Venus as a Boy

Venus as a Boy

by Luke Sutherland
     
 

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A novel of extraordinary power from a writer to watch.
In a small flat in London, a young man is turning to gold. But before he dies, before his skin and eyes and tongue harden into a golden death mask, he wants to share the amazing story of his life. Born and raised on the barren Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland, his childhood is a brutal one, devoid of…  See more details below

Overview

A novel of extraordinary power from a writer to watch.
In a small flat in London, a young man is turning to gold. But before he dies, before his skin and eyes and tongue harden into a golden death mask, he wants to share the amazing story of his life. Born and raised on the barren Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland, his childhood is a brutal one, devoid of tenderness. It is a miracle when he meets Tracy, falls in love, and discovers his true gift: the merest touch of him is enough to induce visions of angels and orchids. The physical heights he is able to reach-and to which he can bring others-go far beyond any normal sensual pleasure. Armed with this inexplicable talent, he makes his way to London, where he falls in with a group of teens forced to make a living on the street.
Luke Sutherlands modern-day myth about the power of love veers from stratosphere to gutter, from visions of heaven to the all-too-mortal yearning for even one glimpse of it. With Venus as a Boy Sutherland has written a moving, poetic novel that manages to imbue the harsh realities of life on the street with a mesmerizing and ethereal beauty.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After a hard life punctuated by moments of beauty, a young man finds himself turning to gold in this gritty and sometimes gorgeous novel, Sutherland's third but his first published in the U.S. D grows up in Scotland's Orkney Islands, a stark, treeless landscape of "more rabbits than people. And more importantly, no police." Tormented by his schoolmates ("shitty little two-faced bastards") but friends with almost all of the girls, D, along with his first "soul mate" Finola, is brutally beaten. Later, palling around with the same tough who thrashed him, he turns two-faced himself-tormenting a black boy and betraying "the people who mattered" most. But he also discovers his amazing gift: he can give people sexual pleasure unlike anything they've previously experienced. Tracy, his first love, calls him Cupid; D himself sees visions of stars and angels. When Tracy refuses his proposal of marriage, D leaves Orkney and becomes a hotel dishwasher, where he begins loving up anyone-male or female-he encounters. "I got fond of bringing folks to their knees," he says. Those he touches weep with desire and release: "Healing hands. The Second Coming. God's gift. I've heard it all." But can D-who goes by Desiree in drag-find true love in his own harsh and drug-addled life? Alt-musician Sutherland is a cultural darling in the U.K. (Jelly Roll, his debut, was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award), but American audiences may find that as the book progresses, the sublime inches toward the merely sensational. (Mar.) Forecast: Sutherland's musical reputation-he leads the Scottish trip-hop collective Bows and has collaborated with Mogwai and Long Fin Killie-should help draw in the right kind of audience for this book, which could be a modest cult hit. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
For a hot-blooded, romantic outsider, growing up wild in the remote Orkney Islands north of Scotland leads to living wild in London-as a sex worker. In his US debut, Sutherland-himself a native Orcadian-plays for us the life-story, on tape, of a fellow Orcadian dying in London. The first and stronger half of the book is set in Orkney, where D's life is bleak: Violence at home (his dad); violence on the school bus; violence at school itself. Worse yet, to curry favor with the "shitty little two-faced bastards" he hangs out with, he puts himself down and revels in their sickening humiliation of a black kid. But there are bright moments, as when he becomes friendly with Finola-until he fails to protect her from rampaging thugs and she leaves the island (he wears her abandoned knickers to console himself). He has a brief erotic encounter, at age 12, with a Danish parachutist. And then there's Tracy, his one real love: sex with her sparks visions of orchards and angels, visions he'll pass on to all his future sex partners. When she rejects him, he leaves for the mainland to work as a dishwasher and pleasure his coworkers and hotel guests indiscriminately, for D is tri-sexual (as in the old joke: he'll try anything sexual). He bares his soul in a voice that is edgy and compelling, but much of that edge disappears in the novel's London half, where D joins a "crew of queens" in a "knocking shop" run by Radu, a former neo-Nazi from Romania. It should all be juicy, but it isn't; Sutherland works better with a smaller canvas. Between the deluge of drugs and the distractions of the London scene (much voyeurism through a telescope), the clarity of vision fades and is swallowed up in melodrama.Sutherland captures the violence and desperation of the marginalized: that's where his strength, and promise, lies.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596919167
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
12/18/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
1,034,801
File size:
510 KB

Meet the Author

Luke Sutherland grew up in the Orkney Islands. He is the author most recently of Sweetmeat, and his first novel, Jelly Roll, was shortlisted for the 1999 Whitbread First Novel Award. He has never before been published in the U.S. He is also known for his musical collaborations with bands such as Mogwai and Long Fin Killie, and for his personal music project, Bows.
Luke Sutherland is a writer and musician. He grew up in the Orkneys and now lives in London. He is the author of two other novels, Jelly Roll, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award, and Sweetmeat.

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