Just about some homo sapiens…
Review by Grady Harp
The handsome new Boston writer Rick Bettencourt jumps onto the platform of young brilliant writers with this short but exceptional book NOT SURE BOYS. If there are more stories such as these in his head or imagination then we are going to be noticing the rise of a writer in the ranks of Jamie O’Neill, K.M. Soehnlein, André Aciman, David Leavitt, Michael Cunningham, Edmund White, Alan Hollingsworth, Paul Russell, Jim Grimsley, Andrew Holleran to list some – those writers of great intelligence and masters of the English language who have taken up where EM Forster and Christopher Isherwood left off, creating stories about the world of gay men.
What Bettencourt does so enormously well is build ideas, characters, situations, possibilities, and developments with sure surety of pitch that while the reader can sense the various stories in this book are somehow going to connect, the grace with which he brings this about is so inordinately mature for a writer early in his published life that the act takes the reader aback. Being from Massachusetts, whose North Shore has been the setting for other writers in this genre, adds a sense of reality that makes the characters’ response to their place very much in real time. Bettencourt wisely introduces mementoes of the past (collecting Wacky Packs, symbols of the 1980s, the stats of small towns, etc) to suggest that moving toward the future means letting things of childhood go or mutate as time changes and the people who live in his atmospheres change. He draws exceptional characters, allowing a physically challenged young girl lose her idol country singer hero to the fact that that hero prefers boys to girls, a macho sexy young adult to open a sensory door for a lad who only hopes he is who he thinks he is, a sexually excitable young straight boy having his first male/male experience morph in time to a recognition of his true passion…all of this in the course of a brief 40 odd pages.
To say more would be to deprive the reader of the discovery of reading these stories together as they all coalesce in the last tale. Yes, these are gay themes, but finally the world is waking up to the fact that we are all unique and different yet equal. Bettencourt is unafraid to be explicit, but he does it with such grace and style that the encounters are episodes beautifully crafted like Sufi or Rumi poems. His is a staggering talent. Welcome to the upper echelon, Rick Bettencourt. Highly recommended for ALL readers.
Grady Harp, November 2013
TITLE: NOT SURE BOYS
AUTHOR: RICK BETTENCOURT