One of the things I love to do is read, I guess it goes quite well with writing in the sense that you get inspired by the ideas and stories they contain. Quite recently I’ve been reading a few books which you could term as ‘gay literature’ but I think the general messages in them are much more universal. However, in books focusing of Gay themes, is there a overall story of pain and suffering, and a lack of happy endings?
Holding the man
I’ve currently read Holding the man by Tim Conigrave. Now if you’ve never heard of it, the book tells the true story of Tim’s life, and centrally of his relationship with his lover of fifteen years, John Caleo. Taking place during the AIDS epidemic and discovering that they are both HIV positive, you can tell without even reading the book that there isn’t no happy ending waiting for you.
It’s a grim read and gives you a glimpse into the reality of life with HIV, but also the book reveals a love story. A story of two men who, even when facing heartache and pain, still find the time to share the brief life they have left together and never let each other go. It’s sad to read and takes a better man than me not to shed a tear, but I was touched at the ending.
A little life
Another book I had to battle my way through was A little life by Hanya Yanagihara, at over 700 pages long it is going to take a lot of effort and patience to get through, but once you make it to the end you won’t be disappointed.
It tells of the lives of 4 men, each their own person with their own problems and talents, but the true test of their friendships seems to centre around the main character Jude. I won’t spoil the book for you but he seems to face the most difficulties in terms of his past and his future, but his story is the most heartbreaking and honest. Towards the end I just couldn’t stop the tears, but the story will stick with me for being about love and I guess how in the end we all die alone.
Can I get a happy ending?
What I am taking from all these books though, is that they never seem to end very well. Why is this? Is it to be taken that being Gay doesn’t end well for anyone? You read a love story featuring a heterosexual couple and there is the generic structure of romantic get-together, leading onto some straight couple dilemma, then ending with the couple riding off into the sunset on a horse/motorbike/car (delete at appropriate), basically every Nicholas Sparks novel he has ever wrote.
….basically every Nicholas Sparks novel he has ever wrote
I feel that we are seriously lacking gay literature that doesn’t end with them either dying of AIDS/ HIV/terrible accident (again, delete as appropriate). Is there some sort of Gay stereotyping where authors feel they have to write tragedy rather than a more happy ending? Or am I just complaining about nothing.
In fact, for those of you that have read Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, these are more of a lighthearted novel surrounding the lives of a group of people in San Francisco, I’ve not been fortunate enough to read them all yet, however I understand they only get worse as the series goes on.
At the end of the day, I’m not saying I don’t love these novels, they are insightful, full of soul and heartbreaking right to the end. I’m trying to think of a novel based on a heterosexual couple that has broken me, I’m still thinking…
But maybe if we want more mainstream novels focusing on gay couples, rather than being narrowed down to a minor ‘gay best friend’ role, we actually need to look towards the Sparks’ or even the E L James of the literature world and take note. I personally would love more books on the market that focused on a gay couple, but I guess until now I will stick to my classics.
Does anyone else have any opinions on this, or a good novel to change my opinion? Share below in the comments.
Until next time…