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Sex, Drugs & Salvation
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Novels; Books-titles -- Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens
Author: John-Manuel Andriote
Date: Dec 25, 2003
Start Page: C.04
Section: STYLE

"[LYLE CLEMENS]" is considerably lighter than [John Rechy]'s earlier novels. In true picaresque style, people appear and things happen that seem like magical coincidences. Here there are no "dark angels," "purgatorial purple" dawn skies or tattoos of a naked Christ -- regular Rechy images elsewhere. Still Rechy contrasts the pious hypocrisy of true believers with the redemptive grace of genuine compassion -- a subject that continues to fascinate him. In "The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gomez" (1991), he explored the place of miracles in the life of the voluptuous Amalia, who asks for a sign of compassion from the Holy Mother. The book climaxes in a breathtakingly dramatic vision of the Pieta itself as Amalia cradles the head of her dying would-be kidnapper, shot by police, when she is caught in a crossfire and held as a human shield. In "The Fourth Angel" (1972), Rechy depicted the amoral cruelty of people who refuse to show compassion even for their own suffering.

Now, at age 72, Rechy tells a funny, sexy, far-fetched coming-of- age story as he again asks the questions that drive him. Like "City of Night" and several other later novels, "The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens" opens in Rechy's native Texas. From there we trace the hapless and handsome Lyle's journey toward self-discovery -- a journey that will take him to Las Vegas and westward to Los Angeles, Rechy's own home for many years.

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