Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho reads like a blog in trade paperback form. Oh wait, that’s because it is a blog in trade paperback form.
Author Clayton Littlewood owns the upscale men’s clothing shop Dirty White Boy with his husband Jorge, on a corner of seedy Soho in London. The shop is located beneath a brothel; pimps and junkies litter the sidewalks; the neighborhood is largely gay. In other words, Littlewood has a front-row seat to some of the strangest and most interesting people in the city. And he records it all, in journal entries.
There is the elderly man who comes in once a month to educate Clayton on all the different types and cuts and styles of underwear (and never buys a thing). There is Pam, a local who comes 'round asking for money or “cuddles” – and is equally happy with either. The madam and her hookers who live and work upstairs, or the myriad of older businessmen who are dragged in to the shop by their flaming, kept houseboys. Littlewood isn’t afraid to name-drop (even if those “names” are Janice Dickenson) – and he gets embarrassingly star-struck.
Littlewood’s book just jumps right in. There is no introduction – you only learn a bit about Clayton and his store 50 pages in; it is nearly twice as many pages before you find out that his musings really are from a blog – his MySpace blog. Luckily Littlewood is a good writer – engaging, witty, original. It is pretty obvious that his entries are taken directly from his MySpace blog. They go through an interesting evolution. At first, the posts are snippets of daily life, chronicling the obnoxious customers and strange encounters with locals. But as he begins to realize his writings can become profitable, he begins to philosophize on everything from how he has fallen out of love with his grimy little neighborhood, or what will become of the gentle little queen who is falsely imprisoned for rape. It becomes boring, quite frankly. Around the same time Littlewood also begins to write about writing – constantly mentioning looking for his “little notebook” or sitting at his laptop, waiting for something interesting to come along.
Dirty White Boy makes for an intriguing book filled with characters too bizarre to be fake. The journal entry structure makes it great for quick bites. You don’t have to get too absorbed in the book when a new day begins after a page and a half. And should Littlewood run into a character he introduced earlier in the book, we always get a little reminder.