I like the rain. I want to have a spring bookworming rain party full out with wellies—but not those Hunter Boots; absolutely not—, with yummy airy things like puffed pastries, meringues, mini fluffy cheese cakes, mousse dessert, macaroon, biscuits, crepe, and Earl Grey tea, definitely Earl Grey tea. and Tillandsia. We'd have lots of "air plants". Lots! And We'd read, but not anything structured. We'd bring books, trade books, read out-loud, pass books around between sentences and paragraphs. We'd leave with books we hadn't discovered.
I like books like I like my Jazz; euphoric, dangerous, occasionally a bit manic, sorrowful, bleak, raging, mood-incongruent, mournful, unforgivingly ragged, symbolic in a quiet way, warm apple pie for the soul. Give me a Plath style. Yōko Ogawa, M. Roach,
Criteria: Not rated on likability of characters. Not objective. I like Moxie Soda; chances are you don't.
time spent in that before bed reading slot:
5-until blurry eye 4-Later than I intended, but I still kept to my extended, extended reading time 3-I really should have been to bed an hour ago 2-customary 30 minutes. 1-book. side table. eyes closed.
How are common themes handled?
5-With an aesthetic that repurposes everyday themes into something fresh. Think of Hole Celebrity Skin covered by Cat Power 4-there is a comfortable air of familiarly.
3-Deja Vu 2. No deviation from its mates 1. Devastatingly trite, redundant, and stale.
Where would you keep it post-reading?
5-Next to my bed. 4-it's the center piece of my favorite bookshelf 3. On my other favorite bookshelf, but it's a bit dusty over their 2-Great cheap bookends 1-It never made it out of the box marked 'moving'.
5- Where is my teddy bear? Emotional-hangover 4- If I wasn't so emotionally stunted I'd cry. 3. Did James Cameron co-wrote this? Artfully contrived. 2- calculative emotional manipulation. This was literally written by James Cameron.1- I…feel…..nothing.
Mechanics (plot structure, voice, presentation, word choice, sentence structure, characters, writing style, pacing, and consistency):
5-Chanel 4-Prada 3-J-Crew 2-Gap 1-Old Navy
Do not read this book if you are shy with sexually adventurous literature. Seriously.
Do not read this book if you are repelled by a lucid, introspective style of writing that is its own take on Kerouac, and that which borrows (a bit) from Wolfe and Burrows—in terms of long, flowing, stream of consciousness writing, which is fucking brilliantly composed.
Do not read this book if you think that sexual development, sexual identity, and all that scary stuff in between is easily conceptualized, easily generalizable. We do not live in a vacuum.
This novel is my life; quite literally. I too met a lad, him 25 me 18, a similar setting, same stretch of summer. He was charming. I was smitten. He was brave. I was shy. He was hot; I’d say so was I, but it got a bit to fourth grade poem-ish… it’s implied, though) He won over my mother with a single glass of red wine.
It was a takeover of souls and hearts and instincts, and all blends of emotions. Bodies were just part of the equation, albeit a very large (mind.gutter.stop) part of the equation. Just like the novel, regret, disgust, and the laceration to my self-identity were constantly in the background. Chris responded in his own unique way, which, of course, was a measure of his own vulnerability and history. The swooning, fervor, and orchestra of all things love and obsession were there, in this delicate act of reciprocation.
The singularity and complexity of each simple, devastating beautiful and real and true moment isolating my future into a direction, that without Chris would be entirely different. This book is all about that. All about the moment in life that swerves us into a different direction, encased in fear, regret, and hope. The pulls of the parachute as two people, once holding hands on the descent, are pulled apart.
This is what this book was to me. This is what this book recalled in me. This is what this book did to me. Shatters.
Together this book represents a steady growing theme among modern literature, the stamp of the genre of ‘gay literature’. This is so much more than that. It pushes the boundaries of genre specific classification, especially avoiding the signature of immorality—‘these people are different’, ‘these people must suffer’—that tend to be major aspects of ‘gay lit’.
“Later!” The words, the voice, the attitude.”….
And so the story of Elio and Oliver begins…
Call Me By Your Name is told from a first person perspective, told by a 37ish year-old lad, channeling the perspective and identity of his much younger 17-year-old self. It is scalding hot blacktop under bare feet without any relief. It vulnerability, like when you were young and shut your eyes tightly before an oncoming ocean wave crashed into your side. It is familiar, and in this way even more harrowing. It is the tingling frenetic energy of the first time. Careful. Tread carefully. This one will butcher you.
Meet 17-year-old Elio. He is just at the threadbare end of adolescence. As many can remember this is a confusing and isolating place. For Elio, life has endless possibilities, many new and unanchored. Reduced down, he is a young man of high intelligence, good looks, and an awkward loneliness.
Meet Oliver, the 24-year-old PhD student from over the pond. He is sexy, intelligent, lush, and easily addictive, and our Elio is not immune to his allure.
Both are brilliant. Both are in the throws of sexually bright youth and the oblivion of unawareness.
Oliver steps into Elio’s Italian world for a summer stint of studies, but mostly poker and sunscreen. A dance ensues among the two that is all too familiar to many younger gay men. It is in this swirling of personalities, fears, apprehension, anxiety, anger, and hope that we see something so unique and intimate develop between Elio and Oliver.
Elio is set to embrace the world as an adventure, each footprint representing a new experience. Oliver, 7 years older, is further down the algorithm of life; more familiar with the hollow of youth, and what, for him at least, ultimately filled that cavern.
With an exquisite, precise, beautifully poetic style we share this tragically real waltz through first love for Elio and the challenges of Oliver, a 24-year-old forced to navigate a terrain that is eerily familiar, yet so distant. The rocks Oliver stepped on and the thorns he tried to consciously sidestep in his own youth, only to scar are seldom the same as those Eilio chooses to navigate.
“For you, however you think of it, it’s still fun and games, which it should be. For me it’s something else which I haven’t figured out, and the fact that I can’t scares me”.-Oliver
Oliver, like any partner with more perceivable or actual ‘experience’—be it age, geological location, or just plain experience—, must maintain the role of a light-keeper, guiding a dingy to safer waters.
Many of us gay lads are intrinsically connected to this struggle—either dating someone younger or having an older partner—, because, to a certain extent, we have all moved through this murky, dense San Francisco fog.
It is about connection between self and others.
“But what turned me on wasn’t this. It was the porousness, the fungibility, of our bodies—what was mine was suddenly his, just as what belonged to him could be all mine now”
“I must have been using obscenities that he repeated after me, softly at first, till he said “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mind,” which I’d never done in my life before and which, as soon as I said my own name as though it were his, took me to a realm I never shared with anyone in my life before, or since.”
It’s about that obsession that often marks first love:
“Just take me and molt me and turn me inside out, till, like a character in Ovild, I become one with your lust and that’s what I wanted. Give me a blindfold, hold my hand, and don’t ask me to think—will you do that for me”
It’s about the ways Elio bleeds climbing around the leathery, inflexible obstacles of his first gay physical experience.
“Filling me with a sense of dread and anxiety I couldn’t begin to fathom. I felt queasy, as if I had been sick and needed not just many showers to wash everything off but a bath in mouth wash”.
I wanted to reach out, just like the chorus of those that died of HIV in Two Boys Kissing, just as Chris did in my own story, saying ‘these things are achingly familiar. Brief. After the rupture brings a life illuminated by a spectacular youness’. But you can’t really do this. It can’t be forced. But that first experience is one hell of a start.
It is ultimately about hope, and not in that sloppy, generalized tenacity and resiliency way. The hope is the wipe of condensation at a cold wintery day window and knowing that beyond this is the lush color sprays of spring. And it is about venturing out in the nippy weather and waiting patiently for the contrast of Daffodils against snow.
It is also about accepting yourself and others and the choices you make that shape the two. Some relationships grow, and although reflecting the subtleties of their first conception, are sheltered by different meaning. We can either adjust to those changes or rebel against them. It is about the comfort deriving from those things lost and those things gained and how they amplify life beyond measure.
I met Chris, literally stumbling into him on the street, three years later. We were different, me hardened and angry with some of the choices I made—still in that Elio stage of life the late bloomer I am—, braver in my self-expression, and clearer in my sense of self, and he with maturity of steely resin and a rejection to the ambiguity of his life that so clearly blanketed him at 25. I itched for those brown eyes on my own. That connection we had. I got it. And thankfully we both found a distant rap from our younger selves and the smile that followed.
Elio, as usual captured it with honest introspection:
“Like the subconscious, like love, like memory, like time itself, like every single one of us, the church is built on ruins of subsequent restorations, there is not rock bottom, there is no first anything, no last anything, just layers and secret passageways and interlocking chambers.”
And It’s about…
The shores, and waves, and French windows, and sweat, the spot in paradise, a red bathing suit, the billowy, the piano, Rome, the to-die-for, and everything between and everything after.