Fictional Truth About Gay History

I’ve been trying to control my urge to blather about whatever, mostly focusing on things Aztec, but occasionally—out of desperation?—holding forth on things political. Of course, the latter is just more hot air.  But this time I’m going to indulge in things literary.  (In the distant past I had some experience in critiquing various classic works of Russian literature.)

Recently, my old friend Don turned me on to a novel by an Irish writer, “A Long Long Way” by Sebastian Barry, about a young man from Dublin in the trench warfare in Flanders during WWI. With little exposure to contemporary literature, I was stunned by both the writer’s ability to render that horrendous time rather long before his own birth—and the character of a youth in a situation unlike anything he could have personally experienced.  Without exaggeration, it was a tour de force.

Just as I finished reading the novel, Don and I went to a lecture (one of a long series sponsored by the Lannan Foundation) featuring none other than Sebastian Barry. It was an inspiring presentation including readings from both “A Long Long Way” and Barry’s newer novel “Days Without End.”  The author explained that he’d written that in honor of his son who had courageously come out as gay.

Don quickly bought us a copy of “Days Without End,” and I read it with scarcely a pause for breath. The story of two young men experiencing America in the mid-19th century, it’s even more stunning in its reality, in its humanity, and in the finesse of its narrative technique.  I can only concur with one of its cover blurbs that the work is a ‘masterpiece.’  Elsewhere someone has astutely remarked that it is the ‘great American novel’—written by an Irishman!

Above and beyond those kudos, I have to say that Barry’s novel opens an entire chapter in gay history with the truth only fiction can achieve. It should be put at the top of any LGBT+ reading list!  And at the risk of sounding politically stupid (but with a lot more justification than certain recent claimants), I think it should be nominated for a Nobel Prize!

Corroboration of my opinion has also come from a different quarter. While I’m not so sure about the predictive nature of horoscopes, I’ve found that the weekly sign-based messages in Rob Brezsny’s “Free Will Astrology”  are often right on as insightful interpretations of the immediate past.  For the week after I finished “Days Without End,” the astrologist suggested that I (as a Taurus) seek out stories that have the power to heal.  If ever a story has had that power, it’s “Days Without End.”

Please forgive me now for a brief vanity break: About 30 years ago I wrote a story called “Traveling Men”.  I can’t claim that it has the power to heal but do believe it’s fictionally true about gay history.  I’d be honored if you’d care to read it and agree.

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2 thoughts on “Fictional Truth About Gay History

  1. I’ve had Days Without End on my reading list for months. I read about it in a review of books that detail stories about America that are not generally known to the public. I keep picking up and putting down the book because I want to lose myself in the story and pages of Barry’s novel. I keep pushing it off for a later time. But with your rousing endorsement, I have moved it up on my Reading list to read in fall, when I enjoy novels like these. Thanks for the tip, and for having no spoilers in your post.

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