“The Trouble Boy”–shattering a myth

Dolby. Tom, “The Trouble Boy”, Kensington, 2004.

Shattering a Myth

Amos Lassen

After reading Tom Dolby’s new book , “The Sixth Form” due to be released in January 2008, I went back to reread the novel “The Trouble Boy” which he wrote in 2004. I am firmly convinced that Dolby is an author to watch. The two books are monuments in gay literature as Dolby manages to blend fact with fiction and give us a picture of how we live. “The Trouble Boy” shatters the myth that the party boys of New York City have wonderful times and great sex lives. (At least that is what we have always thought in Arkansas).

Toby Griffin, our hero, recently graduated from an Ivy League college and now spends his time at the “in” scene of lower Manhattan. He surrounds himself with friends who are aware socially as they adhere to their own upward mobility. Toby, himself, comes from a wealthy background so he knew how to act around those he chose to be friends with. The story is the fictionalized account of a man’s first year in New York and Dolby gives the narration in clear crisp prose.

Toby is a man with a goal—to be a screenwriter and he thinks that there is only way to deal with life and that has nothing to do with the life of privilege from which Toby comes. As he waits for one of his screenplays to be accepted, he takes a job as a nightlife editor, as a hip “dot comer”, as an assistant to a producer. His idea of a balanced life includes going to the bars of the East Village and the West Village alike. This gives the backdrop of the novel—a kind of hedonism that is, in many ways, counter-productive. The story is straightforward and quite bold.

The night life of New York City has always held a sense of glamour for those who do not have the chance to experience it and Dolby rips that glamour away. Our hero, Toby, with his weakness for vodka and cranberry and recreational “bumps of coke” does not come across as a romantic hero but rather as one who has trouble knowing who he is and what he wants. His life is not so good—his sexual relationships, his friendships, his idea of love and his ideals for working in the film industry all go belly up in his face. Toby does not understand love or acceptance until the final page of the novel in a scene that is so beautifully rendered and presented and tender that it brings the entire story to a bittersweet close. It’s an amazing book which even with its ugly looks at the Manhattan gay scene manages to come across as a story of acceptance and identity.

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