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Rat Bohemia
     

Rat Bohemia

by Sarah Schulman
 

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“More persuasively than any other contemporary novelist, Sarah Schulman traces the ways in which the disenfranchisement that begins as a political evil pervades every aspect of life, from the metaphysical and spiritual to the most intimate moments of two people together.”—Tony Kushner

“My surrender to Rat Bohemia is a testimonial to

Overview

“More persuasively than any other contemporary novelist, Sarah Schulman traces the ways in which the disenfranchisement that begins as a political evil pervades every aspect of life, from the metaphysical and spiritual to the most intimate moments of two people together.”—Tony Kushner

“My surrender to Rat Bohemia is a testimonial to its gimlet-eyed accuracy, its zero-degree honesty. . . . [It blows] the traditional novel off its hinges.”—Edmund White, The New York Times Book Review

First published in 1995, this award-winning novel is a bold, achingly honest story set in the “rat bohemia” of New York City, whose huddled masses include gay men and lesbians abandoned by their families and forced to find new bonds with one another in the wake of this loss. Navigating the currents of the city are three friends: Rita Mae, a rat exterminator; Killer, a career plant-waterer; and David, an HIV-positive writer. Together, they seek new ways to be truthful and honest about their lives as others around them avert their glances. Alternately elegiac, defiant, and funny, Rat Bohemia is an expansive novel about how one can cope with loss and heal the wounds of the past by reinventing oneself in the city.

Rat Bohemia won the Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction and was named one of the “100 Best Gay and Lesbian Novels of All Time” by the Publishing Triangle.

Sarah Schulman is the author of eleven books, including the novel The Child (2006). She lives in New York.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Parental abandonment is the theme of this dreary tale of gay and lesbian life on the edge in New York City. Rita Mae Weems, whose father kicked her out at the age of 16, still hears the disappointment in his voice when she phones him years later. She works as a rat exterminator for the city's Department of Health, and everywhere she looks she sees decay and vermin, both human and animal. Her friend David, a young writer dying of AIDS, spends his last months mourning his dead lover and his dead friends and meditating on why his parents hate him. Pondering the narrow boundaries of parental love, he observes that ``they're glad we're dying... really they're relieved.'' Killer, their chronically unemployed friend, is more philosophical, if also more simplistic. ``We're bohemians,'' she says proudly. ``We don't have those dominant cultural values.'' Indeed, these three would refuse to fit into the mainstream, even if the mainstream were generous. And they're united in their scorn of Muriel Kay Starr, a lesbian writer who ``moved to another neighborhood and got closer to power'' and wrote a closeted novel called Good and Bad, in which they (David, Killer and Rita) appear as characters. For no apparent reason, Schulman (Empathy) tacks on, as an ``appendix,'' the first four chapters of Good and Bad. Very little binds this ``appendix'' to the four other sections that comprise the novel; in fact, very little, other than the presence of the principal characters and a theme of resentment of parents, binds the other four sections to each other. Only the dying David, ironically, seems alive, animated by his rage at his impending death. His loneliness and eloquent anguish only partially salvage this meandering tale of a city so befouled that it leaves the reader wishing for a bath. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Schulman's continuing chronicle of contemporary gay and lesbian life (e.g., Empathy, LJ 11/1/92) resonates with depth and emotion as she focuses on the lives of three individuals abandoned by their parents because of their homosexuality. David is an HIV-positive activist and writer coping with both his illness and the rejection of his parents. Rita is a rat exterminator for New York City, a streetwise lesbian whose father threw her out at the age of 16. Killer is a professional plant waterer, looking for a lover to replace the family whose rigid, old-world morality cannot bend to encompass a lesbian daughter. Using rats as a metaphor for the spread of disease, the ugliness of human behavior, and the deterioration of civility in general, Schulman creates a heroine who gamely goes after the rats one by one, refusing to cede her city to its population in the same way that she refuses to compromise her values to accommodate straight society. Because of the author's gifted ear for dialog and witty repartee, the novel is not only a poignant cry for understanding from a community that has had to reinvent family in order to survive emotionally but also a dense and vital portrait of life on the fringes of society. Highly recommended.-Andrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, Kan.
Edmund White
"My surrender to Rat Bohemia is...a testimonial to its dimlit-eyed accuracy, its zero-degree honesty....The force of [Schulman's] indignation is savage and has blown the traditional novel off its hinges." -- New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781551522357
Publisher:
Arsenal Pulp Press, Limited
Publication date:
04/01/2008
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
1,078,783
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

What People are Saying About This

Mark Doty
"Funny...and full of rea news about American life."

Meet the Author


Sarah Schulman is the author of eleven previous books, including eight novels, the latest being The Child (2006). As a journalist, her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, and Interview. She has won a Guggenheim Fellowship and two American Library Association Gay & Lesbian Book Awards. She lives in New York.

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