Quill

Neal Drinnan, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-312-26989-0
As prickly and treacherous as its title, Australian author Drinnan's latest (after Pussy's Bow) piles on the melodrama in a sassy tale of spite, deceit and jealous love Down Under. Bestselling author Elliot Barnard has just published his novel Je Louse, which, according to his ex-lover Blaise, ""weighed more than a corpse... heavier than an affair."" Elliot's roman clef intricately and illicitly details his past relationship with Blaise, with barely any effort spent on altering the names of those involved. The spicy tome, which Drinnan runs parallel to his own narrative, reveals how Elliot and Blaise's relationship deteriorated through mistrust and sleazy infidelities. Blaise forces himself to read it covertly, risking the wrath of his new boyfriend, Woodie, who's also perusing it on the sly. The hidden secrets and disloyalties now laid bare infuriate them both, exposing the flaws of their relationship, and a remorseful, manipulative Elliot suddenly returns from his hideaway on Long Island and woos a reluctant Blaise one last time. The book's second section fast-forwards to find Elliot's mother, Rose, at his funeral after he dies of AIDS; compared to the campy backbiting of the book's first half, this downshifting seems too abrupt and may dispirit some readers. But the emotional pull of Elliot's life and death (told in flashbacks and reminiscences) paired with the love and attention of the friends who flock around him give new life to his character. These poignant scenes are convincing, while Drinnan's finale is both revelatory and apposite. Froth and hyperbole abound, and Drinnan descends once too often into stereotype, but the author's hardcore fans and those with a penchant for punchy Australian lingo will find all the commotion amusing. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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