Tale of an ‘innocent’ abroad

With demons that he cannot bear to face snapping at his heels, the narrator of Sean Urquhart’s autobiographical novel Lust and Longing in New York flees his native Glasgow for the Big Apple. Neither he nor we are ever quite sure of his raison d’être, not that this necessarily matters. We are prepared to accept that an achievement of some note may lie in the simple act of upping and leaving. Our nameless narrator is, at least, open to the challenge of testing the water in the new world.
But that this marriage of the old with something far more brash and hard as nails will be tempestuous, to put it mildly, is apparent from the get-go, most notably at his port of entry in the quietly hilarious encounter with US officialdom that precedes his eventual (after a long interrogation) throwing to the wolves.
One spot of bother after another follows from there. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of American films and television will discover a familiar ring to practically all of the motley crew that he encounters on his endless rambles around the boroughs. The stock smile he reserves for many of them is perfectly understandable. But what these ‘types’ lack in originality is more than made up for by the conviction they bring to their ‘playing’. It is as if they are alive to the notion that Scorsese himself might suddenly step in off the wings and sign them up for a role in his next bloody paean to the metropolis of his birth.
This is a ‘mindscreen’ novel par excellence. The New Yorker caricatures may be every bit as much a figment of this wanderer’s addled brain as they are a dead-on reflection of those he rubs shoulders with and the city they call home. And there is something intriguing about a hero holding to such a ‘never say die’, or, alternately, ‘never say no to another dram’ attitude as his personal walk on the wild side proceeds in all weather.
The author has a way with words. From page three: ‘The plane journey had been a lurching cabaret of vodka, throwing up in a plastic bag and alienating my fellow passengers with deathless soliloquies of crap, 30,000 feet high nonsense spouting, wild eyed, speeding through various lives lived as the clear air nausea turbulence wrenched my guts as the hours were lost between Glasgow and Philly.’ He breaks up the prose with poems that serve as a kind of summary of the action and current state of mind.
Lust and Longing in New York may be read as both a stranger rubbing up against a strange land tale of monumental proportions and a lesson what not to do when the hounds come howling. Aside from committing to detox (on many levels), our lad knows what he ought to do. While he takes a long time to act accordingly, there may yet be a way out of this labyrinth of his own making. One would surely hope so.


About owenlindsayboyd

I am a follower of the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda - author of Autobiography of a Yogi. I begin and end each day with meditation, a spiritual base from which all else proceeds. I am a personal carer, writer and traveller, among other things, originally from just outside Melbourne in Australia. I lived in my hometown until 1984, obtaining a degree in Arts, with majors in sociology and communication studies, in 1980. I have spent a considerable amount of time since the late eighties living and working in a wide range of communities in many different parts of the world. I have lived and worked with homeless people, disabled people and refugees. As a writer, I am principally a novelist though I also write shorter pieces, both fiction and non-fiction and have published and self-published poetry, articles, short stories, memoirs and novels. In addition, I write screenplays and have made a number of low-budget film productions. In recent years I self-published a trilogy of novels dealing, principally, with the themes of healing and reconciliation. 'The Unintentional Healing of Soul' (Changeling / Trafford 2003) was followed by 'Proper Respect for a Wound' (Changeling / Trafford 2005) and 'Thanks Be to the World' (Changeling / Trafford 2009). 'Proper Respect for a Wound' was also published in e-book format by Jaffa Books, Brisbane, Australia in 2013. I self-published a two-book travel memoir, 'The Second of Three' and 'From a Caregiver's Point of View' early in 2014. It is distributed on smashwords. Later in 2014 I plan to publish a book of stories.
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