Having seen the best minds of his generation destroyed by mental illness, drink and drugs, and generally defeated by life, Ferlinghetti clearly feels at liberty to say whatever he wants, about whoever he wants, however he wants, and in whatever order he wants... The most affecting parts of Little Boy are in fact those that most closely resemble a traditional memoir or autobiography, because Ferlinghetti’s life, even simply told, is utterly extraordinary... Centenarian authors are certainly few and far between, but Ferlinghetti has been surprising himself and defying others for years: there may yet be more to come.
Little Boy (the release of which has been timed to coincide with Ferlinghetti’s 100th birthday on 24 March — at time of writing he is still alive), is an experimental novel ‘with no plot’ and memoir of a life ‘whose plot is only discovered after it is lived’. Not a promising start. If it weren’t quite so un-hip, one might call it auto-fiction. The intention appears to be a whistle-stop tour of the century he’s lived, ending in our current age of ‘steel and smog and plastic’. No news there, except historical backdrop is largely absent, and the narration flips between the first and third pronoun — he is Little Boy, Little Boy is ‘me me me’. A few pages in, full stops are completely renounced, which made reading it a rather breathless experience, but also deeply boring.