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Sunday, June 18, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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All-American Boy: A Memoir

----------------------------------------------------------------- "All-American Boy: A Memoir" by Scott Peck Scribners, $22 -----------------------------------------------------------------

It's not every gay man who gets outed on national television by his father, but that's exactly what happened to Scott Peck when Marine colonel Fred Peck, testifying before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, admitted that he opposed homosexuals in the military even though his son was gay. There followed a media blitz wherein father and son wrangled it out on TV.

This memoir is a result of that hubbub. And - despite the fact that books generated by current events tend to be sloppily made and quickly forgotten - it is surprisingly good.

Scott Peck's homosexuality is the least of it. Growing up in the South, he and his mother were caught between the physical abuse of his stepfather - a horrific drunk who belt-whipped her on the front lawn - and the spiritual abuse of her parents, strict Calvinists who told the boy his mother had wanted him aborted. All the while, Peck struggled to hide his burgeoning homosexuality with the small cloth of Christian fundamentalism. He even considered becoming a preacher.

Ironically, the least intriguing aspect of "All-American Boy" is Peck's "coming out." Sure, another glimpse into gay lifestyle, another trip to that bar. More compelling is the picture that Scott Peck gives us of the Christian South. You mean there are still places in America where conversations are attempted with one hand holding a Bible and the other drawn into a fist? Where newsletters are titled "Thank God for AIDS"? How strange! How monumentally queer!

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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