Tag Archives: Gay Love

Days without End by Sebastian Barry

Title: Days without End
Author: Sebastian Barry
Publisher: Viking, Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780525427360
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 260
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

The more I think about “Days without End” by Sebastian Barry, the more I feel that I just must go back and reread it. This book is poetic to the point of it being heartbreaking and yet you can look at it objectively but not for long – because you will be swept away in this epic tale of the Wild West (and mind you, I don’t like these Wild West tales at all) that has such beauty about it even in the dark times that surround it – given the war with the Indians in the 1850s, soon followed by the Civil War.

Sebastian Barry’s characters are as human as they can get and there is no good or bad to it. You cannot pick sides and that’s the nature of war and love. Barry’s writing doesn’t come with layers of prose. He makes you see life, and not tell you anything. The show vs. tell craft is superlatively used in all his books (this being the 3rd that I read by him and can’t wait to gobble the rest). At the same time, there is this sense of stillness to his books – like a river flowing in the background whose gurgle you get used to till it is flooded – his writing is pretty much like that.

Thomas McNulty is seventeen years old and has fled famine in Ireland to come to the United States of America. He meets another orphan on the road, John Cole and they initially dress as women for 50 cents a dance to keep themselves from starvation. They head to the West, fighting the Indian wars, come back to civilian life, back in uniform for the Civil War. What will surprise you is how they build a family (I will not give away that part of the story) so for that you have to read the book.

This is the kind of book that makes you believe that love transcends all barriers – gender mostly and is pure. It doesn’t need validation and never has. It is not even a gay love story. It is just about love and that is enough. The sentences are mostly short but shine so much so that you would have to keep the book down and ruminate on each scenario and word that Sebastian Barry throws at you. His prose is short and subtle – painting the landscape with language as he goes along. The characters – even the minor ones like the Sergeant and the Major are well-etched. Some you love and some you hate.

“Days without End” is the kind of book that you will reread. You will do that because of the story, the setting and the emotions it will evoke inside of you. Might I also add that it isn’t for everyone – the writing has to grow on you but once it does, it is very difficult to let go of. A read not to be missed if you love the quiet life with some turmoil thrown in.

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Koolaids by Rabih Alameddine

Koolaids by Rabih Alameddine Title: Koolaids
Author: Rabih Alameddine
Publisher: Grove Press
ISBN: 978-0802124142
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal
Rating: 5/5

When you write a book about AIDS and what it brings in its wake, is not an easy task for sure. Rabih Alameddine jumped to the scene and was well-known right after “An Unnecessary Woman”. The book just jumped at readers and they I think too notice of him then. Of course before that, there was “Koolaids” and some more books that he had written but this discussion is about “Koolaids”.

I wonder if being sane means disregarding the chaos that is life, pretending only an infinitesimal segment of it is reality.

To me reading “Koolaids” was a harrowing experience. Why? Because I am gay and I didn’t know how to react to a book on AIDS, and what it takes in its wake. I cannot for the life of me imagine something like this happening to me or my loved ones, so whenever I read something like this, I am completely overwhelmed by it.

Death comes in many shapes and sizes, but it always comes. No one escapes the little tag on the big toe. The four horsemen approach. The rider on the red horse says, “This good and faithful servant is ready. He knoweth war.” The rider on the black horse says, “This good and faithful servant is ready. He knoweth plague.” The rider on the pale horse says, “This good and faithful servant is ready. He knoweth death.” The rider on the white horse says, “Fuck this good and faithful servant. He is a non-Christian homosexual, for God’s sake. You brought me all the way out here for a fucking fag, a heathen. I didn’t die for this dingbat’s sins.” The irascible rider on the white horse leads the other three lemmings away. The hospital bed hurts my back.

“Koolaids” is about men who love men, men who suffer by loving men and men who cope as their worlds fall apart and changes around them. It is a fresh new voice (then when the book released) and is very different from his other books. It details the AIDS epidemic through the 80s and the 90s and with that the angle of the Lebanese Civil War that accounts for the book.

The characters are plenty – they love and dream in fragments. As a reader, I just gave in to the book without trying to make much of it in the first fifty pages and when I started, I was too entranced by the language and over all plot to care about the writing.

“Koolaids” is what it is – a gritty and real book on what it takes to go on living in the face of death and how to sometimes just give in, knowing that nothing can be done now. It is stories such as these that deeply affect us and our lives.

Book Review: Lovers by Daniel Arsand

Title: Lovers
Author: Daniel Arsand
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609-450717
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

“Lovers” by Daniel Arsand is set in 18th Century France. It is a love story. A love story that is doomed from the very beginning. It is between two men. A forbidden love, that needs to be destroyed. A love which cannot exist – for the people or for the King. A love story between a French Nobleman, Balthazar and Sebastien, a beautiful and magical adolescent. Theirs is an all-encompassing love affair that refuses to be cowed down by society, its rules and expectations. Of course lovers will meet their end, they will be ruined and so will their love.

Because of this love Balthazar ignores his obligation to the King, because of which he is set on a trial, which ultimately leads to his death. Sebastien on the other hand runs away from Versailles, wanting to live a new life. He tries to forget Balthazar but cannot. The book but of course ends on a tragic note.

“Lovers” is a beautifully written novella. It breaks all boundaries of writing, in its approach and also in its storytelling. It is a novella which you will finish in a day and ponder over it for days. I might also want to add here that even though it is about a man loving another man, everyone can relate to it, considering it is written about love and its nature.

For me Lovers was a mix of prose and poetry. The writing left me speechless and wanting more. The beautiful part about the book is that it can be about any kind of love. The fact that it chooses to portray two men in love, is purely the author’s choice.

Daniel Arsand knows how to write a book – to mix the elements of melancholy, joy and pain beautifully and express those using words. Lovers for me was a book not just about love that was not acknowledged and accepted (it still happens sadly in today’s time and age). It was also about how we are not willing to see beyond what the society has set as a so-called-structure.

The translation from French is superbly done by Howard Curtis. There is beauty. There is savageness. There is love that needs to be defined and there is the question of dying for love. “Lovers” has been one of the year’s best small reads. It is a read that will leave you wanting more and leave an emptiness in your heart. A must read.

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