Tuesday, May 31, 2016
IR Verdict: SIMPLE SIMON is an engaging tale of a gay man's quest for enlightenment and self-acceptance.
A young gay man struggles with his identity as he recovers from drug abuse.
Simon Powell is in rehab, trying to break free of cocaine addiction with the help of his lover Thad and his mother Vivian. As part of his therapy, he is told to write out his life story, and his feelings about his past. His reminiscences begin with his troubled childhood in rural Arkansas, where his discovery of his own homosexuality leaves him feeling rejected and irreparably separate from his family and friends. Finding solace and family in Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, he becomes a leading fundraiser and provider of spiritual guidance – but he must deny his own sexuality in order to hold on to his secure place in the church, and the resulting conflict, along with internal church conflict, leads him to lose faith. Embroiled in drug addiction and despair, can Simon ever learn to love himself as he is, and accept the love others have for him?
SIMPLE SIMON is a touching, thoughtful look at one man’s search for family, self-acceptance, and the ability to love and be loved. The author does not preach or spend too much time on explication, but simply draws Simon’s life as it goes on, deftly showing his emotional conflicts and self-doubt along with his triumphs and successes. The Unification Church is shown with both honesty and sympathy, as a collection of human beings with both virtues and flaws, rather than either an evil cult or a group of holy saints. It is not difficult to see either the comfort and certainty Simon finds there or the reason that that comfort and security cannot last. The book does leave out a substantial and rather crucial part of Simon’s life after he leaves the church, including the beginning of his relationship with Thad. For such a vital part of Simon’s life – his salvation, perhaps – Thad is left rather mysteriously offstage for the most part.
SIMPLE SIMON is an engaging tale of a gay man’s quest for enlightenment and self-acceptance.
Monday, February 29, 2016
Reviewer: Alan Chin
Author: Edward Patterson
The story begins on Chi Lin’s wedding day – an exciting time for any bride, unless the groom has died and the ceremony, as per contract, must proceed. Chi Lin becomes a ghost bride—the Fourth Wife in the House of Wu, a respectable Ming Dynasty household. Chi Lin assumes her role under the stern command of her mother-in-law and the disdainful eye of the First Wife. Still, as Mistress Purple Sage, Chi Lin fights to uphold her honor and maintain her many secrets while breathing fresh life into this ancient household.
As with all the novels I’ve read by Edward Patterson, this story blends an imaginative touch with the author’s life long devotion to China and its history.
A unique voice and a fresh and vibrant set of characters gave this novel the ability to transport me into another world for an adventure far beyond my limited imagination. The book delighted me with a rather touching love story. Yet this is a love yarn of a different nature, the tale of a woman who falls in love with her dead husband’s household. It is a story of intrigue, loyalty, and honor.
The author takes the reader back into China during the Ming dynasty, when women played a subservient role, supporting their husbands, revering their fathers and elders, and assuring their children followed the same dauntless path. Still, within the narrow confines of a subservient life, there was always a place to leave a mark and alter the future.
As with the author’s Southern Swallow series, this story is a vivid, imaginative, and often humorous romp through a pivotal point in Chinese history. It blossoms into a tale of intrigue, household politics, love, and overcoming hardships in a repressive environment. The plot is a bit predictable, yet stays interesting. The author’s consummate skill at crafting prose and his well-researched details kept me fully engaged until the last page. I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys multifaceted characters, humor, and a well-crafted story.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Friday, December 25, 2015
Reviewer: Merrick Hansen
Publisher: iUniverse (April 8, 2015)
Peterson has written something that could be an honest relief to many. He recounts a difficult childhood – from being teased for playing with girls to far worse experiences as he grew older. On top of that, his story takes place in the Midwest where I grew up.
This is something that isn’t in the popular narrative of queer literature. Nobody really talks about the places where the same kind of harassment Peterson talks about still happens. Because where I am in Iowa, it might as well still be the 1970′s. Sleepy little towns still see plenty of us “different” folk being teased or at the very least stared at. For instance, I’ve been kicked out of a barber shop at least once within the last 7 years just for asking for a hair cut.
Obviously reviewing an autobiography is a little different, but what I can tell you is this: there is comfort in reading the story of someone who has been through similar harassment and experience. It is a comfort to see that things do improve, that they do eventually change and the people around us are generally only temporary – particularly if they’re negative or hateful.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Europa Editions (Sept. 2014)
This book is a fictional exploration of the life of one of Britain's finest novelists. It illuminates E M Forster's life in a way that makes you feel on intimate terms with Forster, knowing his thoughts and needs as keenly as your own. “Arctic Summer” is in fact the name of an incomplete novel written by E.M. Forster in 1912/13 but published only in 2003; and Galgut uses its title for his novel about the famous author. The story is well researched and much of the content, even word-for-word dialog, was taken from Forster’s diaries.
The first hundred pages or so explores Forster’s life growing up in England, showcasing his awakening homosexuality, his tormented and unconsummated relationships, and being constrain by proper English society. During this time he also meets the love of his life, an Indian student, Masood, much younger than himself. I had a tough time trudging through this section of the book. I found it well written, but it lacked action, and I found it exceedingly dull. I almost gave up on it.
Once Forester traveled to India, Egypt (where he had his first sexual affair), and again to India, my interest in the story skyrocketed. Beautifully woven into his travels are the details of his life that laid the foundation of his masterpiece A Passage to India. Galgut is a master at constructing realistic and compelling landscapes, from inhibiting England to war torn Cairo to exotically vibrant India. He gives these locations the same kind of fragile humanity that he gives Forester.
Galgut’s prose blends perfectly the spare and the lyrical, often letting gentle humor shine through. His pacing is flawless. I was swept up into his cadences, and was never overburdened with needless detail. My senses were awakened to sensory impressions that were visceral.
A lovely and interesting story, one of the most satisfying reads I’ve enjoyed in years. Anyone who enjoys a rich blend of romance, adventure, and exploring exotic locations will no doubt fine much to admire here.