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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Like People in History by Felice Picano 
11th-Mar-2006 10:24 pm
This is the first novel by Felice Picano that I've ever read. I'm rather less than impressed.

Picano, Felice. Like People in History: A Gay American Epic. New York: Viking, 1995.
Summary: Roger Sansarc and his hellish second cousin Alistair Dodge find their lives occasionally but inexorably intertwined from childhood to middle age through events shaping American and gay history. Alistair has a unique talent for making Roger's life miserable, and he even steals away Matthew Loguidice, the love of Roger's life. Now the dying Alistair wants Roger complicit in his suicide, and Roger must come to terms with his tumultuous past and uncertain future as a survivor.
Comments: The humor of this bloated example of overweening ambition works better than the tragedy...though, to be perfectly honest, I would've been force-feeding Alistair those pills after even two of the incidences during the cousins' lives. Roger was a comparative saint, so I guess it's fitting that he's also a survivor. Oddly, the novel minimizes the threat of AIDS by subsuming it into the grand sweep of "history" while raging at unusually candid length about how damn unfair it is that the men of Picano's "greatest generation" were struck down in droves. (Methinks, at times, that he overestimates some of the writers' potential--representative examples left me with only a lukewarm impression.) At least those names were for the most part familiar to me; I was totally lost during the many lengthy and queeny conversations about vintage films, disco music, and opera. Speaking of culture, I was not entirely convinced that Roger's homosexuality was an "orientation"--as the novel progresses, you see him assimilate into the gay community and culture of the period--and that he ended up with men and not women was mostly a matter of circumstance. Yet, Picano is trying to legitimize gay history; that so much of it appears to be deliberately acquired by the protagonist seems to undermine his project at times since it does not fully conform to the modern sexual rhetoric. Perhaps the best scene comes at the end, where Roger (and the reader) discovers that man-god Matt's parents both have Down's Syndrome. It's a good plot twist, but there's little profundity underneath. Overall, I found the themes and even some of the subplots of this novel to have been much better executed elsewhere by writers. Heck, it wasn't even a particularly affecting love story. The frame narrative/flashback structure would seems to be begging to be made into a film.
Notes: hardcover, 1st edition, out-of-print
Rating: 5/10 - Unessential and overhyped. If the bi-line "A Gay American Epic" has you drooling, by all means, go for it...but, otherwise, it is time better spent elsewhere.
1st-Apr-2006 01:27 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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