Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dust Devil on a Quiet Street, by Richard Bowes

Dust Devil on a Quiet Street is a sort of fictional memoir.  A lot of events appear to be true, but none of it is guaranteed to be.  Definitely the tone of the book is a memoir, more than a novel.  I guess it's OK as a form, but for me it kind of fell short.

Beyond being a memoir, Dust Devil is about gay life in Manhattan, with a strong element of reaction to the tragedy of 9/11.  Bowes poses himself as a self-effaced sort of man-about-town, hanging out with many great writers and getting some nominations but not ever quite enough to make a living at it.  Supernatural elements, mostly low key, are woven in as a natural component.  He sees things because he can.

While he does appear to have been around a lot of famous people, he seems to have changed the names for some of the central characters.  I can't verify Judy Finch (Judy Light, Judy Icon) as a rock singer or Barbara Lohr as a fantasy writer.

Bowes was a reference assistant at a New York university library for 30 years, and librarian personality has sort of infested this writing.  Certainly he didn't start out that way--mostly high, lots of racy scenes and risky sex, and close calls with death.  But it all seems kind of remote.

Many reviewers seem to find this book profound and moving, but really it just never got going for me.  Bowes is so very detached from his own life that it's hard for him to tell us why we should care about his adventures.  Certainly there's an exciting life story here, that leads to something--redemption, recognition--but we don't see it here.  I'm going to give it 3 stars, but I think I'm being generous.

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