cover image Hornito: My Lie Life

Hornito: My Lie Life

Mike Albo. HarperCollins, $23 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-688-17436-1

Up-and-coming New York City monologuist Albo's kaleidoscopic fiction debut chronicles a young man's navigation of consumer culture, gay identity and numerous erotic adventures. Poignant glibness and sharp pop-culture criticism punctuate the chatterbox voice of protagonist Mike Albo, whose harsh, quirky observations and quicksilver humor belie his earnest heart. The book flashes through two decades, from formative events in his stultifying, suburban Virginia childhood to New York City's East Village in the early '90s, as starry-eyed, adult Mike tries to make sense of who he is and what he wants. He thinks he wants go-go boy EricDbut Eric's with George and sometimes with BennyDor maybe he wants another one-night stand with a heartbreaker like Rod. He knows for sure he wanted Jeff, his high school love, and Jason, the unreachable golden boy. Investigating his various desires, Mike unearths a secret involving his brother and their older, male babysitter, and finds that in his stoic loneliness amid sex clubs, trashy boys and a deadening office job, he gets ""total crymouth."" Evident are the trip wires of hurt and fear of rejection that connect the ""different"" little boy with the sassy young man. Also in plain sight is something the protagonist doesn't see: though true love eludes Mike, he is nonetheless truly lovable. Albo moves fluidly from childhood scenes in which Mike eats sticks of butter on his porch and secretly dreams of being a flashy dancer in satin shorts, to the wily high school strategies he employs to become popular, and eventually to the downtown hipster world that, ironically, mirrors all the hypocrisies and pleasures of his pubescence. While the brilliance of Albo's cynical nostalgia may be lost on those who neither came of age in the New Wave '80s nor participated in the urban retro trends of the '90s, this writer's formidable gift for humor and self-flagellating satire transcends the limits of a generation-X audience. Agent, Tina Bennett. 20,000 first printing; author tour. (Oct.)