“the lack of a future plot
outline (l’érosion de contours)
encourages the reader to
write his or her own story”
—Leonid Livak, “How to Write
a Novel,” How They Did it in Paris
“Caloub Esquire” is the story about a nightclub dancer, Édouardo—who makes his living as a male stripper in a risqué strip club, The Naughty Monsieur. He nurtures the idea of an “unpure novel” that would describe the process of doing male burlesque drag acts—codifying the rules of the genre as a kind of Art of the Male Nude Act.
Édouardo calls his novel Les Faux-Leonardo. He sees his dancing as a way of making a living—and his novel as a challenge to the naïve str8t realism and limitations of his so-so nightclub drag act.
Édouardo’s goal is a “Leonardo”-like novel-within-a-novel—since he’s a gay man posing as a str8t male dancer in a woman’s strip-club. He records his travails and adventures with sex-starved women in notebooks that are like Andre Gide texts.
The notebooks contain criticisms of his Novel—foreshadowing many of the same points raised against Gide and Nabokov’s novels. As with the other authors—Édouardo sees the story of his book as more important than the book itself. He doesn’t complete his project…
Like Gide’s “to be continued” storyline about meeting his young nephew Caloub, Édouardo ends his story and the story of his novel with a suggestion that he’s meeting a young male lover after the strip-show is over.
The boy turns out to be Édouardo’s young teenage nephew—who’s come to town to become a male burlesque dancer like Édouardo. The boy’s risqué stage name is “Caloubina”—somewhat like Miss Proust’s drag-act loverboy “Albertine.”
Albertine, as everybody knows, is actually quite the cute young butch chauffeur for Miss Proust. And Caloub turns out to be just as macho male and really Quite the Mr. Quite. And so the novel-within-a-novel continues—“Les Faux-Leonardo” turning into a lovely double male drag-act. Ever so pleasing and yet so frustratingly flummoxing—for all the pretty ladies at The Naughty Monsieur nightclub.