Friday, August 09, 2013

Near-Glam Chondrichthyes for Five Thousand, Please

Royal Young’s ‘Fame Shark’
Published by Heliotrope Books

As the subject and possibly the propellant, chasing the adulation of others is the goal of Royal Young’s sharp and sad memoir, Fame Shark.

Shamelessly bold, this young writer has enough insight into his own character to find its most treacherous flaws and then flays them out for everyone to gawk and sniff, though not in full daylight. Sexual and drunk, sometimes in white mink, mostly desiring women but angling for the attention from anyone with genitalia, young Hazak grows up wanting to become some sort of movie star/rock star/ artist/ dancer/ actor/ writer/kitchen sink. His lust for fame heartily nudges him into a little bit of footwork, but mostly into the arms of people who may be able to help him get ahead. Without discipline for craft or any workaday understanding of what it takes to learn how to do a few things or even one thing well, this rough and tumble Jewish kid from the Lower East Side stumbles out from the shadow of his judgmental, narcissistic penis-sculpting father and his warm but ineffective mother to murk his way through the canyons, slums, opening parties and the occasional low end performance gig in New York City. MySpace figures in greatly as a so-recent flame-out of lost hopes. 

As an indictment of the unbalanced appetite for self aggrandizement in the individual and then society, Royal Young, ne Hazak Brozgold (the moniker one begs he reinstates),  smashes his face into ours, with those pale blue-gray eyes of sadness over having his dick worshipped, often in the most incorrect mouths. A guy without a grounded purpose, who found Bennington so boring he never saw a second year, Hazak wastes his youth chasing the star fuckers of star fuckers, sliding his way down the social pole to the lowest crowd of drug dealers in Bushwick, before Bushwick was Bushwick, until he wakes up one day and agrees—Okay, I’ll go to Illinois on that train and hang with my solid, White Jewish  homeys since nothing else has really worked out. Pretty eyes and generational bitterness does not a life make. Hazak was smart to board that Amtrak.

Intended or not, this highly readable, energized rocket shot through louche terror has the great chance of striking any reader cold and dead. But even better, furious. Who does not want to jump on their treadmill time machine to run back to this youngin’ swilling booze and chaining Marlboro Reds to yell, supportively, “You’re drinking too much! You are toying with people who are then toying with you, all dishonestly! Your parents only sort of care about you, it seems, but really, they just can’t believe how the hell you are choosing to live! You really might be garden variety addicted, sexually compulsive, without an ability to focus and you just haven’t figured that out yet! Meditate! Or learn a trade!”

Hazak is infuriating. But thankfully for us, he infuriates himself. He was raised better than this and deep down he knows it. It is no surprise he finds strength in his family, the last option, to pull himself out of what appears to be the Daddy addiction of them all in our lonely, atomized, self sucking society of angry, traumatized souls: the search for spirit crushing fame.

The book is best when things get very rough. When all is going hunky dory as a kid, landing extras jobs in movies, and when the story rolls out in the end with a warm fuzzy family feeling, you wish the middle story would have had big and brave enough shoulders to shrug off the extra pads around it.

Empty, empty, empty. Self loathing for a reason never fully revealed. A family that produces addiction and hustling. A perplexing downfall that never felt fully down. Writing at times just flatly listing events (in the best way), other times, approaching lyricism through numb sadness. All this and more. And it will not be found in any dazzling aquarium gift shop. Indie, available, pulsing and fetid, Fame Shark, will make you jones for the popping of old fashioned flash bulbs, a guilt-free blow job (ladies, too), a shit load of money or maybe a nice bowl of soup.

Buy this book. Future pods of literary achievements will swim toward you from the always moving Royal Young. Keep your eye out for his sharp eyed fin above the zeitgeist water line. What a perfect chordate Royal chose to emulate. The shark is a non-boney fish. All cartilage and teeth. Soft and powerful, a jumble of predation. As with any enlivening memoir, and even more so with this partially revealing salty tale, you will want to know what will become of this person, this bottom feeding Chondrichthyes called Hazak/Royal/but not late for the star studded awards dinner. We wait for Fame Shark II. The You Tube Series?

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