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A Novel

James Magruder

Publication Year: 2009

Things look bad for Rick Lahrem, a high school sophomore in a cookie-cutter Chicago suburb in 1976. His mother’s second husband is a licensed psychologist who eats like an ape, his stepsister is a stoner slut, and his father is engaged to a Southern belle. Rick’s only solace is his growing collection of original Broadway-cast LPs, bought on the sly at Wax Trax.
    After he brings two girls in speech class to tears by reading a story aloud, Rick is coaxed onto the interscholastic forensics team to perform an eight-minute dramatic interpretation of The Boys in the Band, the controversial sixties play about homosexuality. Unexpectedly successful at this oddball event, Rick begins winning tournaments and making friends with his teammates.
    Rick also discovers the joys of sex—with a speech coach from a rival school—just as his mother, reacting to a deteriorating home environment, makes an unnerving commitment to Christ. The newly confident Rick assumes this too shall pass—until the combined forces of family, sex, and faith threaten to undo him at the state meet in Peoria.
    James Magruder’s Sugarless offers a ruefully entertaining take on the simultaneous struggles of coming-out, coming-of-age, and coming-to-Jesus.
A selection of InsightOut Book Club
Finalist, Lambda Book Award for Gay Debut Fiction, Lambda Literary Foundation
Finalist, TLA Gaybie Award for Best Gay Fiction
Semi-finalist, James Branch Cabell First Novelist Award, Virginia Commonwealth University
Semi-finalist, William Saroyan International Prize For Writing, Stanford University

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 3-26

Until the day I made two girls cry in speech class, I always thought I left no impression. My stepsister Carla, also a sophomore, broke the news at the dinner table.
“Ricky made two socialites cry today,” she said, smacking the serving spoon flat onto the mashed potatoes. ...

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pp. 27-46

Robin Baver stopped me before class on Tuesday and tried to explain. We were standing by the trophy case near the front entrance to school. The football pin and the green and gold ribbons twisted through her French braid meant that her Wolverette uniform was on under her patchwork leather coat. We had way too many pep rallies. ...

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pp. 47-69

The morning after the Ortho Novum standoff my mother and I drove to Yorktown. I needed a suit. My coaching session with Miss Schuette had gone well. First she gave me a real telephone so I could test its weight and remember how I held it when I made Alan’s call. ...

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pp. 70-90

The next Saturday afternoon, as I was coming through the main entrance to Wheaton Central with Joe Bacino and Brian Tadder, I saw Miss Schuette’s head bobbing left and right in a river of students. Spotting me, she charged. ...

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pp. 91-114

His name was Edward Bolang, but I was to call him Ned. He’d grown up downstate on a soybean farm, near a town called Streator, the youngest in a big, extended family of farmers and schoolteachers. He went to Bradley University on a speech team scholarship,...

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pp. 115-139

Horny. The seventh dwarf ’s name was Horny.
I was tucked in the throat of the soft brown couch. Ned’s body blotted everything out except the turquoise starburst of the Seven Dwarfs sign blinking in his window. ...

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pp. 140-166

For Patty Puller, things didn’t just come from the Devil; they were sent straight from the pits of hell. She loved saying this, and it often segued into her rapid-fire “Hell is hot, dontcha know?” Magazines and news stories and television shows gave her lots of ammunition. So did our Christmas decorations. ...

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pp. 167-190

Mindy Kendig came back from Peru with a cockroach the size of a change purse pinned to her sweater. Repulsive to begin with, it was alive. When Mindy blew down onto its head, as if into a flute, it buzzed and slowly flicked its wings, one at a time, shiny veined windows reflecting light as they cut the air. ...

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pp. 191-217

Atrio of leisure suits was planted in the living room. A man waved the wet mouth of a pipe at me, the wood crucifix over his turtleneck swaying with his reach. A bossa nova record was playing. Had I walked into the wrong house? ...

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pp. 218-242

My third at sectionals was included in morning announcements, but Carla Schwob’s blacktop conversion was the true sensation. At lunch, Wheaton-Warrenville’s most glamorous Magdalene to date sat with Mindy at the play fag table, the two of them baptizing tater tots in each other’s ketchup and witnessing to the faithful. ...

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pp. 243-260

The week before Peoria was agony. Carla, getting unbelievable mileage out of the black eye Steve gave her, was coming down to state and rooming with Mindy. The two of them were talking about doing a Dramatic Duet the following year, and she wanted to see what speech team was like. ...

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pp. 261-266

So many mistakes. It was a mistake for me to believe that Marie would or could renounce her attachment to the living God, just as it was a mistake for her to believe that my turning Ned in meant I wasn’t going to be gay. Though made in good faith, our silent promise in Room 18 was bound to unravel. ...

Acknowledgments [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 267-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780299233839
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299233808

Page Count: 268
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 826516872
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sugarless

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Subject Headings

  • Bildungsromans.
  • Coming out (Sexual orientation) -- Illinois -- Fiction.
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