About a Boy

An Interview With Matthew Stadler

While in Allan Stein sections detailing the sexual relations between Matthew and the boy would make Nabokov blush, they're hardly gratuitous. Though explicit, they underscore Matthew's complete freedom from societal mores. "I wanted to make it clear the narrator has no moral issues in his relations with other people. He's satisfied implicating them in his fantasies, even though where his fantasies begin and end is quite fucked up."

The man in a foreign land enchanted with a youngster smacks of a gay Lolita. Stadler admits as much, saying he wanted Stephane to be the prism that refracts the narrator's vision of Europe, as Lolita was the embodiment of Americanness for Humbert Humbert. He wanted to convey a mythologized experience of Europe, and as such has come up with an inversion of Humbert's wide-eyed cataloguing of America. But Stadler says he wrote the book more "drunk on the fumes of Nabokov's Ada and its fecundity and abundance of language. With this in mind, I allowed the narrative to billow and overreach itself." The narrator says of Paris: "Everything was interesting, even the trash on the street was exotic to me. . . . I drifted into one-way traffic past an old slaughterhouse . . . which smelled like almond pastry, and then cigars and diesel fumes. . . . A silvery bus discharged tourists, pasty and dazed, white-haired, and they shuffled through the gates into the garden."

Matthew's dangerously romanticized view of the relationship, Europe, and the elusive Allan Stein gives the novel its uneasy charm. Allan Stein's inconclusiveness may not be comforting, but that's the point. "Of all my books this one is the most focused on lying. My narrators lie and sometimes they keep their secrets, and that corrodes any revelations they offer." But for Stadler, these lying narrators betray deeper truths about desire than straightforwardness ever could.

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