Read Lowboy by John Wray, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Published earlier this March, 2009, Lowboy is the new novel by John Wray. The premise is explained simply enough: a sixteen-year-old schizophrenic boy abandons his medication and takes a delusion-filled joyride through the subways of Manhattan in order to save the world by having sex with whoever will give it up to him and trying to keep the doubts away so that he can maintain composure long enough to get it from the girl who he’s in love with (maybe) and is weirdly into him all while dodging the police …still with me? Okay, so maybe there’s a little more to it.
The chapters shift between the boy and his pursuers, who are none other than his strange and beautiful mother and a (surprise!) lonely New York City detective. Along the way the boy meets some very interesting characters…imagine hanging around with the lunatics in the New York City subway system, you start to understand. The narrative starts off brief, almost quaint, moving you along just fast enough to keep up suspense and giving you just enough to grab at to keep the book compelling. By the end the narrative begins to shift, as does Lowboy’s mental state, to a frantic and transient mish-mash that can’t be trusted.
Admittedly, the chapters with Lowboy’s mother and the detective are a little less than exciting when you’re waiting to get back to the regressive thrills of inter-subway tunnel exploration. You’d also be surprised how squirmy Wray can make a love scene between a pubescent white boy and a street-wizened crackhead. I found myself shamelessly giggling. I really grew to like Lowboy, too, pulling for him to get laid so that he’d save the world.
All in all, it’s a pretty good book. I recommend it for a quick easy read when you want a break from your Iliad or Naked Lunch, ahem. In the future I’d like to see John Wray avoid the sordid temptation of tying in generic detective-genre analyze-and-pursue themes. Other than that it’s easy to see why in more than a few places he’d been referred to as a promising young writer.