The Boys Across the Street

Rick Sandford, Author
Rick Sandford, Author Faber & Faber $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-571-19960-0
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Sandford's first and only novel (he died in 1995) is set on and around Hollywood's Alta Vista Boulevard, in 1991, with narrator/protagonist Rick Sandford, 40, presenting the superficially outrageous dynamic that is the book's foundation. A gay former porn star, Rick now works sporadically as a film and TV stand-in, and lives across the street from a Hasidic boys' school. His first encounter with two preteen students (Isaac and Moshe) from the yeshiva begins the narrative with an off-hand metaphysical exchange, quickly turning to a frankly sexual discussion in which Rick describes gay sex, shows the boys a porn mag starring himself and reveals his erotic fascination with Jewish men. Between eyeing the boys and shocking them with his lusty talk, Rick becomes curious about orthodox Judaism. Most days, Rick props himself on a canvas chair in front of his apartment building, and with dictionary and binoculars in hand, conspicuously (usually shirtlessly) observes the boys. Rick is not Jewish; he's an atheist, and his obsession is unabashedly pedophilic. He also hopes to be a writer, so he transcribes all the encounters with the Hasidic boys into stories and eventually a novel that he calls, unsurprisingly, The Boys Across the Street. Rick's ""study of Judaism,"" leads him to buy and wear a yarmulke, ""tsitzis,"" and formal hat, ostensibly making a statement about Orthodox edicts against homosexuality, but these gestures are more self-aggrandizing than enlightening, and Rick seems confused about what exactly he's trying to prove about religion and sexuality. While Sandford's premise--interrogating religion and presenting the conflicting perspectives of two historically hated groups--is interesting, the book never delivers what it promises. (Feb.)
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