GAMMA: The Gay Married Men's Association
of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area

Providing peer counseling, support, and outreach to gay married men, their wives, partners, and friends.

 

FICTION

Through the Ruins, by Stephen M. Hart, Writers Showcase (2000) ISBN: 0-595-15444-1.

This novel is a rarity among works of gay fiction, because its protagonist, Michael Lyon, is a married man, at least when the book's narrative begins. But Lyon's wife soon dies in a car accident, and the novel thereafter focuses on his hesitant entry into the gay world. The book can therefore be read as a conventional coming out story.
However, as the novel unfolds, Lyon's emotional ties to his now-deceased wife become clearer. Toward the book's end we find Lyon very much in love with a handsome young man, but nevertheless able to write a posthumous note to be left at his wife's grave in which he says, "I thought I could balance my love for you with who I really was. I wish you were still here. I wish the bed wasn't so big without you…."
However, in the same letter Lyon adds with respect to his sexual orientation, "In many ways I'm glad that the truth is out there. I'm just not used to it yet. But this is the life I was meant to live. The life I was building with you wasn't."

This novel is therefore aware of the fundamental challenge that married gay men face: the challenge of reconciling their love for their wives with the demands of their sexuality. Unfortunately, the death of Lyon's wife early in the novel eliminates the possibility of addressing this challenge squarely. Instead, we are left to sympathize with Lyon as he experiences the difficulties of establishing a loving relationship with a boyfriend. Those difficulties are real enough, but the dramatic challenges of living as a gay man in a straight marriage are left largely unexplored.

The book is fast-paced and action-filled, and makes an entertaining read. In fact, so much happens to Lyon during six or eight weeks that the reader is sometimes forced to suspend belief. During that period, Lyon experiences the death of his wife, his sister's hospitalization, multiple run-ins with his family and his in-laws, a seamless career change, entry into the gay world and a gay love affair. Life doesn't normally move that fast.

One result of all the external action is that we lose sight of Lyon's internal life. Character development is secondary to events.
The reader's enjoyment is periodically marred by errors that careful reading of galley proofs would certainly have caught. For example, a town monument to Civil War dead is described as having been dedicated on April 19, 1856, four years before the war began, and the first line of Ralph Waldo Emerson's “Concord Hymn” is misquoted as being about a "ridge bridge that arched the flood." Lyon also encounters a fireplace that "through off a fake orange glow" and a strange situation which "was knew to him." Eventually, the reader learns to disregard these problems for the sake of getting on with the story.

However, despite its flaws, the book makes an entertaining read. And it is comforting to find a gay-themed book that shows an understanding of the dilemmas faced by gay men in straight marriages.

Recent History, Anthony Giardina
Random House 2001

Despite its colorless title, Recent History is a compelling novel about a boy’s coming to terms with the breakup of his parents’ marriage and the secrets of his father’s sexuality. Congruent to this, as the boy grows to manhood, he attempts to understand his own complex and elusive desires.

Woven into this emotionally suspenseful drama, which begins in post-World War II Boston, is a more minor theme but one nonetheless powerful. It’s a theme that plays through much literature of the second half of the 20th century: the costs of social class ascendancy in America, illustrated in this case by a community of Italian-American families who arrive into a seemingly perfect paradisal Boston suburb, a tract of houses on a hill carved out of the woods.

Young Luca Carcera observes his troubled father as he is caught up in the generational flight out of an older ethnic enclave and into a new “neighborhood of Italians” whose children will grow up in spacious split-level homes with landscaped lawns, go on to college and enter mainstream professional society.

But while building this future for his family the father, Lou Carcera, is tormented by self-doubt. The paradise that everyone else has been envisioning becomes, for Lou, a sealed-in hell. Luca gets hints of this other Lou in subtle ways such as his father’s remoteness during social gatherings or occasionally something as visceral as the smell in his father’s car of an alien and more pungent masculine scent.

With his father now living with another man, Luca and his mother are adrift. Andrew, a classmate who is chastised for getting erections in the shower after gym class and can not hide the fact that he is “different,” enters Luca’s life as a more pronounced representation of the enigma that surrounds father and son. But Andrew has another role in Luca’s life: he becomes a tool in Luca’s scheme to get back or get back at his father

In telling his story, Giardina’s writing is measured, and he avoids the melodrama to which coming-of-age novels are prone. His story as it unfolds is lucid and credible, his characters fully developed. Questions are implicit throughout. What will become of his mother? Will she marry the immigrant whose broken English offends those for whom their Italian origins are not so distant? And what will become of Luca? Will it be for him, in the end, a commitment to a woman or a man? Will there be offspring?

In this reviewer’s estimation, the novel only falters somewhat at the end. Giardina has resisted neat resolutions up to that point. But he finally gives in and resolves too much of the story, when we would prefer to imagine it. Nevertheless, Giardina has depicted with precision another of life’s conundrums, in which no one choice is foolproof, free of a downside, clearly right or wrong.

(Reviewer: JC)

RELIGION

Helminiak, Daniel A., Ph.D., "What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality" - Alamo Square Press, P.O. Box 14543, San Francisco, CA94114 (1994). 

Written by an ordained, Roman Catholic priest from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, PA, this book is dedicated, "to lesbian women and gay men who believe in a good God and reverence the Bible and who also want to be able to believe in themselves." 

The book offers recent findings by top scholars who offer a radical, new view based on an historical, critical reading of the Bible. Throughout the text critical reading of every single line and reference in the Bible to same sex relations is directly contrasted to the literal reading that is most commonly associated with a more fundamentalist view. 

At most, the author suggests, "...the Bible is basically indifferent to homosexuality in itself.  The Bible is concerned, as with heterosexuality, only when practices violate other moral requirements." 

This book also contains a Foreword written by The Right Reverend John S. Spong, Episcopal Bishop of Newark, NJ.  (121 pp.)

 

Jordan, Mark D., "The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology" , The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 60637 (1997). 

In this text the author builds upon his pun on "invention" and upon his understanding of sodomy as a "medieval artifact," based upon his inability to find any trace of the term prior to the eleventh century.  He concludes that "...the irrational force of the Christian condemnation of sodomy is the remainder of Christian theology's failure to think through the problem of the erotic." (190 pp.)

HATE AND HATE CRIMES

Scanzoni, Letha & Mollenkott, Virginia Ramey, "Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?" , Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022 (1987). 

This book begins with a preface containing quotes about homosexuality that were made to public, national audiences during the mid and later portions of the twentieth Century, from Nazi Germany and Hitler in 1933 to Dade County Florida in 1977.  On this basis, the authors detail the understandable concern with which homosexual community "...faces public cries to stamp out homosexuality." 

The authors examine why "...the question that makes up the title of this book shouldn't be necessary", and how the Bible "...is clear on what our responsibility is to our neighbor. Love.  Yet it seems that throughout history, some group or another has been singled out as being unworthy to be our neighbor.  Some social category -- which one varies according to time and place -- we look down upon as less than fully human, and some of it members are robbed of respect, opportunity, and sometimes of life itself...We never really try to understand.  And yet we hypocritically claim to love them."  (157 pp., with many recommendations for further reading.)

HUMOR

Dearman, Jill, "Queer Astrology for Men - An Astrological Guide for Gay Men" , St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, 10010 (1998).

Written by a woman who introduces herself as "...a gay man on the inside," this book "...is intended to be an 'Astrology 101' course for gay men..."  It offers a very humorous look at the astrological archetypes andexamines each of the twelve natal signs with subheadings titled, "In Life"; "In Bed"; "How to Seduce Him"; "How to Get Rid of Him"; Doing Him and Dating Him"; and finally, "How to Last Over the Long Haul."  To add to the humor and content, the author then examines each natal sign in conjunction with the other.  (215pp.)  Also by Jill Dearman: "Queer Astrology for Women - An Astrological Guide for Lesbians".

RELATIONSHIP ISSUES

Spring, Janis Abrahms, Ph.D., "After the Affair - Healing the Pain & Rebuilding the Trust..." Harper Colllins Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.  (1996). 

Based on Dr. Spring's clinical work >with couples therapy, this book offers the author's perspectives on what each member of a coupled relationship might be going through when it has been acknowledged or discovered that one partner has had a relationship outside of their marriage.  It is also intended for persons who are thinking of having an affair, or thinking about revealing to their partner that they had an affair, and couples who are struggling with other, trust-related issues. 

The author takes great care to be candid but nonjudgmental as she explores< three "stages" that a couple goes through after discovering that a profound level of trust in a marriage has been disturbed.  She includes frank (though perhaps somewhat brief) presentations on topics such as what constitutes an affair, whether an affair is a "death-knell" for the relationship or a "wake-up" call, masturbation, how to talk about what happened, silence, self-respect, talking to the children, the psychological impacts of one's own parents as role models in relationships, confronting doubts or fears, and having sex again. 

Her as they work through reacting to the affair, reviewing their options, and recovering from the affair.  Questions of "Is What I'm Feeling Normal?"; "Should I Stay or Should I Leave?"; and "How Do We Rebuild Our Life Together?" are directly explored, both from the perspective of the "Hurt >Partner's" response and the "Unfaithful Partner's" response. 

The book presents the relevant topics in a balanced, frank manner that offers some degree of understanding and perhaps hope to anyone who has been involved in an affair, and tries to address hurt and unfaithful partners' perspectives with equal weight.  In the author's own words, this book is written, "...primarily for any two people who want to rebuild their relationship after one of them has been unfaithful.  This includes married and cohabitating couples, heterosexuals and gays."  (292 pp.)

 


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The Gay Married Men's Association of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area
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