I am not a pervert. Well, I don’t think I am. At least not all the time–you know, it’s not like I’m consumed by depravity or anything. I guess all I’m trying to say is that perverts are people, too. Good people. Healthy people. Productive people. Even famous ones. In other words, you don’t need to be accurate to throw a rock into a crowd and hit a pervert. We’re everywhere.
Look at our enduring legacy: Marquis de Sade, Marv Albert, Marvin–the alien from Looney Tunes. And that’s just a few folks whose names happen to begin with M-A-R. Face it, we’re here to stay. Our culture wants us around, even as they ostracize us, make us feel dirty. They read our books. They listen to us wax about basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. They laugh heartily at our animated brethren.
So, the last book I loved is called Perv–A Love Story. Jerry Stahl wrote it. He’s better known for his memoir Permanent Midnight. In that book Stahl writes not about his perversions, but about his junkie lifestyle. A perversion of sorts, yes, but not the same thing. Permanent Midnight is an amazing book that is centered on his rise and fall in Hollywood. There’s no shortage of rising and falling in Perv. It’s just that it’s of a different variety. I think Billy Idol called it “flesh for fantasy.”
The titular Perv is one Bobby Stark. He’s a sixteen year-old misfit growing up in Pittsburgh, PA. His dad has recently committed suicide and his mom is crazy. The year is 1970 and he’s been sent off to boarding school. It doesn’t take long for us to get acquainted with Bobby’s other side, his rear end, to be exact. Page one finds our virgin hero third-in-line for a rec room romp with the barber’s teenage daughter, Sharon Schmidlap. Bobby says that he doesn’t even like to get naked in the locker room before gym class, but soon he’s participating in a 3-on-1 mountfest with two older classmates. A trophy sits nearby on the television and provides motivation for our timid (barely tumescent) hero. That the trophy is a one-armed bowler who seems to be conversing telepathically with Bobby, urging him and his member onwards and upwards, is just a small slice of the genius that is Jerry Stahl’s sex writing–and humor.
Of course most of us didn’t lose our virginity the way Bobby does here. There were no trophy moments or shouted insults from Tennie Toad, the rash infected redneck who has gone first and left hand prints on Sharon’s ample behind, but most of us can still share in the madness and the escape. Bobby says that the best thing about the sex was that he “didn’t have to think about anything. That, for a few blessed seconds, maybe minutes, if I got lucky, my brain could just shut off.” Sort of like heroin, if you ask me.
Stahl’s tasty little tale is so much more than sex and its (often) concomitant perversions. It’s a cumming of age story (sorry, I can’t help it!). It’s also a love story, just like the title says. It’s a page-turning blast, a psycho-hysteric romp through the underworld. Bobby goes on a wild, cross-country jaunt with Michelle, a sweet, young, bad-ass of a lady. The two of them are tossed into one sticky situation after another. And by book’s end you realize the twisted and compassionate mind responsible for creating Bobby and his playmates could only belong to Jerry Stahl.
When I got to the last page, I wanted to climb inside the book and thank Mr. Bobby Stark for letting me forget myself for a day. That the self I was forgetting was my normal, non-perverted self, should be evident by now.