GLR September-October 2022

tified queer, working class, Scottish literary star. Formed in Glasgow, his love for the sectarian-riven city is heart felt, his prose is lightly pep pered with Scots vocabulary, and his characters speak in varying degrees of phonetic Glaswegian dialect. His Glasgow of the 1980s and ’90s is haunted by addiction, violence, and an “uppity gin ger bitch,” better known as Margaret Thatcher, whose demoralizing economic poli

the only person who wasn’t completely okay with Roy’s life was Roy. Based on her own experiences, Parks felt that there was a sensitive soul behind the person who mowed people’s lawns and played a mean banjo. Parks, too, had a mother who kept the household on its toes—her mother was always sick, often hospitalized, and addicted to a nasal spray that left her all but unresponsive for hours at a time—and Parks, like Roy, often felt unloved. In scattered passages that dot this entire book, Parks recalls a childhood lived beneath the shadow of legal but addictive drugs, the suicide of her mother’s soul mate—who was not Parks’ father—and her mother’s lifelong longing for a life she never got to live. Parks fled Louisiana for the relative safety of Portland, Ore gon, where she landed a job and figured that she might find other lesbians and finally a way to fit in. Still, she repeatedly claimed Louisiana as “home” and longed to be there, even as her mother continued to reject her for being gay—a rejection that cuts like sharp glass throughout this book. Meanwhile, Parks had begun to work on Roy’s story, tapping technicians and camera operators in order to make a movie, but for every person who knew Roy back in the 1950s and ‘60s and was willing to be interviewed, there was one who refused to talk. Most aggravating was the couple who had Roy’s belongings and journals but who refused to share them or even to let Parks have a peek. These gaps can be frus trating, but the story itself makes up for those pauses, which add to the mystery. The suspense continues until there are only a few pages left in this angsty, engrossing memoir. ____________________________________________________ Terri Schlichenmeyer is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin. YOUNG MUNGO by Douglas Stuart Grove Press. 400 pages, $27. T years on his first, Shuggie Bain , a heart-rending portrait of a mother and son published in 2020 , and then began his second, the recently published Young Mungo . Shuggie Bain won the Booker Prize, making Stuart only the second Scot to win the prestigious international award (James Kelman being the first, in 1994). Stuart’s work has garnered glittering reviews on both sides of the Atlantic; Shuggie Bain has been called “the most globally significant Scottish cultural phenomenon since the mid-1990s successes of Trainspotting and Braveheart .” Stuart did not start out as a writer but as a fashion designer. Reared in housing projects on the East End of Glasgow by his alcoholic mother, who died when he was sixteen, he put himself through trade school and college, then moved to New York City, where he lives with his husband today. In short, he is a self-iden September–October 2022 WO NOVELS published in the span of two years have made 46-year-old Scottish-American Douglas Stuart a writer to be reckoned with. He labored quietly for ten T HOMAS K EITH Love and Social Decay

Douglas Stuart

cies are felt to this day. Young Mungo concerns two gentle, adolescent boys who find each other among the ruins. Mungo, age fifteen, a Protes tant, lives with his teenage sister Jodie; occasionally with his mother, Mo-Maw, or her boozy alter ego Tattie-bogle (“scare crow” in Scots), who sends Mungo on a sinister fishing week end with two besotted strangers whom she has instructed to “make a man” out of him; and sometimes with his gang-leader brother Hamish, a cipher of dejected humanity, who believes his fraternal duty is to teach Mungo to “man up.” James, almost sixteen, a Catholic, lives alone because his widowed father works on a North Sea oil platform for weeks at a time. James breeds racing pigeons in a makeshift dovecot, which is where the boys first meet. As in the novels of Dorothy Allison, Jim Grimsley, and Justin Torres, economic destitution is not simply background for these child protagonists; it is integral to who they are. Stuart renders a dangerous world, unmoored from con temporary notions of gay or lesbian identity. LGBT children typically know they’re different before they understand what sexual attraction is. Mungo and James have discovered those feelings, but the primary model for what awaits them in adulthood is an older, effeminate neighbor known contemptuously as Poor-Wee-Chickie, who survives by deflection and grit, daily navigating people who despise him. The boys have an inkling that life exists elsewhere, but it is a vague notion. One of Stuart’s accomplishments is to conjure the depth of their longings. Mungo and James’ longings for friendship and the erotic are indistinguishable. The electricity when their pinkie fingers de liberately touch overwhelms them. Gradually each boy begins to accept emotional intimacy from the other, though the sex doesn’t go beyond holding hands, kissing, and masturbating. This is a love story in a crucible, kindled by longing and sus tained by innocence. The boys can only guess at the extent to which other characters recognize their’ nature, knowing that beatings, ostracism, or even death await them if they’re dis covered. But they take risks anyway. The gut-wrenching violence in Young Mungo is delivered in calm and elegant prose. Stuarts’ descriptive powers can be lyri cal, but he doesn’t wallow in the misery; he merely chronicles it. And just when you want to fling the book across the room, Stu art surprises you: he digs deeper; something poignant surfaces; he exalts courage or benevolence. What makes his often bleak and savage narrative bearable, in addition to the beauty of his


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