In My Room
Iím at a loss quite how to review this. Itís the weirdest mix of novel and medical dictionary Iíve ever read. Imagine a guy with severe Aspergers Syndrome describing his ceaseless fucking and youíve sort of got this book: no romance, no empathy, no tenderness, just endless clinical descriptions of the most intimate acts that take place between men. And, given that, itís quite a curiosity, and I read on. And given the number of gay novels Iíve read, gay movieís Iíve seen and gay porn Iíve enjoyed, I still learnt a few interesting snippets from this book. So, first off, itís NOT for the uninitiated! I seriously doubt this would appeal to many woman, fans of gay sex or not. And Iím not all that sure men would enjoy it as anything more than the curiosity I did.
Set in the late 1990s in Paris, itís told in the first person by a young man with HIV, who spends his time cruising for men and sleeping with themówith or without condoms (but as he points out, all the five hundred or so men heís slept with have slept with all the others and they all have HIV). Every detail of the sex acts is relentlessly told: length, stretch, depth, width, weightÖ. Drugs feature as heavily as the sex.†
A sense of deep nihilism runs beneath the apparent detachment of the narratorís story: a foul stream of dissatisfaction with his life. Itís taken out on his boyfriends, but heís the one thatís wrong. Often unable to sustain an erection, bored with sex despite the amount he has, bitchily seeing fault with everyone itís very hard to like him or really care what happens to him.
I can only think that this book got published as a curiosity. If you have a huge tolerance for gay sex acts clinically described then by all means give this a go. If you prefer something that engages your heart even a tiny bit then probably donít bother.
In fact, Iím not all that sure that this isnít a homophobic book. I can just see the moral majority getting hold of this and crowing with great delight: see! This is what those filthy beasts get up to and donít they all deserve to get AIDS! Maybe Iím becoming paranoid, but I question whether this hidden-identity-author hasnít got a more sinister reason for keeping his identity secret than just for having writing a gay novel.
Rather a strange one this, translated from French, itís neither fiction nor autobiography but some sort of hybrid- or so it would seem anyway.† In style itís a bit like Dennis Cooper, with short sentences, brief chapters like film sequences more than narrative story, first person POV that could be the writer, and a protagonist searching for deeper meaning through sex.
It is VERY sexually explicit, yet (like CRASH) strangely unerotic, closer to porn as I found it emotionally uninvolving.† It is unrepentantly in-your-face gay, an honest account of one manís life, lived through sex.†
Controversially Dunstan pays NO attention to safe sex.† Quite the opposite as he celebrates wild and potentially deadly practices.† He is on record as an advocate of unprotected sex.† HIV+ people (he is one) are told they MUST always use condoms, like the general population must wear a seatbelt in the car.† Dunstan questions the necessity to remove freedom of choice, which he claims politicises sexuality, one more way to control gay people.† In a way Iíd have been more impressed had he just come out and said condoms spoil the pleasure and remove spontaneity so why do we have to use them, if weíre all adults who know the risks and make informed choices?
I think Dunstanís approach is irresponsible.† It isnít enough to decry assimilationist orthodoxy and promote sexual freedom when YOUR freedom could cause someone else to unknowingly become infected.† And relentless sex without intimacy doesnít strike me as particularly liberating either.†
†I found the book hard going despite its brevity.† A joyless, passionless affair that smacks of sad desperation.† Brutal sex and its honest portrayal can be quite arousing (SKIN FLICK) but not here.† Iím sure this book has its advocates, but Iím not one of them.† Okay, maybe as a straight woman Iím not its target readership, and thatís fair enough, but itís not a particularly well written book, very repetitive, and comes to no discernible conclusion.
Maybe shock and controversy was its point.† Perhaps the kind of people who wouldnít normally read porn find it acceptable to read vaguely literary accounts like this, especially if they can read the original version.† It is interesting as an account of an aspect of urban gay life among sophisticated Frenchmen, but it didnít make me want to read any more of the writerís books.† Maybe just as well since this is the only one available in English translation.† If I want to read porn then I can find much better than this free on the internet.†