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~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren 
13th-Jun-2006 11:59 am
Siesta
Never underestimate the power of the lowest common denominator to keep what should be forgotten in print...

Warren, Patricia Nell. The Front Runner. 1974. Beverly Hills: Wildcat Press, 1996.
Summary: Disgraced track coach Harlan Brown agrees to take on three Olympic hopefuls who happen to also be gay, including the front runner Billy. The two are instantly attracted to each other and eventually become committed both to each other and to making it in Montréal. Then Billy, now an "out" athlete is assassinated on the track, leaving Harlan to pick up the pieces of his life.
Comments: Melodramatic, passably written (in forgettable prose) tripe that seems expressly calculated to win the sympathies of red-blooded America. We've got sports, we've got a truckload of "I hate girly men" gay characters, and we've got a broad sweep of misogyny that both surprised and disappointed me, coming as it did from a female writer. (Thanks oh so much for informing me that the US is sending a "girl swimmer" to the Olympics.) In any case, this tactic disgusts me. Like all of Asia obsessing over the whitest skin, the gay man who glorifies masculinity at the expense of all things female and feminine is ultimately reinforcing the system of oppression that got us all here in the first place...and no matter how hard he tries, the majority will never accept him as a "true man." Nevermind divide and conquer. So, yeah. Color me irked. We've got some seriously unsound politics here, and I could keep going...but I'll spare the world. Other than that, we've got a standard star-crossed, tragic romance story, complete with "He loves me, he loves me not" angst, "Till death do us part--LITERALLY" monogamous marriage, and the biological imperative to reproduce. *rolls eyes* Trying to win red-blooded sympathies yet again, I see. Can't the reader see that he's being manipulated? Anyway, this was not the first American gay pulp fiction novel, but it was the first to garner mainstream attention and acclaim. I'm guessing by now you can see why. Any worthwhile themes found here receive much better treatment elsewhere.
Notes: trade paperback, 8th printing
Rating: 4.5/10 - One of those unimpressive popular fiction titles that you should only read because everyone else already has.
Comments 
14th-Jun-2006 01:01 pm (UTC)
So if you're gay you have to be super-masculine to make up for it? >_< Lovely......
14th-Jun-2006 01:11 pm (UTC)
Believe it or not, that IS a very popular sentiment...though it isn't always stated quite that way. :P Devaluing the feminine within the gay community in response to the stereotypical "girly gay man" image just aligns it with their oppressors and reinforces their belief system. *grr* I can't tell you how many times I've thrown down with men AND women over this--so many people who think themselves "enlightened" fail to see the harm.
14th-Jun-2006 01:31 pm (UTC)
*groans*

Be gay, just don't act gay >_< And thus the oppressed join in the oppression... Maybe that could explain why I've met more than one gay man who was far more "manly" than I am ^^
14th-Jun-2006 01:51 pm (UTC)
It must be a low bar since you've said in the past that I'm more "manly" than you are. :P

Ahem. While since I'm in the mood to rant, other things that pissed me off about this novel:
1. Harlan has two kids with a woman he doesn't love, then divorces her and walks out on them (save for alimony/child support checks that his funds with prostitution). He has no relationship with the two children he already has, but then when Billy comes along, all of a sudden it's like, "Why can't we two men reproduce without a woman!?"
2. The opinion in the novel that the repeal of sodomy laws is SOOOOO much more important than protecting a woman's right to choose because the former is so much easier to recant on. History seems to be proving otherwise--while states are successfully rolling back abortion rights, no one has tried to put where you can and cannot stick it back on the books. :P
14th-Jun-2006 05:05 pm (UTC)
It must be a low bar since you've said in the past that I'm more "manly" than you are.

Oh well yeah, you totally are ^__^

He has no relationship with the two children he already has, but then when Billy comes along, all of a sudden it's like, "Why can't we two men reproduce without a woman!?"

>_< And which one of them wants to carry the baby? *shakes head* Though personally I just don't understand the drive to reproduce, it's something I seem to be lacking ^_^;;

no one has tried to put where you can and cannot stick it back on the books

Though it was relatively recently that the Supreme Court struck down such laws (I think it was a Texas law, no surprise), and they were still on the books, just not enforced.. And actually, I have heard conservatives complaining and wanting to get those laws back.. Because, you know, religious conservative men are totally obsessed with the anuses of other men ^^;;;;
14th-Jun-2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
And which one of them wants to carry the baby?

Some machine will incubate the embryo. Obviously. :P

Though it was relatively recently that the Supreme Court struck down such laws

Warren was saying, and I'll assume that she was telling historical fact here, that the supreme court struck down anti-sodomy laws back in the 70's. Laws on the books remain but in theory are invalidated by the federal ruling. The Texas law a few years ago was at issue because it outlawed sodomy expressly between two men. Man and woman, apparently, was okay.
14th-Jun-2006 05:20 pm (UTC)
Ah, so in Texas you could put it up a girl's butt, but not a boy's butt.. Okay ^_^;; Hee, last year I was flipping through the channels, and came across Pat Robertson talking about what God intended for the anus (his words), I thought I'd die laughing ^_^;
14th-Jun-2006 08:12 pm (UTC)
Gee, so easy to claim to know the mind of God, isn't it? I should form my own religion...
14th-Jun-2006 08:22 pm (UTC)
I just wonder why God so frequently talks to Pat Robertson and George Bush, but never to me.. Maybe just because I'm not in a good position to rabidly condemn homosexuality or launch wars? And we all know that God loves nothing more than a good bloody war ^^
14th-Jun-2006 09:20 pm (UTC)
Doesn't matter whether or not God actually speaks to you--all you have to do is SAY HE DOES. Who's going to be able to prove you wrong? :P

Like I said, we should start our own religion...
14th-Jun-2006 09:28 pm (UTC)
Do we get to wear highly theatrical robes and headgear? ^_^
14th-Jun-2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
Would "yes" be a plus or a minus as far as you're concerned?
14th-Jun-2006 11:42 pm (UTC)
*points to box holding velvet tam with sparkly tassel*

Definitely a plus ^__^ We are the leaders of the faith, after all.. No sacred rings to be kissed though, people slobbering all over your hand is unsanitary ^^;
14th-Jun-2006 11:50 pm (UTC)
*snorts* I see, I see...the perfect opportunity to wear a skirt and not get laughed at. :P
14th-Jun-2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
EXACTLY!!! Well, more like a full length gown really ^^
14th-Jun-2006 02:52 pm (UTC)
Ha! I read this book about ten years ago, and I've been waiting ever since to see someone sum up everything wrong with it as perfectly as you did.
14th-Jun-2006 06:46 pm (UTC)
Didn't the love story stir you at all?
15th-Jun-2006 11:45 am (UTC) - Front Runner
I just lost my comment...

Glad to see that someone agrees with me about this book. The gay community tends to rally round it like it's a holy text - untouchable. I first read it when I was fourteen (I still have the same battered paperback copy) and, at the time I loved it. It came as a refreshing change from all the misogynist novels of Harold Robbins/Sidney Sheldon/etc. that my Jr. High classmates were reading. Now that I have a wider literary experience, I find Nell Warren's writing to be pedestrian and the tone of the story vaguely melodramatic.

In her defense, I think the condescension toward female athletes was more a reflection of the time the book was written (early 1970's) than anything else.
1st-Jul-2006 01:39 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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