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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Love in a Dark Time by Colm Tóibín 
25th-May-2006 09:08 pm
Okay, I think I've officially exhausted any enthusiasm for Tóibín that I might have had left after The Story of the Night. I may return to his earlier Irish fiction at a later date, but for now, consider this the final word.

Tóibín, Colm. Love in a Dark Time: And Other Explorations of Gay Lives and Literature. 2002. New York: Scribner, 2004.
Summary: A meditation on the lives and art of the following famous people: Oscar Wilde, Roger Casement, Thomas Mann, Francis Bacon, Elizabeth Bishop, James Baldwin, Thom Gunn, Pedro Almodóvar, Mark Doty, and others to a lesser degree. Brief discussion of Henry James anticipates The Master.
Comments: Okay, note the summary above. Obviously, Tóibín has exceeded the mandate of his title with chapters dedicated to a painter and a film director. And that's just one example of the overall haphazard construction of this nonfiction work that desperately needs (but does not have) an index. Depending upon the personage in question, Tóibín either spends more time analyzing the literary output or recounting the life history--the balance between the two seems mostly random. He is a reporter at his best, and the Almodóvar chapter comes alive as only the author's own life story in the introduction does. Otherwise, the lit crit felt more like regurgitation of the work of other scholars than anything revolutionary (and I only REALLY appreciated those chapters about authors I'd actually read myself, anyway, 'cause only then could I read actively). Of course, he remains interested in the disparate strands of Irish history and gay history, but weaving the two together only works somewhat and says more about Tóibín than about history. The final chapter, "Good-bye to Catholic Ireland," is a throwaway chapter, an obligatory response to the recent Catholic Church sex abuse scandals that rocked the world a few years ago. In fact, all Tóibín does is briefly reflect (I believe wrongly) on pedophile priests being oppressed and closeted homosexuals who thought they had a vocation because they didn't feel attracted to women. *shudders* Being attracted to children and being attracted to men are not the same things, as far as I'm concerned, and it's unpleasant to see a gay man conflate the two--it can't POSSIBLY be in his benefit to do so.
Notes: trade paperback, 1st printing
Rating: 5/10 - This book is lit egghead-only territory. There's got to be better out there. (No, don't ask.)
31st-May-2006 07:19 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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