is both a voyeur and narcissist. (Indeed, there may be some plain creatures on the Riviera, but none finds any place of importance in this novella.) He’s also a murderer, but only in italics.

The narrative is cadenced, airy, and very much on the minimalist side. No scene comes even close to wearing out its welcome. My only cavils were the author’s use of the exactly reverse expression, “We could have cared less” to express acute indifference and turning the noun “cup” into a verb when describing the fondling of a female breast. This “cupping” thing is ubiquitous in romance novels, which can’t hold a candle to Mr. Levy’s work. On the other hand, I found dropping coins in lieu of a handkerchief to attract a target’s attention absolutely charming.

If one is looking for confirmation that heroic good looks don’t guarantee happiness, and if one is not turned off by the longeurs of nouvelle vague films, European Son will deeply satisfy.

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