The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens
There was always more than a touch of the picaresque in John Rechy’s novels. Those first ones especially, the ones by which most readers will remember him—City of Night (1963) and Numbers (1967)—were episodic romps through an erotic underworld many readers had never experienced in legitimate fiction before. Certainly the subject matter was arresting (the graphic depictions of homosexual encounters and the dubious terrain of male prostitution); but it really was the pace of if all that created the energy, that driving, obsessive pull of sex reflected in the rush of events, the parade of characters, the breathless narrative. That same energy is stamped all over Rechy’s new tale, another characteristic account of a young man’s journey in search of love and identity.
Every reviewer will surely be tempted to invoke Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749) and use the adjective raucous or rollicking in doing so. It is an understandable, even irresistible temptation, because The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens consciously harks back to that “rollicking” eighteenth century narrative of a bastard who takes to the road, fighting past the obstacles of a society stacked against him to emerge his own man. It is the perennial story of the outsider, the innocent eye through which the hypocrisy and affectation of contemporary society are registered and exposed. Like Fielding, Rechy embraces this traditional material with...
(The entire section is 469 words.)