Floriane: Stages of Love

Liston Pope, Author Mantis Press $24.95 (310p) ISBN 978-0-9638900-3-0
Composed of letters the artist Thaddeus Floriani (aka Floriane) writes to his childhood friend, Newell Gilbert, this overwrought novel documents Floriane's life from 1965, when he leaves Yale to study art in Paris, until his death from AIDS in 1980. Floriane tells of his rapid rise to the top of the New York art scene, the Warhol-esque bacchanalia attendant upon his success and his eventual retreat from that heady milieu. Perhaps in a failed attempt at camp, Pope (Living Like the Saints, 1997) makes Floriane's prose as tiresome and pompous as his life is improbable: when his mother yells at him, ""She thundered, erupted, hissed her maternal lava down on the Pompeii of my noble aspirations."" The artist contracts HIV after being raped by a Mafia-connected transvestite with ties to his stepfather. The rape scene, in which Floriane discovers ""the joys of passive femininity"" as he is ""ridden to locomotive ecstasy,"" is outdone only by his mother's unwilling participation in a gay bathhouse orgy--she goes in to bathe, but the men inside mistake her for an elderly post-operative transsexual. Gay readers will find little to connect with in this ostensibly ""gay"" novel; straight readers looking for an account of the heady pre-AIDS world of art, glamour and excess in New York are advised to look elsewhere. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Genre: Fiction
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