Monday, May 30, 2005
Sunlit lavender flowers at Fritz's
It was a lovely weekend, schizoid weather and all. How bad can it be when you can sit naked with thirteen other men for half an hour or so in a sweat lodge, chanting, remembering men we have lost over the years, sweating out the toxins and reaffirming our belief in the special bond among gay men? Afterwards, pot luck dinner with so much laughter, catching up with each others’ lives, heads on shoulders, arms around waists; then the good-byes, hugs, kisses, the warmth of shared experiences and affections. It happens once a month and is always a renewing, joyful ritual.
Yellow season (forsythia, the thousands of daffodils) is over and now it's blue/purple season—irises in three varieties, myrtle making a lush carpet everywhere, flowers whose names I have forgotten like those seen above in a sunlight so brilliant this morning that they burned out almost white in the camera. Fritz and I got a lot done this weekend in spite of lengthy rains. He got a half dozen tomato plants in and I laid waste to some overgrown, badly entangled lilac and forsythia bushes. Inside, over tea, he sat needling me mercilessly on the latest book for the gay book group meeting here in Boston that he has agreed to come to this month for the first time.
The book is Colm Toibin’s novel “The Master,” which is not about S&M but Henry James, or at least Henry James as Toibin imagines this enigmatic, reclusive man to have been. Fritz hated every page but was discreet enough to say little until I had gotten deeply into it and could talk from a position of knowledge. Toibin’s James is almost completely unavailable emotionally, repressed sexually and, if not socially, personally. His life is spent in avoidance of crowds, of too much intimacy with friends and family when it may lead to knowledge of his inner self, of his friends’ lives when he is needed in them most. Three hundred and thirty eight pages of a man who never gives of himself, or who gives with a sense of having been maneuvered into it and is therefore resentful and withdrawn, is a rough go. Along the way either James or Toibin makes the startling discovery that an author can take from his personal life and place what he finds into his writing. Even leaving aside the Deconstructionists, just how great a revelation IS this?
It's the kind of book that causes you to wonder why it can have been written, other than as a piece of showmanship, a kind brilliant but cold technical exercise. James is so in his head that he cannot allow himself a dalliance with one or the other of the highly presentable, obviously available and interested young men he encounters at intervals throughout the book. You find yourself thinking, "just touch the boy, for god's sake. Just get laid once and for all." You think perhaps he might be a tragic figure but even there is frustration as you realize you don't care about this man Toibin has created, you have no way of identifying with his condition.
We’ll gather at my house on Thursday night and see what the rest of the boys think.