Adam & Steve - Craig Chester
There is a novel here somewhere; Iím sure of it. The trouble is, itís not actually hereÖ now. Adapted from a screenplay of a film of the same name, this book still reads as a script. Sometimes that really works, and this is a very funny book. Most of the time, however, it doesnít, and reading this is rather like listening to someone recite a filmóbadly. It really grated on me after a while: constantly being told what it was I ought to be getting from a particular scene, almost like reading the stage directions. Itís as if the author so loved the things heíd created for the movie, he couldnít bear to have them left out of the book.
As I said, there is a germ of a novel here, and I wish it had been more explored. I love the idea of two men meeting on and off over the years, never quite getting it on yet clearly destined for each other. Adam and Steve meet disastrously in the 80s (and if you think youíve had bad dates, you have to read this one. This book is sometimes very funny). They donít meet again for another decade and when they do, theyíve both changed so much they donít recognise each other. Gradually they fall in love, but the remembrance of their past near relationship hangs over them like a proverbial sword of Damocles: you just know itís going to fall soon.
Itís really not the plot I had issues with, just the dreadful writing style. But I guess Iím getting picky because this is a sweet story with a happy ending, and I can remember bemoaning that we never seemed to find gay romances with happy endings.
But I am picky. This one just didnít work for me.
ďWeíre just us, you know.† Weíre not gay or straight or Julia or Meg.† Weíre just two people- Adam and Steve.Ē
Oh boy, this was a tonic after Danny!† A sweet gay romance that sticks up a figurative finger at the awful Christian right saying ďGod created Adam & Eve, not Adam & SteveĒ.
Adam & Steve first met one night at a dance club in 1987.† Adam was a Goth in whiteface trying to hide his real identity, a Jewish geek from Long Island.† Steve a dazzling gold painted go-go boy with big blond hair and glittery knee-high boots.† An exchange of bodily fluids in Adamís grungy student apartment didnít go quite to plan, after the pair profusely snorted cocaine laced with baby laxative.†
Something brought the two of them together across a crowded room, despite the inhibiting presence of Adamís obese faghag friend Rhonda, because 15 years later they meet again. Adam, newly sober, is trying to put his life back together, with the help of Burt, his possessive dog, and Rhonda, now a skinny stand-up comic with unresolved food issues.† Meanwhile, gorgeous Steve has re-invented himself as a therapist working in a hospital.† So neither recognises the other when their paths cross again, but thereís a tingle of energy that crackles when they touch: like they were destined to find each other, two boys in a world that doesnít want them to fall in love. Kismet.
Steve has plenty of casual sex, a different guy every night, but no love.† Heís an anal retentive control freak who finds soap an aphrodisiac, so afraid of being humiliated and rejected he avoids any sign of intimacy or affection.† Steve wears his perfect body like armour, refusing to let anybody in.† Heís the opposite of Adam, whoís a messy but sensitive soul with a thin skin that drove him to substance abuse to survive in a cold, cruel world.
The film is a delightful romantic comedy.† It doesnít however ignore serious issues like homophobia and self-hate.† Thereís a running joke that every time Adam shows affection in public heís a target for gay bashing or verbal abuse, and a homophobe moves in across the way from Steve, who shouts whenever he catches them making out.†
Nothing prevents Adam & Steve falling in love, not Steveís religious Texan parents or Adamís Bernstein Family Curse.† However, the one thing that might scupper their future is the memory of that humiliating previous encounter, the incident that scarred Steve with low self-esteem. Can they make it work and learn to love themselves for what they are, not as they think other people want them to be?†
This is as much a coming of age story as romance.† Adam & Steve are in arrested development, caught in the futile search for perfection; but, with the help of that magic called love, just maybe theyíre about to grow up, men ready for a proper relationship.†
I loved this book.† It reminded me of Beautiful Thing, and even has the same slightly over-the-top finale, in this case at a gay rodeo dance club!† Itís well written, smart and funny, wonderfully romantic, and sexy too.† Chester easily outclasses Scott&Scott the Romentics.† Itís got gay and straight characters, all equally struggling with 21st C life & love.† The book was adapted from a feature film also written by Chester (he stars as Adam, clearly a very talented man) which I havenít yet seen, but isnít the usual tie-in (see Demon Under Glass) and works perfectly as a standalone novel.† However Iím now desperate to see the movie.† This is one book I canít recommend too highly.† You will love it!† 10/10.