Review - The Best Little Boy in the World by Andrew Tobias
My rating: starstarstarstar_borderstar_border
As a very young child, the author's parents praise him as “the best little boy in the world” (BLBITW). Such parental praise may be relatively common, but our hero truly takes it to heart and spends many years trying to live up to the perceived expectations of his parents and others. When he realizes that he prefers boys to girls he sublimates those feelings, since the BLBITW most certainly can't have such feelings. It isn't until he finishes college and enters the working world that he realizes the pointlessness of denying his feelings.
Although widely praised as a landmark of gay literature, “The Best Little Boy in the World” is a flawed book. However, even in the flaws there are perhaps some lessons to be learned. The story can be easily divided into two distinct parts: before and after coming out.
The first half of the book recounts the author's memories of his childhood, when he proudly boasts of being “the best little boy in the world” and does everything he can to retain his title. He is studious, polite and well behaved. However, when he begins to understand that other boys don't want to “play cowboy” with their friends, the seeds of doubt begin to creep in. Perhaps the BLBITW is just a phony. Still, he soldiers on, throwing himself into schoolwork and sports while ignoring his attraction to other men. This part of the story can be amusing, and the author can appear a little endearing.
Things change a lot in the second half of the book, when the author sees the futility of denying his feelings and comes out. He spends almost a year trying to make up for lost time. In that time, he realizes that he's quite attractive to other men, and he becomes the very worst kind of gay man; the kind that looks down on anyone less fit and handsome than himself. He also spends a lot of time musing on what “makes” someone gay, even though he claims to be sure that he was made that way. His whole attitude makes the second half of the book a lot less enjoyable.
Despite the sometimes cringe-inducing attitudes of the author, the book is an interesting read. It is probably a good depiction of the early days of gay liberation, post-Stonewall and pre-AIDS. “The Best Little Boy in the World” is available from Amazon.
Posted in Book Reviews on October 17, 2015