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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Award-winning gay fiction on *coughs* hump day. 
12th-Oct-2005 10:25 am
I've been working on this one for a couple of weeks. Next up? The first half of 1984 for my Science Fiction class tomorrow. After that, I'll probably be back to whittling down my enormous pile of manga.

Olshan, Joseph. Night Swimmer. London: Bloomsbury, 1995. (First Edition: 1994)
Summary: The love of Will's life disappeared without a trace one night while the two of them were swimming in the ocean, and, in the successive ten years, Will has never totally gotten over Chad, who he is sure did not die out there but instead chose to abandon him. He has recently broken up with Greg, and they are sharing custody of their dog. Enter Sean, a young man with torments of his own. He and Will hit it off in a big way, but the hauntings of their respective pasts soon get in the way of romantic bliss.
Comments: Joseph Olshan, the author in question, is perhaps most famous for Clara's Heart, which was adapted into a feature-length film starring Whoopi Goldberg. This novel, which actually has no female characters whatsoever, is written almost entirely in first person, with Will address Sean directly. Though none of the characters are very young, the heated, urgent tone of the prose reminds me of a young teen pining over love. At times it's irritating since you'd think adults at least would have more perspective, but I suppose it's suitable, given the soap-opera subject matter. There is quite a lot of literary mirroring going on with the common threads that the two men share and the way in which Sean ultimately ups and leaves without a trace like Chad once did, and, since this is gay fiction, of course we get the obligatory disease subtheme. None of the characters, major or minor, prove to have AIDS, however, and the implication that the real affliction is one of the heart, not the immune system. In addition, there are touches of almost-but-not-quite magic realism, particularly in the way that Chad disappears and then, right at the end, Will sees his face in the water. (You can bet that I wasn't satisified with the elusive ending.) The best part of this novel is way in which ordinary NYC scenes are described so easily and realistically that you aren't even aware that there is a writerly hand behind them.
Notes: UK trade paperback edition, 3rd printing; American trade paperback edition available
Rating: 7/10 - Really good, provided you don't mind the adolescent-ish angst.
(Deleted comment)
12th-Oct-2005 02:51 pm (UTC)
Night Swimmer won a Lambda Literary Award, I believe...though, to be perfectly honest, the pickings must've been really scarce that year. The adolescent-ish angst really annoyed me at times, but it might not bother you; As Meat Loves Salt evokes the same negative reaction in me, and you said you really liked that novel.

As for the disease theme, well, AIDS is a fact of life these days, tied to notions of sexuality, and to not include it would make a work of escapist fantasy.

Nearly all of the gay fiction I've read is American (not surprising, given that I live in the US and that's what's most readily available), so I've never read anything by Joel Lane.
12th-Oct-2005 03:02 pm (UTC)
If I'm not mistaken, CLAY'S WAY by Blair Mastbaum, won a Lambda Lit Award this year and, frankly, I wasn't terribly impressed with it myself. I think these awards (whether for literature, film or what-have-you) are highly political affairs.

I suppose, to some degree, I agree with you about the AIDS thing. But I still don't find it particularly entertaining to read about it.

I take it you don't buy any books from Amazon if you don't have access to foreign writers. I find I can get anything I'm looking for (even imported or out-of-print titles) from the Amazon marketplace fairly cheaply (as a matter of fact, I just bought that Joel Lane book for 69 cents).
12th-Oct-2005 03:34 pm (UTC)
I never buy books from Amazon because I can invariably get things more cheaply elsewhere. (I'm a cheapskate of the highest order, and I only rarely buy used books because I hate coughing up $3-$4 just for shipping.) The bigger problem (since availability per se is not the issue), however, is exposure. I'm unlikely to know that a book printed only in England even exists in the first place if I do not see it in the bookstores that I do frequent. To be perfectly honest, however, I've discovered that most anything of genuine quality does make it over here eventually, so I do not go out of my way looking for obscure foreign titles as I'm quite likely to just be wasting my money in a big way.

Oh, have you read Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger? It's a lightweight but immensely entertaining gay love story without a disease theme at all.
12th-Oct-2005 06:30 pm (UTC)
I actually got ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE free (along with THE JOY OF GAY SEX and Edmund White's FANNY) at the Pink Triangle Publishing book conference in June 2004. It's held each year in NYC (at their HQ at 208 W. 13th Street) and, if you're in the area is well worth going to. Alot of small and several large publishing houses had tables & were giving away free books!

To answer your question - no, I've not read it yet but will...eventually.
12th-Oct-2005 06:22 pm (UTC)
Wanna guess in what year my class was assigned 1984 in English class?

12th-Oct-2005 07:08 pm (UTC)
*snickers* Not 1984? XD

I was assigned the book over the summer between 8th grade and freshmen year.
12th-Oct-2005 07:24 pm (UTC)
Well, 1984 ^_^;; It was vaguely amusing at the time, at least we could be happy that the real 1984 wasn't quite as bad as the story...
12th-Oct-2005 08:05 pm (UTC)
Well, there was this kind of great, worldwide relief upon the arrival of 1984 that Orwell was wrong about the future. Now, Huxley, on the other hand... ^^;;;;;
13th-Oct-2005 01:15 am (UTC)
*adds to book list^^*
13th-Oct-2005 01:17 am (UTC)
*snickers* What part of the review sold you? The "adolescent-ish" comment? XD
13th-Oct-2005 01:26 am (UTC)
Now that sounds like an insult.

Naah, sometimes I like to read novels that are simple reads. The kind that don't send my mind into overdrive analyzing every little nuance of style and writing. Just a fun read^^

BTW, I reviewed Berg's Bridge of D'Arnath series while you were at the con. You did ask me about this novel, right?
13th-Oct-2005 01:38 am (UTC)
*mock-glares* Now that sounds like an insult.

*snickers* You've got a stronger stomach for that sort of stuff than I do. ^_~

Well, if you're looking for feel-good, brainless reads that are also REALLY good, I'd recommend Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger. It's the best I've read in quite awhile.

BTW, I reviewed Berg's Bridge of D'Arnath series while you were at the con. You did ask me about this novel, right?

Yeah. It's still on the "maybe" list. :P
13th-Oct-2005 01:45 am (UTC)
You've got a stronger stomach for that sort of stuff than I do.

I think I just have less expectations^_^

Yeah. It's still on the "maybe" list.

I'd tell you not to bother but since you can get books cheap, it's your choice.
29th-Oct-2005 10:17 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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