The City Kid - Paul Reidinger
I finished this book and now want to buy and read Paul Reidinger’s others. This is what a book should be: thought provoking, challenging, sexy, deeply moving, and well written.
Guy, a forty-year-old man, lives in San Francisco, sharing an apartment with a friend from college, Susanne. Guy is gay and recovering from the ending of a ten-year relationship, which has left him, naturally, reticent, unsure of his place in the world—particularly in the gay world, which tends to revolve around younger men.
Doug is sixteen. Doug is starting out on the journey of life, and his foundations—his family—have been rocked. He leans toward Guy for many reasons, and equally, Guy is drawn to Doug.
The novel traces their relationship: their meetings and partings as they negotiate Doug’s journey. Almost every line has something profound to say about life, love and the human condition, but it’s never ponderous or moralising. People are weak; people are mean; but people are people—beautiful and just trying to get along, surviving the life.
This book actually had the power to surprise me. It constantly didn’t do what I expected it to do, which was utterly refreshing. It’s an example how to say something by not saying it, show underlying motivations not by what people do, but by what they don’t do.
A beautifully crafted novel, which will floor you with its sharp honesty. I highly recommend this book.
I picked up this book with no particular expectations, as it was one of Jenny’s picks. Excellent choice. A thought-provoking novel I recommend very highly. I avoided the detailed comments filling the inside pages, and I suggest you do likewise. It’s hard to review a book without revelations, though we do try.
It’s deceptively simple: Guy, 40 year-old man meets Doug, 16 year-old boy above a nudist beach near the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. They become friends, meeting together at intervals and the story reduced to its bare bones concerns their unfolding relationship.
Sounds all too familiar: sexually emerging youth meets gay middle-age age, with inevitable consequences. If we’re lucky a thoughtful coming-of-age story. That’s part of the equation. If that was all, I wouldn’t be pushing it as a must-read. Beautifully written and painfully perceptive, at times this book makes difficult reading because it’s honest and unsentimental. As parent of two male teen-agers, I think I’m familiar with the beast (sorry, boys!) so it’s a compliment to Reidinger that his youthful character’s voice and behaviour convinced me.
Guy emerged from a long-term gay partnership 2 years before the book begins, battered and bruised. He wonders if he’s better off alone, freed from the inconveniences and embarrassments of infatuation, the false promise of fleeting intimacy. In fact, he’s inclined to give credence to hetero society’s belief in the hopelessness of male love. On the other hand, he’s lonely. There’s a hole where his lover used to be. Early on there’s an account- very erotic- of Guy’s sexual induction when he was 16 by a gorgeous older man, Michael, who’s married with a child. So, Guy re-enacts his youthful seduction, cast this time in the adult role? The story plays subtly with our expectations.
Guy knew at 16 he was gay, and got exactly what he wanted from Michael. It’s a fond memory. Doug is confused, struggling with his sexual identity, from a home rich in material comfort but short on demonstrable love and affection. Doug’s father, Ross, wants him to be a man but his idea of what that means is at odds with a sensitive boy closer to David, a gay friend of his mother’s than to his emotionally repressed, homophobic dad. Guy is smitten by Doug, but wary of a potentially dangerous (to him) and damaging (to Doug) relationship. It’s a fear all gay men live with, getting caught in incriminating circumstances with an under-aged beautiful boy. Yet he can’t ignore a cry for help. Guy reflects on the sadness of a world where his love for Michael became something sordid and twisted, illicit passion shared with a man terrified of discovery. He’s aware of gay self-destruction, the inevitable consequence of denial, and the pressure this puts on men who pretend to be what they are not. A powder-keg waiting to blow. And so unnecessary.
In a convincing story heavily laden with sexual tension the book explores the minefield of this complex relationship. Is Guy to be Doug’s mentor, guiding him through a difficult time in his life, a father figure? Or his teacher, sharing the physical expression of love to reveal to ready and willing youth the secrets of gay sex? Guy and Doug are both on a journey. This is indeed a coming-of-age story, just not the one you expect. And the ending? It felt just right.
Harrington Park Press. ISBN: 1560231688
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