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Book Review: Dirty White Boy – Tales of Soho by Clayton Littlewood

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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.

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About Alyse

  • from Caligula Henrikq Aeshna, better, Poor Poet and Street Spirit…..Parallel London…drooling dogs licking the ass of the night…

    Dear Dirty White Bunny,

    i can’t stop reading yr book! that’s exactly the pick of folk fauna n flora i was looking for since my arrival in London — raelly up to all my expectations, besides delightfully surprising at every passage. explosions of laughters when i read yr post “sugar daddies and poor poets”!!!

    i had been rummaging through bookshops n on the net for something capturing the fever n the spirit of today’s london — a lyrical plunge into the effeverscence of this town — so when i saw a report about yr book on the londonpaper, i said to myself: i’ve found it at last! — without labeling the stuff, here’s a fable weaver, fluid chronicler, or just a subtler poet depicting the various nuances of Soho, showing that there’s something remarkable happening there….that spirit just reminded me somehow (although not so radically n i’m sure that’s not you intended to) of Lou Reed’s incursions into new york wild side, wow, all those vivid characters, passion-sparking, all that wonderful schizophrenia — that’s not a matter of glamour or romantization of lowlife, but just an indication that there’s a blow of life in full configuration, explicitly changing n expanding the boundaries of art and life. without risk there aint grace or revelation.

    oh yeah, yr book really inspired me to tramp round through the magic of soho, with its forest of neons and stories.

    a priori, i’m not a commonplace tourist, rather I’M AN ‘EXPLORER OF INTENSITIES’ — a real buma flaneur, a hungry eye in perpetual transit of intensity, looking for wonder like glimpsing ephemerous birds n butterflies, rainbows n shadows…i’m not even a poet in the common sense.

    my poem about soho, from which i read you some bizarre passages, is the result of such holy delinquency and bloodfluxus — it starts off as a vivid miniature watercolor — SoHo aquarela — in the japanese haiku manner — a simple polaroid — until it develops as an orgiac banquet of impressions n transfigured characters .. — from the loneliness of the nomad to pure perversion n sarcasm, visionary brillance n joyful celebration, i draw a SoHo flowing into enlightment. i’ts unpretentious, yet it’s a life-sparkling bubble bursting n melting into the colours of the circus.

    as a fire-eyed gemini with such a furious vocation for damned, bi-polar bloody mary n stray cat graduated at the harvard of the streets, all i have to say about my person is that i quit everything somewhere in the world n took a ship to europe in the arms of a sugar 20 years older than me (kinky fucks, candlelit caresses, amour fou, suicidal dramas…)…now i’m licking the mud of the british dream…but so what, i’d rather mop the Floor of Absurdity in some greasy kitchen, save up some money n set off on a chance cruise to some exotic island, like Seychelles, magical licquers plenty of dancing around a fire on a radiant beach, hallucinating the star-spangled sky in the night of my dreams, dreaming visions of love…

    meanwhile london’s night and Clayton’s are just a bridge to other nights. immemorial. i keep on drifting, or in the words of Patti Smith i glimpsed scribbled on the crumbling walls of a dream: “…as innocent and dangerous as children racing cross a mine field”.

    nothing can grip on me.

    eternally grateful for the lightshed for the lightining you caused to spark into my veins…

    affection n empathy

    Caligula h. Aeshna, long dead n eternal ( n still poor!)