Bük Kloob is a series of book reviews loosely related to a book club I started.
A book written by a 21-year-old. From France. About a troubled gay upbringing. Only 208 pages. Translated into twenty languages. Released by Macmillan’s sexy Farrar, Straus and Giroux outpost. Could this be…a masterpiece?
The novel – The End Of Eddy – is a new book that you are going to hear a lot about. It was written by Édouard Louis – a literary breakout who NPR described as someone with “a great ear” for patois – and has been seen as this year’s LGBT crossover narrative.
It’s fine. Again, spoiler alert: it is fine.
The book follows a young boy named Edward Bellegueule (or, colloquially, “Eddy”) who lives in a very masc and poor French village. His family hates him for being gay and he accordingly lives closeted. He gets pressured to be masculine. He prefers the world of women over the world of men. He escapes the pressures of playing soccer. He fakes being straight to date women. He eventually goes to art school and “escapes it all.”
The book is a mixtape of gay tropes that we have all seen, read, and heard before. It is nothing new, a white tale that has been told time and time and time again. Yes, it resonates because it is something that many of us – including myself – have lived and seen with our own eyes. It is common but packaged via a young, bright, superstar way that we’re supposed to bend to.
Louis has a very quick, threadbare way about his writing that is at times breezy and fun and other times obvious and boring. It is a book of a figure who was molded by PR teams for us to love and hate, for being young and brilliant while being not-that-talented nor unique.
The book isn’t without its fair share of genius but, sadly, they come about in scenic blips as the book is framed as short scene after short scene after short scene. These moments – a hard penis against the back at a concert, a dangerous affair in a shed, a bathtub that holds dirty water – are quite illuminating and resonating but are suffocated by borderline young adult clichés. The book excels in showcasing a part of France that goes left off pages, where racism and xenophobia reveal why someone like Marine Le Pen actually had a chance. This, really, is the story (which, of course, homosexuality plays into but seems to pale against the realities of being dark skinned in a white world).
Much of my frustration with The End Of Eddy is my frustration with the media and publishing worlds regurgitating the same caucasian gay shit over and over and over again. This is a decent debut from a young talent, yes, but it’s also been hyperbolized as some sort of neo-James Baldwin creation which, I assure you, it is not. Sure, I’m borderline grumpy I did not write this book or that I hadn’t realized a story or a path at such a young age. Yet. That sounds somewhat miserable, to write a common tale that someone like myself was frustrated with as it epitomized a running joke within the gay cultural canon: it celebrates the same stories over and over and over again instead of embracing the truly novel.