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Happy Baby

by

Happy Baby Cover

 

Awards

A Salon Best Book of 2004

Staff Pick

I momentarily resisted reading Happy Baby simply (unreasonably) because of the J. T. LeRoy epigraph. LeRoy has since been outed as a particularly egregious literary fraud, and yet LeRoy's observation resonates deeply with me — was it Picasso who said that "art is a lie that makes us realize truth"? Happy Baby is an intelligent, engaging, sharply written novel that slides backward in time — into the brutality and heartbreak that childhood is for too many people.
Recommended by Nichole, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"[T]his is an ambitious and carefully constructed literary novel at least as much as it is a gut-spilling memoir. It's easy to miss that; Elliott's style is terse and unvarnished, free of...high-flown, flowers-in-the-gutter lyricism....Happy Baby is a most impressive little novel, heartbreakingly and bewilderingly alive in a way most bigger books can't even imagine." Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Stephen Elliott's new novel, Happy Baby, explores how pain can define desire, how the future becomes the past, and how grace struggles with self-destruction. The story, told in reverse, begins with thirty-six-year-old Theo and his search for sexual and emotional freedom, and slowly unravels back to a childhood of abuse in the juvenile detention centers of Chicago.

Without judgment, Elliott traces a life defined by yearning — for love, for pain, for certainty. His clear words and unflinching gaze reveal the difficulty of simple truths and the possibility of transcendence in the face of unforgivable crimes.

Review:

"From the very beginning [of Happy Baby] Theo possesses a fresh, intense, confessional vulnerability unusual in male narrators, especially one whose street smarts should have ruled it out long ago. It's a great question for fiction: How, and whether, the capacity for empathy can be preserved in the face of persistent brutality. Theo lives by his wits on that knife's edge where sex meets violence. Stephen Elliott belongs to the lineage of seemingly fearless, sexual truth-tellers that includes Genet and Duras, but he's ours. He couldn't be more American. We should rejoice in having such fearlessness among us." Elizabeth Tallent, author of Honey and Museum Pieces

Review:

"Blending the edginess of Augusten Burroughs with the raw emotion of Marguerite Duras, this compelling confessional reveals a ravaged soul seeking solace and resolution in the wake of unspeakable crimes." Booklist

Review:

"[Elliott] clearly knows his subject...and infuses this prickly tale with a surprising sweetness." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"Grimly deterministic, but intermittently powerful." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Elliott tells a brutal tale in words of few syllables, in the flat voice of a zombied-out Joe Friday...simultaneously forensic and shrugging, the seen-it-all tone only serving to heighten the ghastliness of the subjects described." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"The novel's backward structure means that rather than building momentum, it offers the sense of a mystery being slowly solved. That the mystery of why Theo...turns out as he does is essentially unsolvable makes it no less satisfying, or, in Theo's case, less heartbreaking." Curtis Sittenfeld, The New York Times Book Review

Synopsis:

Happy Baby is the story of Theo, once an orphan in the Chicago foster care system and now a grown man living in California. Theo, saturated with memories of abuse and heartache, and filled with the simple wish to understand more about himself, returns to Chicago to reconnect with an old girlfriend from his troubled youth. Told in reverse order, this edgy and powerful novel slowly and subtly turns mysterious, as we attempt to recognize the root of Theo's plight and the source for his quietly wavering humanity.

Synopsis:

Happy Baby is the story of Theo, once an orphan in the Chicago foster care system and now a grown man living in California. Theo, saturated with memories of abuse and heartache, and filled with the simple wish to understand more about himself, returns to Chicago to reconnect with an old girlfriend from his troubled youth. Told in reverse order, this edgy and powerful novel slowly and subtly turns mysterious, as we attempt to recognize the root of Theo's plight and the source for his quietly wavering humanity.

About the Author

Stephen Elliott is the author of four novels as well as the nonfiction book Looking Forward to It: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the American Electoral Process. A native of Chicago, he lives in San Francisco and lectures at Stanford University.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312424497
Author:
Elliott, Stephen
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20050131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
208
Dimensions:
8.7 x 5.02 x 0.545 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Happy Baby Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.50 In Stock
Product details 208 pages Picador USA - English 9780312424497 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

I momentarily resisted reading Happy Baby simply (unreasonably) because of the J. T. LeRoy epigraph. LeRoy has since been outed as a particularly egregious literary fraud, and yet LeRoy's observation resonates deeply with me — was it Picasso who said that "art is a lie that makes us realize truth"? Happy Baby is an intelligent, engaging, sharply written novel that slides backward in time — into the brutality and heartbreak that childhood is for too many people.

"Review A Day" by , "[T]his is an ambitious and carefully constructed literary novel at least as much as it is a gut-spilling memoir. It's easy to miss that; Elliott's style is terse and unvarnished, free of...high-flown, flowers-in-the-gutter lyricism....Happy Baby is a most impressive little novel, heartbreakingly and bewilderingly alive in a way most bigger books can't even imagine." (read the entire Salon.com review)
"Review" by , "From the very beginning [of Happy Baby] Theo possesses a fresh, intense, confessional vulnerability unusual in male narrators, especially one whose street smarts should have ruled it out long ago. It's a great question for fiction: How, and whether, the capacity for empathy can be preserved in the face of persistent brutality. Theo lives by his wits on that knife's edge where sex meets violence. Stephen Elliott belongs to the lineage of seemingly fearless, sexual truth-tellers that includes Genet and Duras, but he's ours. He couldn't be more American. We should rejoice in having such fearlessness among us." Elizabeth Tallent, author of Honey and Museum Pieces
"Review" by , "Blending the edginess of Augusten Burroughs with the raw emotion of Marguerite Duras, this compelling confessional reveals a ravaged soul seeking solace and resolution in the wake of unspeakable crimes."
"Review" by , "[Elliott] clearly knows his subject...and infuses this prickly tale with a surprising sweetness."
"Review" by , "Grimly deterministic, but intermittently powerful."
"Review" by , "Elliott tells a brutal tale in words of few syllables, in the flat voice of a zombied-out Joe Friday...simultaneously forensic and shrugging, the seen-it-all tone only serving to heighten the ghastliness of the subjects described."
"Review" by , "The novel's backward structure means that rather than building momentum, it offers the sense of a mystery being slowly solved. That the mystery of why Theo...turns out as he does is essentially unsolvable makes it no less satisfying, or, in Theo's case, less heartbreaking."
"Synopsis" by , Happy Baby is the story of Theo, once an orphan in the Chicago foster care system and now a grown man living in California. Theo, saturated with memories of abuse and heartache, and filled with the simple wish to understand more about himself, returns to Chicago to reconnect with an old girlfriend from his troubled youth. Told in reverse order, this edgy and powerful novel slowly and subtly turns mysterious, as we attempt to recognize the root of Theo's plight and the source for his quietly wavering humanity.
"Synopsis" by ,
Happy Baby is the story of Theo, once an orphan in the Chicago foster care system and now a grown man living in California. Theo, saturated with memories of abuse and heartache, and filled with the simple wish to understand more about himself, returns to Chicago to reconnect with an old girlfriend from his troubled youth. Told in reverse order, this edgy and powerful novel slowly and subtly turns mysterious, as we attempt to recognize the root of Theo's plight and the source for his quietly wavering humanity.

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