9780802141668

The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens; A Novel

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780802141668

  • ISBN10:

    0802141668

  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2004-11-02
  • Publisher: Grove Press
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Summary

Modeled on the classic 18th-century picaresques like Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling and Defoe’s Moll Flanders, The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens is the modern-day bildungsroman of a prodigiously attractive young Texan named Lyle Clemens. Lyle is kind of a holy fool who, like Chance in Being There, illuminates the actions, motivations, and prejudices of others through his lack of cynicism. He is a simple babe, in the woods of Texas and Los Angeles.

Lyle’s mother, Sylvia, is a beautiful woman who was raised Pentecostal and rebelled against her mother through sexuality—but her dreams to become Miss America were dashed by her mother in a particularly traumatic way, and Lyle’s father (Lyle the First, a dashing cowboy), who consoled her in her time of need, left her when she became pregnant, leaving only money for an abortion Sylvia never got. Sylvia never talks about her own childhood or Lyle I, and takes refuge in alcohol; an entertaining Chicana Catholic kook named Clarita, given to religious visions and wacky pronouncements, helps Sylvia raise Lyle. Despite his unusual circumstances, Lyle has a sunny disposition. Like his father, Lyle is given to wearing cowboy boots and other Western attire, and often has to explain to people that he’s never actually ridden a horse.

Things come to a head when Lyle reaches sexual maturity and falls in love with a girl in his school—a beautiful young Chicana named Maria. Unfortunately, Maria’s father Armando was one of Sylvia’s boyfriends and thinks he is Lyle’s father. Sylvia, out of vague sexual possessiveness toward her son, colludes with Armando to keep them apart, though she knows in her heart Lyle I is the father. The Pentecostals who fought to keep Sylvia in the fold all those years ago come back to town and, desperate, Sylvia takes Lyle to a tent revival. She quickly comes to her senses and realizes she has no place there, but they are already smitten with Lyle’s amazing good looks, beautiful guitar-playing and singing, and natural charisma. They begin to recruit him to come to Los Angeles to join their Pentecostal televangelism empire.

Alienated from Maria and fed up with his mother, Lyle decides it’s time for him to strike out on his own, so he follows “Brother Bud and Sister Sis” to L.A. A black woman named Matilda of the Golden Voice, now alienated from Bud and Sis, encourages his musical gift but warns him obliquely not to trust Bud and Sis. Quickly Bud and Sis begin grooming Lyle as the newest Christian star sensation, dubbing him “The Lord’s Cowboy.”

Meanwhile, a desperate and vain B-movie actress named Tarah Worth is angling to make a comeback. She hears she is up for the role of Helen Lawson (the older, washed-up actress character) in a sequel to Valley of the Dolls. Shortly after arriving in town, Lyle has taken a job working at a party at the Playboy Mansion, and saves Miss Millennium (a Playmate) from a feral peacock. He becomes known around L.A. as the “Mystery Cowboy” and Tarah hatches a plan in which Lyle will be framed for kidnapping her, that she feels will assure her the Valley of the Dolls role.

One of Lyle’s friends from Texas, a gay kid named Raul, shows up in L.A. Bud and Sis are none too thrilled that their charge is trusting his gay friends and Sister Matilda over them, and he breaks from them on-air during their televangelist show—which they play off as demonic possession. Lyle attempts to keep Raul from getting bilked by sketchy pornographers, and to otherwise protect him from the seedier elements preying on gay street kids in L.A. Maria shows up in town to announce that she still loves Lyle, sleep with him one last time, and then inform him she’s marrying a business contact of her father’s for money. Lyle feels betrayed and tells her he never wants to speak to her again.

Most dramatically, Lyle finally meets his father. Having been told he’s an abandoning son-of-a-bitch his entire life, he’s very angry and hostile but there is some closure and a hint of rapprochement. He also learns from a letter from Clarita that his mother’s difficult life is over, and gains some insight into her childhood. The end comes when he re-encounters Sister Matilda, now preaching on the street comparing her father’s lynching to the Crucifixion, and takes her to lunch at Musso & Frank’s. Feeling a sense of great tragedy and change, he takes off his clothes and, on a busy street in L.A., does the preacher strut and sings “Amazing Grace” as a tribute to his mother, jeered by passersby.

Table of Contents

Book One Texas
In which Lyle Clemens is born to Sylvia Love, and Fate sets out on its wayward course
Chapter One
Lyle Clemens is delivered, alive; how he came to be born. The horror at the Miss Rio Escondido Beauty Pageant is recalled briefly
3(1)
A view of Rio Escondido, where it all began
4(1)
A move back in time, before Lyle's birth. Eulah Love prepares to speak in tongues, and a golden voice arouses hope
5(2)
Sylvia's aspirations for a happy life. A way out
7(2)
Possible intrusions on the way to the pageant
9(1)
Further back in time. The ``sexy Chicano'' introduces Sylvia to the Catholic church and its glamorous saints
9(2)
Can virginity be lost twice? A welcome confusion of memories
11(3)
How Sylvia Love became Miss Rio Escondido. The full horror at the Miss Alamito Beauty Pageant
14(5)
The beginning of the aftermath
19(1)
Chapter Two
A return to the time of Lyle's birth. A prediction is altered into a new prophecy
20(1)
How Sylvia met Clarita. Clarita's duel with Eulah Love
21(3)
Still back in time, Lyle Clemens the First enters, resurrecting smothered hope
24(2)
The passion of Lyle Clemens the First and Sylvia Love
26(2)
The courtship of Sylvia Love
28(1)
A warning is adjusted
29(1)
The deepening prospect of happiness
30(1)
Eulah Love invades again
30(1)
Eulah's dramatic speech in tongues as she's slain in the spirit
31(3)
Who is Sylvia's father?
34(1)
A white rose is presented
35(1)
A figure from the past is summoned
36(1)
Sylvia's motives. Clarita struggles with an ethical consideration
37(1)
A vine is resurrected in the house of curses
37(1)
Chapter Three
A return to Sylvia's bedside. A pending question is asked
38(1)
A pullback in time: Clarita's flight to the hills of Chihuahua: the ravages of Pancho Villa: and an apparition by the Holy Virgin Guadalupe
39(2)
A pause in Clarita's recollections. An unwelcome question occurs to Sylvia Love
41(1)
An injustice at the Such Is Life Cafe
41(1)
An adjustment of memories
42(1)
The present moves on. Lyle the Second grows up quickly and speaks an unwelcome word
43(2)
A disturbing question
45(1)
A gift and a vow
46(1)
About the unique nature and manifestations of intelligence
47(1)
Lyle's education is taken over by a firm authority
48(1)
Clarita upholds em-pa-thy for the down-trotten
49(1)
Lyle's extended education
49(2)
Time passes. obscuring Clarita's warning
51(1)
A startling revelation
52(2)
Chapter Four
Why Lyle Clemens did not become a ``geek.''
54(2)
The unique nature of amoebas, according to Miss Stowe
56(1)
A discovery in the vacant lot
57(1)
Lyle's unique popularity is rewarded; Sylvia Love responds. A prophetic warning from Clarita
58(2)
The eye of the beholder
60(1)
About love, hate, and desire, and the invisible demarcation that separates them
61(1)
A declaration of undying love
62(1)
Unwelcome news, quiet plotting
63(1)
A mysterious confrontation
64(1)
Chapter Five
Lyle's nature is further manifested
65(2)
A command from beyond the grave?
67(1)
On the perils of not being a geek
68(4)
A lesson well learned
72(1)
The call of duty
72(2)
Out of the sad decline of Sylvia Love, a question about amazing grace
74(2)
What is strange?
76(2)
A definition of where love is and isn't, according to Rose. A lesson well taught, well learned
78(3)
Can King David's serenade withstand the passage of time?
81(2)
Chapter Six
The mystery of a grain of sand. A painful confession
83(3)
A fierce rivalry stirs in Rio Escondido
86(2)
A warning justified. Rose is heard from again
88(5)
An odd connection, and a loving acknowledgment
93(1)
A startling possibility?
93(2)
The past catches up with Sylvia Love
95(4)
Chapter Seven
A confrontation, and a reminder of what might have been
99(2)
A secret sortie into Sylvia's past yields new questions
101(1)
And still more mystery
102(1)
A melancholy interlude. A firm decision is made, the risks not considered
103(1)
A passionate confrontation
104(1)
Has Lyle the First returned?
105(2)
A return to The Gathering of Souls with Brother Bud and Sister Sis
107(1)
Amid frenzy a star is born
108(4)
Chapter Eight
Eulah's curse at bay. Lyle does the preacher-strut, guided by Rose
112(4)
The origin of the preacher-strut, according to the angels, Sister Sis, and Brother Bud. A guarded warning from Sister Matilda of the Golden Voice
116(4)
Sister Matilda meets Clarita and delivers a letter of further warning
120(2)
Another warning at the Texas Grand Hotel
122(2)
Chapter Nine
Considerations about what constitutes grace. When is it amazing? Intimations of a secret fraught with danger
124(4)
A necessary dramatic pause before an abrupt interruption
128(1)
An invitation from the Lord sent through Brother Bud and Sister Sis
128(1)
The matter of Maria is resumed; a frightening possibility is reconsidered
129(2)
A persistent ghost returns, even more powerful
131(1)
A grave decision
132(1)
The true color of Jesus
132(2)
A firmed position. A betrayal announced
134(1)
The unsettling mystery of Sister Matilda
135(1)
Some thoughts about farewells
136(1)
The saddest farewell
137(1)
A litany of farewells
138(3)
Book Two Hollywood, the Lord's Headquarters in Anaheim, and an Unexpected Detour
In which disparate lives wait to entangle Lyle's
Chapter Ten
On the perfection of coincidences, here involving Mr. and Mrs. Renquist, Tarah Worth, and considerations about the Valley of the Dolls
141(5)
Another impossible connection develops in Encino, California
146(4)
A decisive meeting with Lenora Stern, Rusty Blake, and Tarah Worth. The great Liz Smith invoked
150(4)
Chapter Eleven
The flight to the City of Angels, or more accurately to the Lord's Headquarters
154(1)
Someone secret knows Lyle's whereabouts
155(2)
Return to the Valley of the Dolls
157(2)
A poolside encounter
159(2)
The Lord's Cowboy is born
161(4)
Chapter Twelve
A troubling letter is received, and Love Letters to Jesus are solicited
165(1)
The Lord's Cowboy performs
166(2)
The ascent of the Lord's Cowboy
168(1)
The Lord's message reinterpreted
169(1)
A column poised to assure a triumph
170(1)
A matter of morality considered
171(1)
At the Lord's Bank
172(2)
The predicament of the Lord's Cowboy
174(3)
Chapter Thirteen
Crisis at Spago, and everyone is there
177(2)
Reverberations out of the horror at Spago
179(1)
In which the Lord works His mysterious ways
180(1)
God's mysterious ways extend
181(5)
Lyle in jail with Mr. Magwitch
186(1)
Mr. Cowboy is born on the road
187(3)
Chapter Fourteen
An unexpected detour. The vagaries of chance
190(4)
In which is encountered a reflection of Lyle's goddamned son-of-a-bitch father
194(2)
Some considerations about magic and illusion. and intrusive reality
196(5)
A question of love
201(1)
Back to the glorious City of Angels
202(5)
Book Three Los Angeles
In which Lyle Clemens finds himself in the City of Angels
Chapter Fifteen
Lyle relies on his instincts and Clarita's prayer, and encounters BABETTE
207(5)
Lyle discovers Hollywood Boulevard. His excursions about the city: its sights, excitement, and grave dangers
212(5)
An essential decision about life and living
217(2)
Has Lyle met BABETTE during the savage attack of the peacock at Huey's Mansion?
219(5)
Chapter Sixteen
Maria's inviolate decision
224(2)
A film sequel to a great novel changes yet again
226(1)
Lyle's flight from Huey's Mansion and an unexpected angel of mercy appears
227(1)
The search is on for the Mystery Cowboy
228(1)
Reverberations
229(1)
Still more reverberations
230(1)
Unwanted fame
231(1)
Em-path-y for down-trotten lost angels
232(3)
Chapter Seventeen
A windy day in Rio Escondido
235(1)
In which an invitation assures the site of the gimmick
236(1)
Some observations about hiding
237(3)
An untimely introduction
240(1)
Information is supplied, but matters remain unexplained
241(1)
The revelation of duplicity
242(1)
Thoughtful moments, a twinge of sadness, and a familiar voice
243(2)
Chapter Eighteen
A sordid development to be resolved. Mr. Scala in pursuit
245(3)
A timely meaning for the word ``dolls.'' Tarah Worth recognizes another person, herself
248(1)
The new Tarah Worth moves forward with her plan; an emergency call to her psychic
249(2)
A declaration
251(2)
An expected unexpected
253(1)
A critical quandary
254(4)
A crucial decision
258(2)
Chapter Nineteen
The pending matter of Maria's broken heart
260(5)
More speculation about the Mystery Cowboy
265(2)
A matter of good luck kept pending
267(1)
A violent interlude
268(1)
Lyle sees more of the world
269(1)
Back on the Boulevard---
270(1)
A bittersweet reunion at Musso & Frank's
271(4)
Chapter Twenty
Yet another unexpected turn
275(1)
A move back in time to learn what Raul told Lyle, involving more of life's impossible coincidences
276(5)
Back in Lyle's apartment---
281(1)
The past invades the present
281(1)
A confrontation
282(2)
A discovery
284(1)
A promise. this one to be kept
285(1)
Chapter Twenty-One
The persistence of the past
286(3)
A type of meanness exemplified
289(1)
A plan is put into motion
290(1)
The next step
290(1)
The state of Lyle's troubled heart
291(1)
The matter of fate
291(1)
Back in Rio Escondido---
292(4)
An ill-timed development?
296(1)
Growing concern about the truth of the fabulous columnist's absence
297(2)
Chapter Twenty-Two
A new kind of love comes to Sylvia
299(1)
A comeback
300(2)
Anxiety about Liz Smith's absence
302(1)
The monumental Hollywood event nears
302(1)
The crucial step in Tarah's plot is taken
303(2)
The scheme is batched
305(4)
The confirmation of a possible ally
309(1)
The triumphant return!
309(1)
And a sad return
310(4)
Chapter Twenty-Three
The Academy Awards! The terrible deception
314(4)
A true report
318(1)
The saddest event of all
319(3)
A naked cowboy
322

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