Pretty Boy: An Autobiography
Wilbert Steven Ford
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (5/11)
First impressions matter, there is no denying this fact. I am an inveterate reader of book covers, so the first impression I’ll gather of any book will most probably be from its front and back covers. “Pretty Boy” by Wilbert Steven Ford definitely had an eye-catching front cover – huge red letters on a stark black background, and a small subtitle in green, “An Autobiography.” Wilbert Steven Ford? No, it did not ring any bells. So I turned to the back cover. A picture of an older, very dapper and well-dressed gentleman, reminding me a lot of a former neighbor of mine, Uncle L. Hmmm, a story of wisdom and broken hearts left in his wake? Who is this man? The back cover did not provide any real clues. “A true story of victorious flat bottom to high is the limit. I view myself as today’s Native son, Manchild with a twist.” I had to read this several times, and I still could not make any real sense of it. Native son? Are we talking Richard Wright here? But Manchild? A twist?
So I bravely started reading. And the more I read, the less I understood. This much I do know – the story contained in “Pretty Boy” is an autobiography of a young man born in 1945, and it covers his early years, until just before his seventeenth birthday. It vividly describes everyday events in his life, including some that he claims to remember clearly, although he was only three-years-old. Of course, he also describes – in detail – the sexual intercourse he had as a four-year-old, and that somewhat diminished his credibility in my eyes. There are various other descriptions of his sexual prowess as a child, as well as insights into his views of sexuality in children, including a statement about Danish society, which purportedly supports children having sex at the age of twelve, and provides them with the condoms to do so. Interestingly enough, I have close friends in Denmark, and none of them have ever heard of such a thing. The tale goes on, not sparing us any details about abuse, injuries, crime and life on the edge; it ends with his release from the Boonville State Reform School for Boys about two-and-a-half months before his seventeenth birthday.
With the exception of the final pages of “Pretty Boy,” where Mr. Ford discloses that he received education later on in life and became a teacher’s aide, and where he discusses the importance of education for a productive existence, I found this to be a deeply disturbing book. If it were fiction, it would be bad enough, but who really wants to know all those sordid details about somebody else’s life? Maybe it is just me, but I would have much rather have read a story of overcoming and and learning, and not one of having underage orgies.