Variety, The Spice of Life, by Mykola Dementiuk
An interesting read about a genre not very often explored
Publisher’s blurb: Giving up the old for the new means drastic changes…a new apartment, new friends, new lovers, and maybe even, a new sex change? But has he changed that much to accept these changes so readily when he knows that there are even more drastic changes waiting for him?
About the author: Mykola Dementiuk was born in 1949 of Ukrainian parents in a West German DP camp, immigrating to America when he was two. After Catholic grade school & public high school in New York City, he graduated from Columbia University in 1984.
A writer with varied employment, from gyro seller at Lollapalooza to roustabout at the Big Apple Circus, Mykola helped create the magic of Cirque due Soleil performances of “Algeria” with Electrical work.
After suffering a massive stroke in 1997, Mykola eventually returned to writing, using one finger to execute the fantasies and psychological stories of his mind.
Review by Gerry Burnie
From the outset I will admit that I have had no exposure to the transvestite genre, or even the culture for that matter, and so when I was asked to review ”Variety, the Spice of Life” by Mykola Dementiuk [eXtasy Books, 2010] I wasn’t certain I could give it the proper insight. Fortunately the author has developed the story around a main character who is even more uninitiated than me, and with a naiveté that I don’t believe I ever had.
Said character is made even more transparent by not being assigned a name for the first two-thirds of the story. All of this has a purpose, of course. In other words, he is purposefully presented as a blank canvas upon which life paints what he is to become—a “Missy.”
This process starts when this over-sheltered momma’s boy is cast out into the world following the death of his mother. Although he knows he has strong homosexual tendencies, he has no experience apart from being groped by an older man. However, as fate would have it he spies the ‘man of his dreams,’ and being naïve he falls madly in love; emphasis on the ‘madly.’ Now, the Fates are the fickle agents of the gods, and in this case they can’t resist having a bit of fun with this lovelorn swain. Ergo, ‘Mr. Dreamy’ turns out to be a transvestite hooker, petty thief and all-round exploiter. As is so often the case, however, none of this seems to deter our innocent, and it seems the more he is exploited the more his ardour grows. In fact, he even emulates his puppeteer by becoming a cross-dresser himself.
The story is set in New York, and is a very New-York-type of story—gritty, with a cosmopolitan impersonality about it; impersonal relationships, impersonal sex, and the-devil-take-the-hindmost ethos. All of which is intentional and well presented, as is the overall story.
The quibbles are very few. I had some difficulty relating to the main character, but that may be more of a personal comment than a criticism. I also found the ending a bit simplistic, although that didn’t detract from the overall quality of the story, otherwise.
An interesting read about a genre that is not very often explored. Eagerly recommended. Four-and-one-half stars.
Update on the progress of Coming of Age on the Trail: 163/181 pages of rewrites completed. Should go to the editor by the end of October. Meanwhile, learn more about it and read an exerpt here.