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Perv---a Love Story [Hardcover]

Jerry Stahl
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 4 1999
Set in 1970 -- the last, dark days of hippiedom, when everyone was high -- Perv is the story of Bobby Stark, a sixteen-year-old bundle of angst and hormones who loses his virginity in a drug-addled tryst with a one-armed barber's daughter. His best friend, Tennie Toad, rats him out, and Bobby gets kicked out of prep school and shipped to Pittsburgh to live with his mom, a sozzled electroshock aficionado who still can't get over the insult of Bobby's father's suicide-by-streetcar. After myriad weird encounters with his mother's "dates," Bobby flees the horrors of Mom's condo and hooks up with Michelle, the girl of his dreams, a lapsed Hare Krishna-ette he's known since kindergarten. The couple decides, in the spirit of the times, to hitch to San Francisco. But before they make mile one, they're picked up by a pair of Bad Hippies -- Meat and Varnish -- spiritual cousins to Charles Manson. The adventure gets harrowing, as the duo narrowly escape rape, vanquish their assailants, and stagger from Meat's hell-fueled Lincoln Continental transformed, traumatized, and ready, of all things, to fall in love.

Set in 1970 -- the last, dark days of hippiedom, when everyone was high--Perv is the story of Bobby Stark, a sixteen-year-old bundle of angst and hormones who loses his virginity in a drug-addled tryst with a one-armed barber's daughter. His best friend, Tennie Toad, rats him out, and Bobby gets kicked out of prep school and shipped to Pittsburgh to live with his mom, a sozzled electroshock aficionado who still can't get over the insult of Bobby's father's suicide-by-streetcar. After myriad weird encounters with his mother's "dates," Bobby flees the horrors of Mom's condo and hooks up with Michelle, the girl of his dreams, a lapsed Hare Krishna-ette he's known since kindergarten. The couple decides, in the spirit of the times, to hitch to San Francisco. But before they make mile one, they're picked up by a pair of Bad Hippies -- Meat and Varnish -- spiritual cousins to Charles Manson. The adventure gets harrowing, as the duo narrowly escape rape, vanquish their assailants, and stagger from Meat's hell-fueled Lincoln Continental transformed, traumatized, and ready, of all things, to fall in love.

Set in 1970--the last, dark days of hippiedom, when everyone was high--Perv is the story of Bobby Stark, a sixteen-year-old bundle of angst and hormones who loses his virginity in a drug-addled tryst with a one-armed barber's daughter. His best friend, Tennie Toad, rats him out, and Bobby gets kicked out of prep school and shipped to Pittsburgh to live with his mom, a sozzled electroshock aficionado who still can't get over the insult of Bobby's father's suicide-by-streetcar. After myriad weird encounters with his mother's "dates," Bobby flees the horrors of Mom's condo and hooks up with Michelle, the girl of his dreams, a lapsed Hare Krishna-ette he's known since kindergarten. The couple decides, in the spirit of the times, to hitch to San Francisco. But before they make mile one, they're picked up by a pair of Bad Hippies--Meat and Varnish--spiritual cousins to Charles Manson. The adventure gets harrowing, as the duo narrowly escape rape, vanquish their assailants, and stagger from Meat's hell-fueled Lincoln Continental transformed, traumatized, and ready, of all things, to fall in love.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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.

From Booklist

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 Leventhal

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh, Jerry Stahl, Jerry Stahl... May 9 2004
Format:Paperback
I guess I liked this.... I guess? I'm just kind of confused. I mean, I didn't not like it, but it wasn't the best. I suppose I was just a bit disappointed after reading Permanent Midnight and then reading this. Permanent Midnight was SO good! It was SO good, and after I finished, I couldn't wait to get my unsanitary hands all over another one of Mr. Stahl's books. So I bought this one. I don't know, it was okay. I just think he could've done better.
I just didn't really like a couple of the characters. Tennie Toad was stupid. I didn't like that kid. I wanted to smack him around and call him Penny and ask "Do ya lak that?" Hahaha. I didn't like either of the Schmidlaps. Mr. S. reminded me of this psycho old guy that is stalking me over the internet. I can imagine them to have the same voice. And they both seem like drunken idiots.
I did like the ending. It wasn't what you'd expect or anything. It wasn't a happy, happy ending, but it wasn't sad. It was just fine. Well, it was kind of sad. I don't know. And this book was very interesting. I think I finished it in about a day and a half; it usually takes me a 1.5 or 2 weeks to complete a book, for I never seem to make time. I am such a busy girl! Anyway, the good does outweigh the bad.
So, if you want to read this AND Permanent Midnight, read this first. You will enjoy this so much better, and your reading adventures will be much more exciting and fulfilling, or something.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing like being smacked in the head... March 3 2004
By jmz
Format:Hardcover
Perv: A Love Story does just that. You have to get through three quarters of the book to understand what I'm talking about, but you'll get it. You think the beginning is shocking? You think anything in the middle is disturbing? Just wait until the end. Based on the graphic details of what occurs to Bobby and Michelle with their, let's call them, captors, I can only assume Mr. Stahl has been there and done that.
Overall, it was a funny and sad story, but I don't think Stahl wants us to feel sorry for the main character. As stated in the book at some point, there's empathy and there's sympathy. I think Stahl wants us to empathize with the characters but to just stand back a minute and not get too close.
Recommended for those that aren't uptight. If you are, you won't even get through the first couple of pages.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wow writing, yucky story! Aug. 2 2003
Format:Paperback
Yes, the writing is terrific. Stahl used his literary techniques extremely well here. But the story... ugh. As a learning experience in different styles of writing, this book is a winner. If you're reading for a good story, pick something else. This one is gruesome and violent.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stahl - Perv: A Love Story Jan. 15 2003
Format:Paperback
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 honest look at adolescence, the perils of family life, and the tail end of the days of hippies and free love. Stahl obviously has talent and he uses it well here.
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2.0 out of 5 stars big disapointment June 26 2002
Format:Paperback
I absolutely loved Jerry Stahl's memoir "permanent midnight". I wanted it to go on and on, and after completing it, I actually reread the last 20 pages twice! That was the first Stahl work I came across, and I was excited to read some of his fiction, although I was also a bit apprehensive, thinking "okay, the guy wrote a good memoir, but can the guy write fiction?" Well, I came across this book, and read a comment on the back by James Ellroy, claiming that "Jerry Stahl is the hipster american bard". So I checked it out.
Perv was disappointing from the very beginning to the very end. There is way too much "hipster", and not enough "bard". The writing and plot here are simply lazy; it's painfully obvious that the guy spent no time thinking about a little thing that I like to call "the story". It's just several "scenes" that are loosely tied together. I kept waiting for the action to pick up, at least a little bit, just a taste; but whenever it was about to get going, Stahl would go into endless streams of internal dialogue that served no other purpose than to establish the narrator's hipster cred. And if you've read Permanent Midnight, it's clear that the narrator here is just Stahl himself. It's like the guy can't get enough of himself and his role as cool outsider.
My guess is that Stahl thought out the big 70 page "climax" (for lack of a better word), and then loosely added some other scenes around it. Whatever the approach was, it's a poor excuse for a story. I think that the guy really believes his own "hype" as being a "cool" writer... and apparently other people do to; I read somewhere that Ben Stiller actually bought the movie rights to this!!! That is beyond me; you'd have to be Shakespeare's illegitimate son to turn this into a cohesive theatrical release.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wrong is so right. May 28 2002
Format:Paperback
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.
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