Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi 'The Life I Lead'

By Ann Peterpaul

SEPTEMBER 27, 1999: 

The Life I Lead by Keith Banner (Alfred A. Knopf), hard-cover, $23

Keith Banner's first novel is fast paced, easy to follow, with very simple prose -- and depressing to the point of nausea. The reader is hurdled into the world of two pederasts, men who are basically boring, lackluster Christians leading very standard lives in Muncie, Ind. The central figure is Dave, who had been sexually molested by Troy -- Dave in turn becomes a pedophile as an adult.

The plot centers around Dave's perverse form of what he deems to be love, for a little six-year-old named Nathan. Thankfully, this morbid attraction is carried on mainly in the psychological realm -- that is, in the mind of Dave -- and so there is not much actual interaction between the two. Dave, married with a little daughter, fulfills the textbook prophecy that a victim of sexual abuse may one day become an abuser. More pages are devoted to the ordeal inflicted upon him by Troy than that which he inflicted on Nathan. At the time of the abuse Troy was a not-so-bright, fifteen-year-old avid Christian church-goer. Astonishing as it may seem to the average healthy reader, Troy maintained that he was really in love with the boy, Dave; and later on as an adult he reminisced about what he had felt for the only true "love" of his life. Banner's novel contains lots of this form of squeamishness.

Perhaps the one big important message to be delivered from this story is that being a fervent Christian won't stop a man from hunting down children to defile. Banner doesn't offer any excuses for his characters. The two men are terribly pathetic and at the same time hateful; their everyday lives are incarnations of banality -- in Dave's case the only bright spots are his wife and children.

In his writing Banner takes no flights of imagination nor any plunges into the dark and disturbing worlds of human psyches. This story of ordinary men sacrificing the young to satiate their own personal demons is presented in a very hollow voice on a barren psychic landscape. Other than incurring nausea, what was the real point?


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