Larry Duplechan

Blackbird - LIttle Sisters Classics #6

Recently I’ve read somewhere that all coming-of-age stories are sort of “Catcher in the Rye”. Indeed “Blackbird” reminded me on the “Catcher” (it was mentioned in the book as well) but with one huge difference: I hated “Catcher in the Rye”; I’ve found Holden Caulfield as THE most irritating fictional character I’ve ever met. The conclusion might be that I hated “Blackbird” and its main character Johnnie Ray Rousseau as well. On the contrary: While I was reading “Blackbird” I couldn’t get rid of the feeling (as blasphemous as it probably is) that “this must what “Catcher in the Rye” supposed to be!”

It’s a YA novel with such a likable main character. Jonnie Ray is obsessed with pop culture and therefore I had a feeling that this book is an homage to music and film (or should I say movie?) industry of the mid 20th century. Of course that can’t be since the novel has been published 23 years ago. But the music references (after all the novel itself has been named after the song of The Beatles) made me doing little search since my knowledge wasn’t that high leveled.

“Blackbird” is so sentimental novel; the plot is simple but the language is beautiful. I was bursting out laughing in the public transport (and earned several strange who-still-reads-book-anyway looks); I simply love Duplechan’s sense for humour (which tells lot about me since the book is from 1986). I’ve read about the novel that it has character which I can’t agree more. He [Johnnie Ray] is so sincere when he talks about his emotions about people that he loves and about those he fantasize. His descriptions of longing, first touch and then sex are so real so honest, never augmented and never sensationalistic as if it was allowed you to peek thru the keyhole. They are just as they really are. You can really recognize the feeling. Of course regardless of the sexual orientation. Of course!!!

I almost forgot to mention that Jonnie Ray is homosexual which is not big deal, plus he’s black which is even more no big deal  but then one should keep in mind when the novel is published and the plot is settled in the mid 1970s in rigid Baptist American small town where “black boy can’t kiss a white girl” (parents would immediately send her on the other coast) and that image of small American town I liked a lot [not the town but the way it has been described]. I must say that the part when he came out to his parents was very moving, very sincere. The way his parents reacted and then how they decided to “solve the problem” with a little help from the youth minister of his church was nothing but scary; totally unbelievable. The way society handled with teen pregnancy, homo (and hetero) sexuality, religion, teen suicide, queer bashing, child abuse, has been described fantastically. It’s sad that those methods and that way of public thinking can be still found nowadays.

This was fast, easy and enjoyable read.
Little Sister’s Classics. is doing great job re-publishing novels that have left traits in gay/lesbian literature when it wasn’t easy publish books that have any drop of homoeroticism. Of course from present perspective you can even ask yourself why it was big deal to publish novel like this or even skip the fact that main character is homosexual (like I almost did with this one) but I presume that then, the they were pioneers. I really like appendixes that are included in these new “Little Sister’s Classics” editions with letter correspondence between author and publisher, reviews in newspapers when the novel has been published and interviews with the author. It helps a lot to the reader to create full picture about the time when novel appeared.