Memoirist Stahl (Permanent Midnight) breaks into fiction with this sharp novel, which starts as a tale of wisecracking teenage malcontents and ends as blazing testament to the human ability to endure pain. The narrator, prematurely jaded 15-year-old Pennsylvania prep-schooler Bobby Stark, begins his saga on the night in 1970 when he loses his virginity. Two older boys introduce him to the local barber's compliant daughter, and they are enjoying her favors, gang-bang style, when they're discovered by her drunken fatherAwho brands Bobby with a tattoo. Expelled from school, Bobby returns to his native Pittsburgh and his pill-popping, alcoholic mother, who's inconsolable over the recent suicide of Bobby's father. Desperate to escape, Bobby spots Michelle Burnelka, a girl he's adored since kindergarten, singing Hare Krishna chants at the Pittsburgh airport. He tracks her down, learns that she is fleeing the cult, and the two decide to hitchhike to San Francisco. They travel first with an eccentric older couple, and then get a ride with Meat and Varnish, two predatory junkies who drug and trap the teens in their Lincoln Continental for a night of verbal, sexual and psychological abuse. This grim, drawn-out scene darkens the tone considerably after the sometimes glib buoyancy of the early chapters. Stahl spikes his protagonist's drug-addled adolescence with sardonic sagacity; his embodiments of middle-class despair (Bobby's mother), youthful ambiguous rebellion (Michelle) and sensitivity masked with sarcasm (Bobby) are lucid through the haze. But when excruciating brutality erupts, the novel goes haywire, nearly capsizing under the powerful horrors. However, Stahl pulls the story together with tender, erotic surprises and poignant emotional transformations. While the tale is risky in its darkness, and sometimes swerves into cartoonish violence, Bobby's honest voice pierces through the chaos and makes for a memorably harrowing journey. Author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
It was 1970. Woodstock was over, Nixon was in the White House, and the Vietnam War continued full steam ahead. This is the backdrop for Perv, Stahl's excellent first novel about adolescence, tacky sex, lots of drugs, and a horrifying cast of misfit parents and predatory adults. The early 1970s provides convenient wallpaper, but this book could be set any time in postwar America. Bobby Stark, the 16-year-old hero, finds himself back home in Pittsburgh after being thrown out of prep school. With the public schools on strike, he's stuck at home with his pill-popping mother and her creepy crowd of misfit boyfriends. A chance encounter with a grade-school acquaintance, a disenchanted Hare Krishna named Michelle, gives him a chance to go on the road and into even more perilous situations. This is black comedy at its darkest--alternately funny, poignant, and neurotically absurd. At some points, Stahl goes over the top, and his self-indulgence becomes painfully unpalatable. But overall, it's a worthwhile trip back into teenage nightmares. Ted LeventhalSee all Product Description
Yes, the writing is terrific. Stahl used his literary techniques extremely well here. But the story... ugh. Read morePublished on Aug. 2 2003 by Thea M. Ryan
Perv is a fantastic novel. Its funny, its filthy and most importantly, its sincere. Like a Catcher in the Rye for the 21st century (set, however, in the 70's), Perv takes an... Read morePublished on Jan. 15 2003 by Chris MB
I am so sick of chick books. This one is one of my favorite "boy books". It's a faster read than Philip Roth and just as dark, wrong and funny.Published on May 28 2002 by Jennifer Giles
Stahl can write a great sentence; he can set a good scene. The biggest problem with this novel is Stahl's relentless dependence on convenient coincidence to move his story... Read morePublished on April 17 2002
after i read the last page of this book i sat for like ten minutes and thought about the WHOLE book. The book made me think. Read morePublished on Dec 25 2001
This was a beach read -- after getting over the fact that other folks would probably wonder about someone reading a book titled Perv -- A Love Story, I rather enjoyed the book. Read morePublished on June 21 2001 by Carol C.
I tore through this book with an odd fascination for Bobby and his (mis)adventures. I knew that around every bend would lie another twisted yet intriguing character or scene. Read morePublished on May 28 2001 by Rick Otcasek