VENUS AS A BOY
After a hard life punctuated by moments of beauty, a young man finds himself turning to gold in this gritty and sometimes gorgeous novel, Sutherland's third but his first published in the U.S. D grows up in Scotland's Orkney Islands, a stark, treeless landscape of "more rabbits than people. And more importantly, no police." Tormented by his schoolmates ("shitty little two-faced bastards") but friends with almost all of the girls, D, along with his first "soul mate" Finola, is brutally beaten. Later, palling around with the same tough who thrashed him, he turns two-faced himself—tormenting a black boy and betraying "the people who mattered" most. But he also discovers his amazing gift: he can give people sexual pleasure unlike anything they've previously experienced. Tracy, his first love, calls him Cupid; D himself sees visions of stars and angels. When Tracy refuses his proposal of marriage, D leaves Orkney and becomes a hotel dishwasher, where he begins loving up anyone—male or female—he encounters. "I got fond of bringing folks to their knees," he says. Those he touches weep with desire and release: "Healing hands. The Second Coming. God's gift. I've heard it all." But can D—who goes by Désirée in drag—find true love in his own harsh and drug-addled life? Alt-musician Sutherland is a cultural darling in the U.K. (Jelly Roll, his debut, was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award), but American audiences may find that as the book progresses, the sublime inches toward the merely sensational. (Mar.)
Forecast: Sutherland's musical reputation—he leads the Scottish trip-hop collective Bows and has collaborated with Mogwai and Long Fin Killie—should help draw in the right kind of audience for this book, which could be a modest cult hit .
Release date: 03/01/2004