Book Review: The Pajama Boy
Discover a Japan where a handsome young newspaperman rescues a cute innocent teenage boy from a stalker, and they fall in love. Their relationship is tested when the boy semi-accidentally becomes a sought-after model, the star of famous "Pajama Boy" ads, and all Tokyo goes crazy. Old flames, jealous rivals, and a hypocritical family threaten to drive the gay couple apart. Welcome to the universe of American author Ginger Mayerson's The Pajama Boy, where two genres--Japanese yaoi and American romance--get a refreshing twist.
What's Japanese yaoi anyway? Mayerson, a yaoi fan, explains in her novel's introduction, "For those of you who wandered in from reality, yaoi manga is gay porn comics created by women for an audience of mostly women. There are lots of explanations why yaoi is such a huge hit."
She adds The Pajama Boy was written "to kick all those stray yaoi tropes out of my head before they ended up in something else." She had previously written some romance and erotica, but Pajama Boy marks a career milestone.
Mayerson demonstrates some of her finest prose here, creating a total environment, a total ambiance, in the way the characters relate to each other, and in the way little details and subplots nudge the main story along. She compares her style to looking into a lacquered box--it looks like you're looking into something.
"There are books and stories you write just to get them out of your system. That's what The Pajama Boy is," she explained in an exclusive interview with this reviewer. "There must be 10,000 yaoi manga where some guy in a suit trips over some kid in the street, takes him home, and they live happily ever after." If you're a yaoi fan, you know the guy in the suit is probably seme (active) and the kid on the street uke (passive), although reversals exist. If you want a more explicit example, then you'll want to read The Pajama Boy.
Mayerson even works in a satire of yaoi when an American producer comes to Japan to make a yaoi film starring the "Pajama Boy" model. The Japanese and American characters alike consider the genre and the project to be vile trash. Mayerson suggests, "Can you imagine an avaricious American producer who says, I don't understand this but I'm going to make money off it?"
To be fair we must add Mayerson hasn't written a perfect novel. Into the final thirty pages are crammed the film project, a murder mystery, AIDS, out-of-character personality and career changes, and the passage of several years. It's as if the author feared leaving a plot twist unturned. The overall result, however, is still a groundbreaking work that breathes fresh life into both yaoi and gay romance.
Japan may be the birthplace of yaoi but the genre has gone global in the twenty-first century. Mayerson has used the trend to create new romantic, erotic literature for a crossover audience. She also runs Wapshott Press, where she specializes in making feminist, gay, and erotic literature available to a wider audience.
The Pajama Boy is published by Wapshott Press. It's available online and in trade paperback (in three different collector's covers). At the Wapshott Press website you'll also find other works by Mayerson, including her series of novels about the mystery-solving eighties' jazz vocalist Dr. Mabel Hackenbush.