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Out but not down.

Harold's End * JT LeRoy * Last Gasp * $19.95

A former teen hustler himself, JT LeRoy was once just like the dead-end kids he writes about. LeRoy found a way to escape, though, by writing it all down. His first two books--Sarah, about a young truck-stop prostitute, and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things--a story collection about more kids in trouble, have met with critical acclaim, movie deals, and a literary cult following that doesn't flinch from the torment his characters suffer.

Harold's End, a novella first published in McSweeney's and now illustrated by Cherry Hood, visits a new batch of LeRoy's children on San Francisco's streets. The kids--and there's no imagining that Hood's startling prepubescent faces in watercolor are older or tougher--are all heroin-addicted hookers, and all have pet animals in tow.

The main boy, however, has neither a name nor a pet until Larry, a middle-aged, upper-middle-class trick, brings the blond kid into his home and gives him a cleaner class of drugs, a plastic cup housing a snail named Harold, and an introduction to the world of hard-core kink. This dysfunctional adoption, ironically, reawakens the boy's desire for more than his next fix.

It's LeRoy's own fierce protectiveness of his characters that makes Harold's End more than another story of down-and-out hustlers. He can toss readers into scenes from throwaway lives they'd just as soon not witness, yet still inspire empathy. His narration, clear-eyed and nonjudgmental, still conveys the deepest heartbreak. He makes the time spent with his empty, broken-shelled kids a visit that resists despair.

White writes about film for E! Online.
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Title Annotation:novel
Author:White, Dave
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 21, 2004
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