A gay narrator tells of his summers spent in Charleston, South Carolina, dreaming of love and grasping for his sexual identity
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Greene's second novel (Why We Never Danced the Charleston, 1984)--about coming of age as a homosexual in the South and returning in the AIDS-afflicted 80's--can be episodic and hurried but also elegiac and offbeat as the story of an ugly duckling who awakens sexually and transforms himself. The unnamed narrator, overweight and cursed with thick glasses and an indoor personality, spends a summer at 13 with his great- uncle and aunt (``Boys should come inside only to eat and sleep'') in Charleston, where he prefers the company of Stevie, a retarded boy, and Lula, the kitchen help. He reads Defoe, Dickens, and Shakespeare, puts up with taunts (``Fatso. Four-eyes. Sissy''), and fantasizes about men in underwear before lyrically invoking the beach and the sea, where a group of boys, who ``went down the beach, as if in a conga line,'' fascinate him. The boys are slow to accept him, but he slips by stages ``from the world I was from into the one by the sea'' in the ``hazy and dream-like'' South. ``I remembered the whispered things, told with giggles, about queers. I wanted to go through with them, to do those things.'' He is both initiate and initiated as he and the boys ``had a series of evenings to pursue our couplings.'' Then the narrative speeds up, and in short order he wanders the country, returns to Charleston for a job with the historical society, and becomes more and more responsible for the retarded Stevie before the latter drowns and the narrator, ostracized by locals who fear AIDS, takes a lover but also discovers that he is indeed physically sick (``No one visits and no one hears''). Greene tries to rush through too much material, and the book's pace falls victim to such impatience. Even so, his evocation of growing up gay in Charleston is memorable. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
The magnolia and wisteria are practically palpable in this gay man's odyssey by the author of Why We Never Danced the Charleston. Stirring and sensitive in its language and emotional range, the first-person remembrance begins with the 13-year-old (unnamed) hero summering with his aunt and uncle near Charleston, S.C., on an island "where everything was worn and comfortable as Saturday clothing." The lonely, overweight narrator finds pleasure and release in pictures of men in underwear ads in magazines, and soon forms a curious yet touching friendship with Stevie, a retarded boy. (Throughout the novel he clings to this relationship, which becomes his lifeline, much as the summer swimmers clutch their inner tubes.) As the the boy matures, he comes to terms with his sexuality and embarks on a series of geographical and amatory shifts. Drawn inexorably back to Charleston, he hears of AIDS ("the first stirrings of a storm in the trees") as he dallies briefly with a furtive homosexual clique--"the scions of the city's best families." Dual tragedies bring the novel to a gentle, perhaps inevitable, resolution. Though there are minor faults here (abrupt plot turns, reliance on coincidence), they are easily overshadowed by richly textured prose that languidly evokes a Southern sensibility.
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Book Description E. P. Dutton, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110525933786
Book Description E. P. Dutton. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0525933786 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1145238