Back in September of 2010, a book was submitted to me by an unknown author, a memoir, which is not usually the sort of book submitted to a site that’s dedicated primarily to romantic fiction. The first thing I worried about, as a doer of whatever it is that I do, was the case of the unknown, not to mention first time, writer. I very much want to love every book I read, so there’s always the fear that a story isn’t going to reach out to me in the way each author intends. The second worry was that I’d never read a memoir for review before and wasn’t sure I knew how to review one properly. You’re not reviewing the story of a fictional character, after all, you’re reviewing the events of someone’s life and the way each and every one of those moments, the good and the bad, were lived. Trust me when I say it’s a delicate contradiction between critiquing and judging.
As I got into the story, I’m going to confess that my worries escalated because it became increasingly obvious that I’d received an unedited copy of this particular book, which, for me, is very difficult. I labored over it, wondering how in the world I was going to finish it, let alone give it a fair and honest review without harping on the way in which it was presented. Well, lesson learned–this book was purposely presented in unedited format, published precisely the way Rick McGranahan lived: Fully unedited. Within the pages of Visiting the Ghost of Puppyboy, I found the life of a man who lived out loud, who loved deeply, who followed his heart and his dreams, who made mistakes, who fell, but who, most importantly, kept getting back up and carrying on, all the way to his happily-ever-after.
Rick and I never met face-to-face, and outside of knowing some of the most intimate details of his brief life, I’m not going to pretend I knew him well or that we’d become great friends, but we did chat occasionally over the years, mostly on Facebook, and I can say with some certainty that he continued to live his life exactly the way it was written–kick ass, take no prisoners, live and love unapologetically. He was a character in his own brave and bold adventure, and his loss is being felt deeply by those who knew him, those who loved him, and those who were merely fortunate enough to have breezed through his world through his words.
My heart goes out to his husband, Paul, and to his family, who are mourning the loss of a light that burned bright in this world, but sadly, burnt out too quickly.
If you haven’t read Visiting the Ghost of Puppyboy, I encourage you to do it. I’m re-posting my original review (written on September 29, 2010) today in honor of Rick’s memory.
If you’re the sort of reader, like me, who tends to skip over the beginning pages of a book—the publishing notes, the acknowledgments, the dedications—to get straight to the meat of the story, I’m going to save you some frustration.
“PublishAmerica has allowed this work to remain exactly as the author intended, verbatim, without editorial input.”
This book was intentionally published in an unedited state and is something I didn’t realize until I’d gotten more that halfway through. Why? My belief is that it’s because this story demanded to be told in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. This is a long soliloquy of the life of the author and his alter-ego, Puppyboy, and the reader is the voyeur who is gifted with a glimpse into the diary of an image whose flame burned brightly, then faded away. This is the story of a life filled with imperfections, told with the imperfections that occur when a person pours his heart and soul out on paper, without pausing to worry about anything as inconsequential as delivery. The eloquence of this story is in the honest and passionate way in which it is expressed, and I feel entirely appreciative to have made the three-hundred-ninety-four page journey.
Rick McGranahan’s addictions began in Atlanta, in 1993, in a nightclub called The Masquerade. Addictions come in many forms, and the first began as a desperate craving for the spotlight and attention he gained as a Go-Go boy. The entourage, the adoration, and the recognition all served to provide the foundation for a narcissistic journey that eventually led to stripping, porn, and a nearly suicidal addiction to the drugs that helped to support the Puppyboy persona and to obliterate the very reality of the life that Rick so desperately wanted.
Visiting the Ghost of Puppyboy is a pilgrimage that began with a single, unplanned dance on a platform in a nightclub and ended with the blatant truth that Go-Go boys who strip on a bar top and abuse their bodies night after night, can’t exist forever.
Through Atlanta, Washington DC, and various cities throughout Europe, the reader is transported on a mission of hedonism, eroticism, fetishism, anonymous sex, and the desperation of a man who longs for love but looks for and finds it in all the wrong places, with all the wrong people. It is a story of wanton self-annihilation, of the boy who becomes someone else in the hopes that the persona will lead to something meaningful. This is the story of useless, nameless, faceless encounters in bathroom stalls, inhaling and self-numbing to deaden the senses.
Visiting the Ghost of Puppyboy is a story that highlights the reality that there is a very real difference between being alone and being lonely, that there is a difference between being loved and being worshipped, and that there is a vast difference being loved and being used for a night.
Visiting the Ghost of Puppyboy is a book that will most likely make one’s life seem utterly dull in comparison; it is also a book that may make one thankful as all hell that one’s life has been utterly dull in comparison. It is a moving, compelling, impressive, and exceptionally striking accomplishment.
This book is neither for the judgmental nor the squeamish. It is a book that should be absorbed and appreciated for its candor and its value to the author, as well as to those whose lives he touched. I was profoundly moved by it and am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have shared the author’s memories.