- Title: Happy Baby
- Author: Stephen Elliott
- ISBN: 9780330438315
- Page: 206
- Format: Paperback
Some stories begin with happy ever afterHAPPY BABY is the story of Theo, once the eponymous happy baby, but later an orphan in foster care and now a grown man living in California Haunted by memories of neglect, abandonment and abuse, Theo returns to Chicago where he lived as a troubled adolescent, to track down an old girlfriend Told in reverse order, this is an edgySome stories begin with happy ever afterHAPPY BABY is the story of Theo, once the eponymous happy baby, but later an orphan in foster care and now a grown man living in California Haunted by memories of neglect, abandonment and abuse, Theo returns to Chicago where he lived as a troubled adolescent, to track down an old girlfriend Told in reverse order, this is an edgy and powerful novel, chilling in its portrayal of a life slowly yet systematically disintegrating.
Recent Comments "Happy Baby"
I read this book because I discovered The Rumpus on the internet and then Stephen Elliot on twitter. I subsequently signed up for The Rumpus's newsletter and began to look forward to reading Elliot's emails. So, I went to my local book store, Skylight Books in Los Feliz, and bought Happy Baby, not knowing what to expect really. Reading someone's fiction is drastically different than reading their letters.Elliot's book is beautiful, it's quiet and unassuming and seemingly very honest. It reminds [...]
Told anti-linearly, this book illuminates darker corners of the sadomasochistic mind in a more thoughtful and sensitive fashion than I expected. It is about the marriage of sexuality and violence. Brave, sparse and lovely. Plus Stephen Elliott is super nice---I met him (and bought this book) at a Sex Worker's Art Show; he showed us his scars.
picked this up to see what my tolerance level is like for forthright prose by slightly damaged thirty-something males in a post-eggers world. plenty of dripping candlewax & coke-and-mirrors so far. but i'm all for futzing around with chronology and this one's told backwards the end of it all, i realised i never let myself get below the surface of the story. that might be my fault as a reader, but might also be the distance at which the prose held me. it's clearly heartfelt, clearly very real [...]
My favorite of the three novels by Elliott that I've read. His portrayal of children in foster care in Chicago seems improbably horrific, but I suspect some very real life experience was utilized to create the scenes described in "Happy Baby." Each chapter works as a stand alone short story, and the literary device Elliott uses here (telling the story in reverse chronology) brings the main character, Theo, into intense focus by the end (when Theo is a 5th grader). The narrative is sparse, but th [...]
Reading Happy Baby after already reading Elliott’s memoir The Adderall Diaries, it’s impossible not to compare the two and notice the semi-autobiographical nature of the novel. Like Theo, Elliott lost his mother at a young age and has an abusive father. Like Theo, Elliott was a ward of the state in Illinois during his teenage years and spent time in group homes. He attempted suicide; he attempted to block out the world by concentrating on simple pain. The sum total of what is and isn’t tru [...]
Written in an nonlinear manner, Stephen Elliott accompanies his readers through Theo's heartbreaking and haunting story that started from his current life as a submissive and spineless adult to his abusive and violent childhood. Elliott tells such a heavy and difficult story to read in a light and subtle way that it left the readers developing a slight ache in their hearts despite not knowing the roots of Theo's troubles until the end. I am fond of books, movies, TV shows, and any type of media [...]
"Wow."That's what I said last evening upon finishing Stephen Elliott's impressive Happy Baby. Though the subject matter, particularly the scenes of S&M and drug use, is often quite disturbing, this book has an oddly uplifting quality to it. Elliott based the novel generously on his own childhood as a ward of the State of Illinois, and it's a tightly written adventure through group homes, juvenile detention facilities and ultimately the outside world, from the sex trade of Amsterdam to file-c [...]
I won’t presume to imagine Stephen Elliott’s reaction on the day, not long after the publication of Elliott’s Happy Baby, when wunderkind street hustler author JT LeRoy was exposed as a middle-aged woman named Laura Albert. Unaware of Albert’s grandest and grossest fiction—her impersonation of a young man afflicted with AIDS—Elliott had placed a chunk from a JT LeRoy interview ahead of his own precise and sure Happy Baby narration, and a JT LeRoy blurb gushes on the novel’s back co [...]
I downloaded a free copy from Mr. Elliott's website. And I read this while simultaneously reading Elliott's newest book, The Adderall Diaries, and while reading the oral histories of his childhood friends and acquaintances on therumpus. All of these writings deal in some way with the same subject and time period --- so I feel like maybe I will end up remembering all of it in a lump, fictionalized and not.So, anyway. Elliott has a very clear way of writing without sacrificing description. One par [...]
Stephen Elliot's Happy Baby is beautiful. Although I am not saying the subject matter is beautiful. Violence, sadness, desperation, fear, abandonment, and rape - are not subjects that are beautiful. However the book is still beautiful. Elliot's sparse writing style of stripped down quick prose not only gets the job done, but flows with the rhythm, or maybe the pulse, of who he was then - even though it is the "him" of now that is telling us the story. If that makes any sense, I don't know. This [...]
That's so weird that I never reviewed this- I just left my review for The Adderall Diaries and saw that I didn't have a rating here. Stephen always says this is his best book, but I think it's just his best pre-Adderall Diaries. They do such different things, though, it's hard to compare them; this is definitely the best novelization of his early life, though. The backwards conceit works well, the prose (as always) is clear and direct and gives you room to feel however you want about it, althoug [...]
I waffled a lot on whether to give this book three or four stars. Sometimes I found the subject matter -- S&M, drugs, sodomy -- difficult to read. Sometimes I found the subject matter -- love, identity, pain, loss -- enveloping. Mostly I liked it. Some passages were searingly beautiful. I think it's a really significant novel, beautifully executed. Having read some of Elliott's nonfiction, it's impossible to read this without knowing that much of it is rooted in reality. I'm not sure whether [...]
This book reminded me of how I felt when I had to read The Stranger in high school. Back then I was confused by the existentialist tone and the attitude of the main character, who had a total resignation towards his shitty life as it happened around him. Happy Baby had that similar resignation, but it was one I was well familiar with. Something I used to liken to being stuck in the doldrums at sea. The feeling of helplessness. Of simply being a recipient of mundanity, violence, and existence at [...]
sad, wise and heartbreaking. what more could you ask for in a book? the writing is first rate and what's even better -- the writer knows what he's talking about. he's lived the life and it's palpable. the book is told in reverse order but, once you understand that, it's not a problem. i read this book right after reading 'the delivery man' by joe mcginess jr. hated that book because it was so false you felt it in every page. hey joe, if you want to know what's it like to write about fucked-up ch [...]
this book should really have four and a half stars. i found the format of this novel (progressing backwards by chapter) to be perfectly suited for the subject matter (bdsm, juvenile detention centers, and abuse), and Steven Elliot's observations were simple and true. I have one complaint (don't read this if you're planning to read the book)we never find out really why he got into the detention center. It drove me a little nuts, especially since that is what started his whole life on this particu [...]
i learned that stephen elliot is a really good writer, and he took me on a little old trip - a trip to those hideous places unplacable orphans and the children of the fantastically inept are placed, and an explanation of why he likes to get beat up in the right way by a woman he is terrified of.
I now totally understand why some people like to be beaten while in sexual situations.
readable but forgetable
oh man. good but a harrowing read. definitely a poor choice on my part for beach reading.
OK, so, I feel bad for giving this a relatively low rating for two reasons:1. I requested the damn book through a giveaway, and I got it! In my defense, the alternate synopsis sounded more up my alley. I'm not a prude, or at least I didn't think I was, but I'm not interested in reading about masochism. I was lukewarm on the drug use as well. Just not my thing. But the whole thing about a story told in reverse was very intriguing to me, and that was my main takeaway from the original synopsis I'd [...]
Interesting, this, though I'm not sure whether it has quite the desired effect. The movement into the past feels like regression, but also potentially positively, therapeutically, rather than entirely fatalistically. I kind of feel like it should've had a bit more substance, but it illustrated a lot of stuff I'd been uncertain about.
Stark and beautiful in that the narrator holds nothing back from the reader and never attempts to justify life choices or behavior, which are achingly, clearly motivated by deep needs set in motion by cruel treatment and neglect. Read this when you are feeling brave.
Stephen Elliott's Happy BabyM is a short novel told in reverse chronological order, deftly chronicling in the first person one man's experiences with rape, drugs, abuse, juvenile detention centers, and the brutal effect all those things have on a person in their adult life. A similar technique was employed in the film Irreversible, which, in recounting a rape and its awful effects, casts an air of doom over the chronologically early pre-rape scenes. There is some of that here, though the real in [...]
I'm impressed and also wondering how he dares writing so openly. Is it a part of the need to suffer abuse? The Village Voice is cited saying it's a heartbreaking autobiographical novel. I do know that his father is still alive-while in the book he isn't. I find it interesting that instead of using a flashback he goes back in time-starting in the present and moving through the past, everything in the present tense. The book is a pageturner-why? how/ what makes it this way?It's been a while since [...]
This book gripped me from start to finish. Told in reverse order, it chronicles moments in the life of a boy named Theo from Chicago, whose parents died early, through the foster system and drifting through various jobs and relationships as an adult. It seems like a lot of the book is autobiographical, and it's told with heartbreaking honesty. The suffering Theo endures is shocking and disturbing, and affects his life later as an adult. The way it's told in reverse order makes it feel like you'r [...]
Not the type of story I usually review. It is a story collection, sort of a memoire, not sure exactely how much of it is real and how much is fiction though. It's got a bit of sex but this is defenitely not a work of erotica. It's a sad story of a boy who lost his parents and became the ward of the state. He got abused, teased and threathened by his peers as well as the adults who were responsible of him. It's at time touching, disheartening, sad. You'll be immerse into a large array of emotions [...]
Happy Baby is a good read, but I don't think it's for everybody. Author Elliott's characters have the same childhoods as most of the people on death row, with plenty of sexual abuse, cruelty, and neglect and as adults they're not in denial. Their adult relationships seem to provide affirmation and acceptance of their roots, all in familiar, nicely described Chicago settings like Devon Avenue, Howard Street, and Jonquil Jungle neighborhoods.I hesitate with the 4 stars because I don't want to reco [...]
happy baby is one of my favorite works of modern lit. elliott deals (as he often does) with what would be normally called transgressive material in a deeply sensitive and haunting way. his words are always deeply marked by the empathy he always has with the most broken of the fragile characters who inhabit his often squalid but strangely beautiful worlds. the narrative is told in rreverse chronological order but never seems gimmicky for the slightest moment. this is a tough, unsentimental, somew [...]
Nowadays it’s common for a storyteller to alter the timeline so it doesn’t unfold in chronological order – a la Quentin Tarantino. Again, drawing comparison to film, Stephen Elliott’s Happy Baby (Picador, 2004) plays out much like Christopher Nolan’s Memento. That is, the stories in both the aforementioned film and the novel at hand are told in reverse order, or, more simply, backwards. If you’d like an even more confusing explanation: the stories begin at the end and end at the begi [...]
I started reading Stepehn Elliot based on an article he did about the Linux killer for Salon. Something about his voice hooked me. This book reeled me in. As a side note, probably not great to read this and:A Life Without Consequences in close proximity as they cover similar territory in his semi-autobiographical world.I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this book as it gets fairly in depth with his S&M lifestyle, a place I can be reluctant to be led. What grows through the reverse narrative i [...]
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