Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style: A Novel

Image of Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style: A Novel
Release Date: 
June 6, 2023
Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by: 

Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style is a novel soaked in hilarious deliciousness, gut-wrenching grief, fashion faux pas, and fierce friendships.”

Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style is a love story about two men who meet while attending Yale in 1973; Nate Reminger, an aspiring writer from a “nice Jewish family in Piscataway, New Jersey,” and the “devastatingly handsome and insanely rich,” Farrell Covington, “the son of one of the country’s most powerful and deeply conservative families.”

As Nate, the narrator, explains, “To be more specific: Farrell wasn’t simply my cultural opposite, a blinding sun god to counter my pale, Jewish, brown-haired, generous-nosed eagerness. He was a genetic accident, a green-eyed, six-foot-three-inch, broad-shouldered gift, and yes, there were dimples when he smiled, something which, I later discovered, was an effective means of dealing with law enforcement.”

In this semi-autobiographical novel, Rudnick takes readers back to the insanity and fabulousness of the ’70s and ’80s—the abundance of nightclubs, drugs, sex, alcohol, creativity, and the tragedy of having loved ones stolen by HIV/AIDS. He reminds the reader of how far gay rights have come, from screaming at Reagan and Thatcher for their arrogance and inhumane rhetoric to marriage equality in 2015 and the ongoing effort to protect same-sex couples.

However, Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style is not all camp and kisses. The story delves into how intelligence, organization, and love are, and continue to be, the pillars behind the successes of the LGBTQ+ movement. These three pillars are witnessed personally through Farrell’s silent effort to overcome the cruelty of his right-wing religious father.

While Mr. Covington Senior does his best to keep Nate and Farrell apart using threats, Farrell gathers the information he hopes will one day give him the freedom to be with his great love, Nate.

During the reading of his father’s will, Farrell is asked by the family attorney, “Farrell, . . . is this document clear? Are there any questions?”

“None,” said Farrell, strangely unflustered. “But my attorney, Devin Llewellyn, has some remarks.”

As with all Rudnick’s marvelous character descriptions, David Llewellyn springs to life immediately; “A younger man, seated along the wall, stood up. He was well over six feet tall, with tortoiseshell glasses, a gray suit patterned in an extravagant, for this crowd, check, and tasseled shoes. He was also the only Black person in the room, and most likely the neighborhood and county. His legal pad was covered with notes, and he stepped forward.”

In the chapter titled Nighttown, Rudnick takes the reader into the frenzy of Studio 54, “we moved together, borrowing rhythms from the dancers beside us, letting the disorienting lasers, the visibly throbbing speakers, and the shaking dance floor have their way with us, as we both ignored Baryshnikov dancing with Bianca Jagger. . . .”

From Studio 54, Farrell and Nate take a cab to a club on a “barren stretch of Kings Street, not quite the Village and a hike to Soho.” In a funny scene where they both remove their wifebeaters, Nate says, “Jesus Christ, maybe you got married, but your body didn’t.”

After downing a few pills, “Mostly speed with the tiniest bit of acid and maybe some coke,” said Ariadne, as if she were recommending a light dessert wine,” Nate and Farrell take the stairs from street level to a club called The Hole. “We descended a steep, narrow, brick-walled stair in total darkness, reaching a warren of dank, cement-floored chambers minimally lit by red bulbs.”

Reminiscent of Dante and Virgil, Farrell and Nate descend into the dark unknown where the circles within the Inferno become the cruel acts and demands previously enforced by Farrell’s father. Without the constraints of misfortune, punishment, and guilt, Farrell and Nate are free to explore their sexuality with an audience to witness their newfound freedom.

Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style is a novel soaked in hilarious deliciousness, gut-wrenching grief, fashion faux pas, and fierce friendships. Rudnick cuts through genre boundaries, using his subtle knack for feeding readers insightful facts while delivering a divinely heartwarming, humorous, and courageous tale.