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Happy Baby [Hardcover]

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Item Number 259979  
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Item description for Happy Baby by Stephen Elliott...

Happy Baby is the story of Theo, once an orphan in the Chicago foster care system and now a grown man living in California. Theo, saturated with memories of abuse and heartache, and filled with the simple wish to understand more about himself, returns to Chicago to reconnect with an old girlfriend from his troubled youth. Told in reverse order, this edgy and powerful novel slowly and subtly turns mysterious, as we attempt to recognize the root of Theo's plight and the source for his quietly wavering humanity.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   191
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.56" Width: 5.82" Height: 0.77"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Feb 19, 2004
Publisher   MacAdam/Cage
ISBN  1931561621  
ISBN13  9781931561624  

Availability  0 units.

More About Stephen Elliott

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Stephen Elliott is the author of four novels, including A Life Without Consequences and What It Means To Love You.

His new novel will be co-published by MacAdam/Cage and McSweeney's in February 2003. His writing appears regularly in GQ, McSweeney's, and The Sun. He is the Marshall McCall Lecturer at Stanford University.

His writing can be found at

Stephen Elliott currently resides in San Francisco.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Psychological & Suspense

Reviews - What do customers think about Happy Baby?

The sad effects of sexual abuse.  Dec 5, 2007
"Happy Baby" is about a child who experiences so much abuse that it is all he knows and when he grows up, finally able to get away from it, he seeks it out himself. It's like when the abuser robs you of your childhood and innocence he robs it forever; it's a scar that cannot heal and will most likely only get worse.

The story is told in reverse and gets much more emotionally involving as it progresses. I found the sections detailing the main character's current life a bit trite. I just felt like I had read it a million times before, with the sadism and the brief European stop-off and the drug use. But when we get to his youth and read in stark detail what went on as he bounced from different child homes, the book is compelling. Elliott is exquisite here, not wasting a word, masterfully painting a grim picture of these lost children. Even more fascinating is the "relationship" Theo has with a guard who abuses him but also protects him. Theo's mind is not mature enough to comprehend what's going on with this man, and he stays confused even as an adult -- seeking him out not with anger but curiosity and want.

It's not surprising to hear that this book is autobiographical; the authenticity of the state homes (the characters, Theo's accepting demeanor) is razor sharp. I honestly wish the book spent more time there instead of dealing with adult Theo's problems, which felt like a Michael Hemmingson book.

If anything, I wish adult Theo was more reflective. He repeatedly mentions that getting physically hurt clears his mind, but I'm not sure it's totally explained why he doesn't try to stop this trend in his life. Is it simply an addiction? There seems to be a slight sense of its absurdity, so why does he do it?

I'm somewhat ambivalent about this novel. While I was underwhelmed by the section on his adulthood, I thought when examining his youth it was quite powerful. I would definitely recommend this if the subject interests you, and I will be seeking out more of Elliot's work.

I think this subject matter -- of how events in our childhood, which our nascent brains can't quite figure out and therefore create these confused, contrasting proclivities for us as adults -- is an intriguing, unsettling one. Mary Gaitskill does an excellent job of exploring it in her novel "Two Girls Fat and Thin."
spare lucid prose, gravid with meaning and power  Aug 24, 2007
Chronologically reversed, Happy Baby engages the interiority of its characters with a deep sense of discovery. The lyrical engine of the novel contains subtlety, torque, and a kind of dauntless embrace of suffering and consolation that succeeds in drawing from the well of terror the water of exultation. In the face of the desolate, Elliott's art is tender, fearless, lovely.
oh, do stop whining  Sep 2, 2005
Fictional tale of a farked up childhood in care. Has a gushing jacket quote from JT Leroy so if you like his/her writing then you will probably enjoy this. Was terribly slow to get going and I stopped caring after 30 pages.
I Am Forever Changed  Jul 20, 2005
Elliott is a Master Craftsman among poseurs. It is truly my one wish in life to be able to mold words with such a deft graceful gentle hand and yet one that grips the heart and the very soul with such acerbic force. The possibility of any future pleasure in reading has been utterly dashed for me as I know I have now drunk from a stream at the very peak of literary genius. I weep.
Buy This Book Already! Stop Equivocating!  Jul 19, 2005
More than any other book I have read in the last three years, this one has stuck with me. Happy Baby is a literary story that holds the reader in suspense, and that finds beauty in an unlikely subject. Stephen Elliott writes with grace, and benevolent restraint, and without adverbs or excess ornamentation. His novel tells a story of redemption, it will almost leave you breathless, and it has a hidden ending. You will love this book.

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