Fred In Love by Felice Picano. A review by John Cook.

Picano 3

Fred In Love by Felice Picano. 2005

In the early 1970s, when he was still an aspiring, unpublished writer, Felice Picano began a remarkable relationship with an extraordinary animal: a days-old kitten slated for euthanasia who refused to perish. Rescued, named, and trained, Fred became an extraordinarily intelligent companion, ally, teacher, and constant wonder to the author as he began his ascent through the Bohemian circles of Greenwich Village, among musicians, actors, curious characters, and even the famous British actress in hiding right next door.

But when an acquaintance brought his female cat to be serviced by Fred, an entire new set of experiences opened up for the cat—and for Picano, who had never had the nerve to befriend her owner, his ideal man. The course of love seldom runs straight for cats or for men, and this time would (hilariously) prove no different.

This is another of Picano’s distinguished portraits of a vanished era, when a new gay domain was solidifying only a few years after the Stonewall Riots, and the still nascent gay literary world that Picano would help invent was just a conception. Fred in Love is a charming, nostalgic, funny, gossipy, involving, and ultimately enlightening story about how we learn and grow, and how we love—whether the object of our affection is a cat or another human being. It is sure to take its place next to Picano’s now classic literary memoirs.’ Publisher’s Blurb

This is more Picano, author of a range of novels, memoirs, poetry and anthologies and a homosexual sex manual – (‘The New Joy of Gay Sex’ following on Edmund White who wrote the original). He has too many publications to attempt to list here. Suffice it to point out that both he and White bridge the plague years and are both survivors. It is therefore understandable that some readers see the parade of their conquests as name-dropping and certainly both risk this at times (see my comments on White’s latest ‘Inside a Pearl’). But that very parade was a large part of the lives of men (and women) carving out a new physical being and consciousness that continues to influence today. Undoubtedly cats (and dogs) fill a role in many a gay man and woman’s life. Picano is no exception and I feel he has reasonably successfully managed to entwine his cat’s years with his own life. I found the attempted matings of Fred, his ‘social’ life and eventual disappearance utterly typical of gay men I know. Do we need to know who is in Picano’s bed at any given time and where he is exploring his identity (Fire Island at the peak of the party years)? Of course we do. This is not a small book simply on the life of one cat but the connections and sometimes mirroring of lives of cat and man. Fred may or may not have been in love but Picano was certainly in love with life.

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