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Book Hey, Joe by Ben Neihart (2000-04-08)


Hey, Joe by Ben Neihart (2000-04-08)

3.4 (1950)

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2.4 (3901)
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Review Text

  • By Bruce C. Miller on October 13, 2010

    I think this is an astoundingly fine first novel; i loved it the first time and i just read it--in about 24 hours--again. The novel manages to capture Joe's life for less than a day and the sub-plot works well. Good dialogue, character development and the descriptions of New Orleans are top-notch.

  • By Ricky Hunter on July 22, 2001

    Hey, Joe, a first novel by Ben Neihart, is an enjoyable enough romp through New Orleans. The lead character is the wonderful creation Joe Keith, a sixteen year old fiercely homosexual and pleasure diving kid. He is the perfect guide to lead the reader through New Orleans (which can be even more decadent than portrayed here, if the reader can believe that is even possible). It is one night with a number of characters moving through this novel. Not all the personalities and the plot lines gel but there is more than enough in this short novel to take the reader happily and quickly to the end.

  • By christina marable on December 12, 2002

    I read "Hey Joe" while I was on vacation and it is the perfect book for that- vacationing, hanging around. The novel chronicles sixteen year old Joe on one night when something really important happens- I won't give it away. The novel also introduces a counterplot with a jury verdict, a female sexual predetor, Joe's neighbor who hasn't come to terms with certain items, and his mother. "Hey Joe" takes its readers in the colorful, crazy, and at times implausible world of this New Orleans teen. The characters are fun, have a sense of reality, the dialouge is realistic, and the story moves well. I enjoyed the fact that Joe was not hung up about his sexuality, but rather accepted it. Niehart also didn't portray Joe as a flamer or any of the characters as caricatures, which is often a mistake in first novels. The writing as languid, easy to understand, and enjoyable- all things a vacation book should be. I must say that the novel ends on a confusing note. I have a hard time beleiving that such a comfortable guy would end with such jargon. And I couldv'e done without the counterplot about the trial and jury. That sounded a bit outlandish. The book wasn't meant to change the face of the world and how people view gay teens ... but was meant to be enjoyable, dream like and even a bit romantic- in it's old notions of course. But don't take it for anything else. Niehart has a good stlye. I just hope to see it develop in the future.

  • By A customer on February 4, 1998

    Hey, Joe (Simon & Schuster), by Ben Neihart. As I was getting ready to leave Austin to live in New Mexico, a friend asked, "Before you leave the area, have you considered taking a road trip to New Orleans? You really should." I'm embarrassed to say I have never been to New Orleans. Notphysically. But like Robert Stone's acclaimed 1966 novel, Hall ofMirrors, which takes the reader into the seediest and most noteworthycracks and edges of the Big Easy, Ben Neihart's astounding firstnovel, Hey Joe, took me like a tornado smack into the center of NewOrleans and whirled me around and spat me out and left me breathless. Neihart's bumpy, jumpy, keen prose ignites every sense: "In theopposite direction from the river, there was a cop barricade; aboveit, the black smoke of a fire hung. A bony rhythm track blew from theopen windows of a passing white limo: it was Queen Latifah, rapping. . .î The book begins in the late afternoon of a warm summer day, andends in the middle of that night. The New Orleans spotlight is sharedby the novel's protagonist: beautiful, bright, sensitive,sixteen year-old Joe Keith. "He had the rosy aspect, and the swagger,and the skinny arms, and the bad reputation. He was a brooder, amagazine reader, a swaying dancer at mellow, jazzy rap parties." Joeis unabashedly in love with the supermodel, Linda Evangelista,coveting pages of glossy mags that display her in velvet robes andskimpy skirts. He's sure that he likes women, but he does not longfor them. He longs for slightly older boys, and part of this noveldeals with Joe's sexual coming of age and his first whole experience with a male. What really takes hold here, and I mean by the roots of the hair,is Joe's brave vulnerability. Joe is able to say what he wants andwhy he wants it. He is able to think: "Don't you know I want to be inlove with you?" then to show it. He is utterly honest about hisfeelings, so white and black, never indifferent, that one cannot helpbut fall madly in love with the boy's humanness. One cannot help butthink: I remember how vulnerable I was at that age; my body, my face,my hair, my voice - all too awkward and ugly and bare. Joe is accompanied by a cast of rich and rare characters. Among them: Al Theim, Joe's next-door neighbor who is about Joe's age,heterosexual, questing for big biceps and girls. Joe's mother,Sherry, widowed at a young age, a good mom. She worries for Joeand loves him as he loves her. White Donna is a disc jockey ofalternative rock; when Joe confides in her, she tells him, "You canlove somebody with four or five hearts . . . I know a lot of peoplesay they can take it; they can take whatever heartache gets ladled ontop of them. A lot of them are liars. But I'm not." Through White Donna, Joe soon meets up with Welk, a slightly older boywith whom he falls in love. "To have Welk hanging on him, anchoringhim to the spot, was a perfect kind of burden." When they are alonetogether in the dark, Joe candidly utters his fear. "I'm nervous." It is not so much JoeÍs affirmation of his sexuality thatmakes this book so touchingly priceless, but it is the innocence bywhich Joe comes to the affirmation. Only hours before he is withWelk, Joe partakes in a lusty encounter with Iquoi, an exotic halfIndian, half Irish girl with thick lips gleaming in purple lipstick.She wants to know if Joe has made out with certain girls. "'Course,'"he replies. "'Do they kiss as good as me?'" she asked, leaning just afifteenth of an inch closer and opening her mouth on Joe's." NeihartÍs dialogue is ultra hip and snappy, inventive, loopy. Heconsistently works cool language inside out and outside in, seamsshowing, seams invisible. The prose is fast-paced and gorgeous anddreamy, coinciding with the wet, sticky, diaphanously-humid night, themellow jazz and loud rap, love and lust in New Orleans. Neihart shows in his meticulously simple, compact ending, that sixteen year-olds have a way of knowing everything will be all right „ even if they subsequently are not. Although coming-of-age and homosexuality are relevant in the novelÍs content, this is a novel not to be pigeon-holed. More relevant is that the novel is literature, exceptional literature. Read it if you want to laugh. Read it if you want to cry.

  • By [email protected] Glenn Guillory on April 23, 1998

    This book is a fine delving into the sweet character of New Orleans gay youth, salty southern distric attorney scoops, and a tour of the real places of the city of night. I love the way that the health club is detailed, the way the hugs, kisses, and teenage belly buttons weave with the boney knee passion of the 16 y.o. hero. I was that boy, and many of the men I know were JOE. We answer to Joe, now Ben Neihart has made the call an archetype, an anthem for we who have walked the walk. Ben, YOU'RE THE BEST! No way this is one of those "false southern accent" works. Ben Neihart is a true poet of the south, of men interested in men, and in the special quality of New Orleans at night. Hey, Joe! Or should I say, "Hey, Ben Neihart!" What a great fresh approach to the New Orleans scene. I know it from the bottom up, and can tell you this is THE FLAVOR OF NEW ORLEANS done right. It isn't the syrup jazz place some writers would have it be, is a hip place, with fast mood and atmosphere changes, a taste of salty sweat on a forearm, a moonlit Mississippi River by night and a profound search for the connection that is sensual and at the same time creative and spiritual. I want to hug Ben Neihart and tell him: HEY, BEN! I LOVE YOU! For he has resurrected the longing of youth and the blessing of passion and pathos.

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