Kelly Dessaint was born and raised in Los Angeles. A veteran of the small press, he currently lives in Oakland with his wife and three cats. He publishes the zine Piltdownlad.
A Masque of Infamyby Kelly Dessaint
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A Masque of Infamy is a ribald story of teenage rebellion and survival. After moving from Los Angeles to small town Alabama in 1987 with his father, his younger brother and this guy Rick, a friend of the family, Louis tries to fit in at the local high school, but the Bible-thumpers and the rednecks don’t take too kindly to his outlandish wardrobe and burgeoning punk attitude. At home, he defies the sadistic intentions of Rick, who tries to rule the household with an iron fist. As Louis is about to be shipped off to military school, he stumbles upon indisputable proof that will free him and his brother from Rick’s tyranny. But just when he thinks his troubles are over, he’s locked up in the adolescent ward of a mental hospital, where he must fight the red tape of the system to save himself, Joey and maybe even his dream of being a punk rocker.
“Kelly Dessaint twists the horror of growing up in a highly dysfunctional American family into a hilarious tale of survival. Detailing the trauma of being institutionalized as a teenager after having taken revenge against an abusive father figure, A Masque of Infamy is a story about stubbornly overcoming the odds to live long enough to tell the truth about just how shitty it is to be a kid in this country.” – Lydia Lunch
“A Masque of Infamy captures the screaming, up-from-the-toes intensity and torment of the United States of Adolescence. No one who reads this book will be left unchanged by its savage and unforgiving beauty.” – Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight
"...hypnotizing... complex, multi-faceted, uncensored, honest-yet 'creatively (and invisibly) engineered' to provide a compelling narrative that I didn’t want to put down…" – V. Vale, Re/Search
“A Masque of Infamy is my kind of book! A no-bullshit novel – the type that reels the reader directly in with smooth passages, gritty dialogue and countless references to rock ‘n’ roll culture. The world needs less syrupy-sweet superficial feel-good yarns and more stories of surviving the human condition. Dessaint delivers.” - Wes Funk, author of Dead Rock Stars
“The overwhelming rawness of Kelly Dessaint’s story about children attempting to navigate a world completely fucked up by adults is like a punch to the chest.” – Davida Gypsy Breier, Xerography Debt
- Phony Lid Books
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- Barnes & Noble
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 1 MB
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I genuinely enjoyed this novel. The story is pretty heavy, but I like that the author decided to approach it from an almost humorous perspective of a rebellious teenager. I would imagine that it was truly how he felt at the time. We often don't realize the extent of the emotional wounds we have suffered in our childhood until much, much later in life. Kelly Dessaint’s approach to telling his story helped humanize even the vilest characters in the book, showing the reader the complexity of "a villain," who could be both a person we despise and admire, as well as the complexity of the "hero” or an "anti-hero,” in Louis Baudrey's case. He is often selfish, disrespectful and manipulative. But it’s hard not to become enamored with this smart ass, utterly lovable punk. This book explores a different type of "normal." The kind of normal that is really horrifying and foreign to a lot of us. It reminds us that the world we live is neither black nor white, but rather composed of bleak shades of gray. With occasional tiny glimmers of hope.
A Masque of Infamy is an autobiographical novel, a coming of age story out of the horrors of child abuse. The dialogue is raw and rough, the characters are very real. Kelly Dessaint has crafted his story so the reader keenly feels Louis and Joey's confusion, frustration, fear, and anger as they experience it. I was trying to figure out what the system was doing as the boys were being processed and moved around. And the real story, the one Louis doesn't allow himself to tell for so long, is slowly revealed through his time in the hospital. It explains his feelings and behavior, and makes his story less about teenage rebellion and more about a desperate search for some, any, semblance of stability. I was far more disgusted and horrified at the boys' family situation than they were, and found their somewhat casual feelings toward the adults in their lives horrifying. Whenever a novel contains a child abuse theme, you know it isn't going to be an easy read. But seeing just how easily children can be manipulated by their abusers was so difficult. I was surprised and even a little angry that the story ended when it did. I felt invested in these characters, and didn't want the novel to end before I could find out whether or not they were really okay. Louis develops into a confident, capable young man, but I was still worried about Joey and wanted to know how he fared. The trepidation I'm left with speaks to how well Dessaint connects readers with his characters' intensely desperate situation. And despite the fact that there wasn't a neat and tidy ending, I was left with a good deal of hope.