Cody - Keith Hale
This is such a well-written account of young teenagers coming of age. I read it in about two hours and felt I knew the characters as real people by the end.
Trotsky (nickname) is seventeen and gay, although he’s done nothing about it yet except worship Cody the golden boy in his school from afar. Cody is beautiful in every way: intelligent, superb athlete, unbelievably handsome with hair the colour of ripening wheat tinged with blood. One night Trotsky has a dream about Cody and the next morning Cody hands him a story, telling the dream from his point of view. It’s an amazing spiritual connection that Cody explains away by knowing Trotsky in a previous life. Whether he shares Trotsky’s physical interest is more ambiguous. He’s willing to share a bed, not afraid to wrap himself around Trotsky to sleep, but seems unaware of Trotsky’s interest.
Trotsky’s mother is a professor at the local university, in trouble for professing socialist views in conservative Arkansas. Her troubles spill over into Trotsky’s life. It’s an interesting take on gay teens that their troubles don’t come from discovering their sexuality but from discovering intolerance of political views. It was the one thing in the book that I found slightly unlikely. I don’t know any seventeen year olds who discuss radial ideas in Camus or who make their hobby the study of primitive religions. Have you ever heard a seventeen-year-old comment:
“But once you have realised the absurdity of the universe, its indifference to man, then you can make a commitment, to give your life meaning — at least insofar as the commitment gives you a purpose for being.”
That aspect aside, the rest of the depiction of these boys is excellent. In contrast to the platonic relationship he has with Cody, Trotsky has a passionate interlude with his younger brother’s best friend Mark. Only fourteen, Mark already has more sexual experience than Trotsky. As Trotsky narrates the book there is very little discussion or angst about whether this relationship is right or wrong; it just is and both enjoy it immensely.
Events close in around the boys, dangers they never expected to face. Tragedy bring Cody and Trotsky’s relationship to a head.
A good quick read. Recommended.
“I remember friends like brothers when friends were what you lived for. I remember friends always there, to live your life with. I remember friends who knew every secret, when friends loved you for everything you were.”
This book wasn’t what I expected at all. I thought it was about first love. Two 17 year-olds discovering their way together. Well it is…and it isn’t. I read the novel in an afternoon, totally caught up in its small world of adolescent self-absorption.
Steven Trottingham Taylor, ‘Trotsky’, has just moved to Little Rock where his mother has a new job teaching Economics. They’ve moved around and he’s used to being the new boy, though doesn’t make friends easily. He meets beautiful Cody in History class, and something awakens within him like a static electric buzz…old souls, two halves looking for a whole. Though they dance round a connection so intense it’s overwhelming.
Trotsky is gay. Cody on the other hand is straight. So Trotsky takes things slowly, afraid to push Cody away, content to be friends, though yearns for more. They get to know each other, boys on the threshold of manhood, trying to make sense of the world, looking for purpose and meaning in life, best friends so close sometimes it’s like they have mind-meld.
Adolescent hormones need an outlet. Trotsky takes advantage of precocious Mark, 14, friend of younger brother, Freddy. At first a convenient way of keeping his longing for Cody in check, Trotsky’s relationship with Mark deepens to intimacy then, as barriers fall, love. Both get something from it more than release. The relationship is of course illegal and Trotsky would go to jail if caught; but it’s not abusive at all. Mark is the experienced one who takes the lead; he has only known abusive sex but Trotsky is a tender and considerate lover.
Trotsky, Cody and their group of friends have sex, drink and take drugs, apparently free to roam without parental supervision. Some would call Trotsky’s mother negligent. I think she knows her son, trusts him and allows freedom to make mistakes and learn. Their relationship is strong. Trotsky’s dad was murdered in an anti-union demonstration before he was even born and as a family they’re close.
This isn’t about being gay. Trotsky is happy with his feelings. It’s about the experience of growing up, with all the exhilaration, angst, pain, triumph and heartache that involves. An exciting time, there’s nothing quite like it. Everything is heightened. The thirst for knowledge and understanding, thinking there’s an answer to every question. It’s philosophical. Trotsky and Cody are bright boys who maybe think too much for their own good. But that’s part of what makes it true, the earnestness of youth. The despair that makes death seem an easier option.
A terrible accident foreshadows greater cataclysm. When that comes, it’s not what you expect- well I didn’t. Nothing to do with homophobia. Intolerance, yes, hateful and cruel, fear of different ideas and ways of looking at the world. Trotsky’s mother is a socialist, akin to devil worship it seems in Arkansas.
Trostsky desires Cody, who desperately wants to feel it too; but just can’t though they are everything to each other. I’m not sure sexuality is so clear-cut. Take Ennis in Brokeback Mountain who never wanted any man before Jack and needs no other, unlike Jack.
When Trotsky & Cody first meet it’s like they’ve always known each other…in a previous existence maybe were lovers with a spiritual bond that lingers. If birth and death are opposite points on a line A to B then reaching the end is a frightening concept; look at A and B as just two out of an infinite number on an endless line, then the journey between those points becomes insignificant, part of something bigger. So maybe the next turn of the wheel they meet again under different circumstances?