Gypsy Boy: A Memoir by Mikey Walsh
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  • The mention of blood happens considerably – and virtually in every page – that I thought it was thematically gory


    • by jhunie

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      I often stumble on the books section at nytimes.com every weekend. Featured in the ‘books of the times’ lately was Gypsy Boy, a memoir written by Mikey Walsh. I was sold when the writer quoted gypsy boy asking, “Oh my God, have you met Madonna?” The book tells the author’s life as a young gypsy. It is notably a chronicle of gypsy life.

      The mention of blood happens considerably – and virtually in every page – that I thought it was thematically gory. Gypsy boy was beaten interminably by his father, and this aspect, instead of lending an impression of grittiness, becomes intolerable for the first few pages,


      starting off when he was 4 or 5. His father was an exceptionally ruthless specimen of the many patriarchs we so often encounter in books. When I got through the epilogue, I had already sobbed a few times. I was moved by his story. I never could have plucked enough courage to face such circumstances at a young age.

      The author’s prose is trite; his writing diction is a bit hazy (e.g. ‘insular’). I thought it was ghostwritten at the outset, but reading further establishes that the narrator clearly owns the titular character. Later on you get used to his slapdash narrative, and exceeding the middle half

      of which unfolds chock full of funny anecdotes as the book slowly warms up on you. I figure Walsh was better at describing characters other than himself. The literary Mikey seems a paper-cut, two-dimensional character and nevertheless remains faceless to me (gingerly to protect the author). I don’t buy the superfluous dialogues, but they draw amusing caricatures, mostly of gypsy boy’s aunts, his sister and peers.

      Memoirs tend to adapt a confessional style, and belabor us with so much introspections, abstract ideas and self-important crap (e.g. Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, though stylistically beautiful). Gypsy Boy’s narrative flows smooth and hardly ever drags along. Walsh documents the violence almost entirely ...


      • Gypsy Boy: A Memoir by Mikey Walsh
      from a child’s perspective, bouncing back after each time and never discussing the weight of those traumatic experiences. A poignant example is his retelling of how he was raped more than once by his uncle, Joseph. His account of avuncular incest strikes you more as indifference than letting go of the pain, yet unembellished without venturing into homoerotic territory. And there’s really no need to embellish because Mikey allows his incredible story to resonate – and what a life he has had! (A movie adaptation is currently in the works.)

      I read the first chapter before switching to the audiobook (my eyes were too tired to read). Lucky

      for me, it was narrated by the author himself – technically a private reading from Walsh. I struggled through the English accent, but having read the first chapter gave me an overview of the essential details and names I was about to encounter. His voice swings from raucous (in impersonating other character’s voices) to modulated and gravelly. What’s great about the audiobook is that the narration comes out palpable and genuine, amid the suppressed brittleness of his voice (tugging at your heart) and croaks. The brief moments in which gypsy boy finds love is heartbreaking and magical. I utterly enjoyed it. Here’s my first favorite book of the year.




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The review was published as it's written by reviewer in March, 2012. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 1727031570640331/k2311a0327/3.27.12
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