Pratt, David. “Looking After Joey”, Wilde City Press, 2014.
Love, Laughter, Family of Choice and Fabulousness!
I used to detest the word fairy when it was used to separate us from the mainstream but now I have to renege a bit on the word since David Pratt gives us a fairy tale in his new novel, “Looking After Joey”. Calvin and Peachy are friends and they live in Chelsea, New York City. Because they are “older”, they tend to spend time remembering what it was like being young. The gay community is ageist to say the least and it is not easy fitting in when you become one of the guys you used to say no to. For some young men being old comes at 30 and those who are 40 and up move from the discos to the wrinkle rooms.
At 40 years old, Calvin, a CPA is really feeling his age. Peachy is a bit younger and he really does not say much about how he feels. Yet the two are best friends and have been for many years; they compliment and look out for each other. Now Calvin finds himself in a porn movie starring Rodd Packer who tempted him and he meets Joey Rhodes on the set. Joey just happens to be the man that Calvin lusts after and who comes into Calvin’s life by escaping through the TV. Calvin and Peachy see Joey’s visit from the TV be to be a chance for them to repair some old issues and a prelude to social climbing. Calvin wants to use Joey as a way to get back at Fred for a grudge that has lasted for fifteen years and Peachy sees Joey as a key to social advancement and then he and Calvin will be considered A-listers. Calvin sees Joey as a way to get at Fred who has a new young boyfriend named Jeffrey that he plans to introduce to the world on Labor Day at Fire Island. Jeffrey is a mystery man that no one knows anything about. It is up to Peachy to see that he and Calvin will be at Jeffrey’s unveiling.
Peachy gets busy locating all those who “owe him” and at the same time, Calvin has assumed the role of Joey’s tutor and teaches him to live in the real world. I could not help be reminded of “Pygmalion” as we read how Joey is transformed from being obsessed by porn to becoming a real person in this “The Purple Rose of Cairo” meets “My Fair Lady” meets gay porn. Joey listens to what Calvin and even Peaches have to say. Peaches teaches Joey the art of being fabulous and schools him musically, literarily and about all he needs to know. It is not easy teaching about fabulousness to someone who has no idea who Garland and Minnelli are. Joey is to make his grand arrival at a party hosted by Bunce van den Troell and time is of the essence.
I love what writer Pratt has done with the characters and I can only imagine how much fun he had creating these:
Doug—he loves Jesus and plaid probably equally and he also loves Joey. He works for a non-profit.
Desmond Norma— a somewhat bitter theatrical investor who loves young boys.
Stuart Bergman – a somewhat foul-mouthed publisher who says what he thinks when he thinks it without regard for anyone else.
Rounding out the characters are Fred, Bunce, Jeffrey, Jake Trouser and Eagle, a political activist and former porn star.
I was reminded of when I was in high school and everyone wanted to be on the A list only to discover when we got there that was an A plus list. Of course nothing here seems to go as planned and we soon find ourselves laughing aloud. David Pratt pokes fun at cheese and lube and love and porn but then we realize that there is a message here— and that is that life is just not always fair and that aging is filled with fear (as most of us already know). Pratt also has something to say about religion but it is what we all know but may not care to admit—it works for some and some of those people are good and vice versa (I haven’t used that in years). We must not exclude those we do not know because no one really knows what is on the inside. Beauty is dependent on opinion and we do not have the right to choose for others.
I have been a fan of David Pratt since his first book, “Bob the Book” and I told him that he would win the Lammie and he did. I am not making any such prediction this early but I will say that he has written another winner. The satire works wonderfully, the plot is engaging and the characters are delightful (that is important because this is a character driven novel). Sure, some of it is over the top but hyperbole is wonderful for making a point and Pratt makes his point while we are laughing with his story (notice “with” and not “at”). All of us suffer from some kind of feeling of inferiority but we learn to either live with it or sublimate it. We are also guilty of prejudging both others and ourselves and Pratt shows the danger in that. Sometimes we can learn a lot from a good laugh and that is the main reason I like this book so much. Pratt is a wordsmith and he knows just what to say—don’t take my word for it, meet Joey and find out for yourselves.