Outline of My Lover - Douglas A Martin

Cerisaye's Review

I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about a kiss & tell of the 4 years Martin spent as Michael Stipeís boyfriend. †I have a longstanding crush on the REM front man, love the bandís music and have respect for him as a human being.† So my curiosity was aroused when someone said Iíd never look at him in the same way.

This is no ordinary self-seeking exposť, but a startlingly literary book.† Whether itís a novel Iím not sure.† It feels far too real to be fiction.† It reads like self-help therapy, working through personal demons lingering from a relationship that ended badly.† But that could be another example of its young authorís skill.

Would I have read the book had I not known who it was meant to be about?† I canít say.† I like to think that Iím not bothered about celebrity, but it does get wearisome.† The whiny narrative voice did grate on me, and itís a small book you can read in a couple of hours.† My sympathy, for whatever reason, probably nothing to do with the book, stayed with the lover not the boy-narrator.

Actually the best part is the opening section, before the boy ever meets his famous lover.† He describes an ordinary Southern boyhood growing up gay.† He almost died as a child, and spent time in hospital where, because his parents divorced, the nuns blamed his motherís sin for the boyís illness.† He pretended to be a girl, and was beaten by his stepfather.† He slept with men while still at school, a young hustler looking for affection not money, from a family where hugs & kisses just didnít happen.†

So, a whole lot of emotional baggage, an understandable desire to be someplace else where he could be himself just as soon as he was old enough and a fixation on a star, those are the ingredients for the story.† I thought the lover came out of it not too badly.† Attentive (when physically present), he showed consideration for the boy both during and after the relationship was over.† As the title suggests we never see the celebrity in detail, only in vague outline through the eyes of the boy after the affair.† It was never a relationship of equals.† The lover is paternal, seeing something of himself at the same age in this vulnerable, needy boy.

Itís confusing as the narrative wanders over the timeline, an achingly sad story about the impossibility of sustaining any kind of relationship with someone famous no matter how nice a person he might be.† Celebrities donít live in the same world as the rest of us.† Today everyone wants to be a star, reality TV depends on it.† Well, this account shows one aspect maybe not as desirable as affluence.† No one connects as they would with an ordinary person, and the celebrity loses humanity.

The boy needed too much to be loved and spent most of their time together worrying about the end of the affair because he never felt worthy.† He retreated from the world, defining himself through the lover, finally achieving a level of acceptance at home by proximity to such a star.† Meanwhile the lover has lost so many friends to death heís also walking wounded.

It was never going to end well, and gets repetitive after a while.† I kept picking the book up then putting it away in favour of something more interesting.† I understand itís about heartbreak and regret, and it does convey that well and very stylishly, but itís rather one-note.† I would be interested to see what Martin produces next now heís got this one out of his system.† For the record, I saw REM a couple of weeks ago at Loch Lomond and I still love Michael!

Ladymol's Review

This book didnít work for me at all. The story is basically about a young man who dreams of meeting one perfect man to take him away from his life. He does. He meets a rock star, never identified, with whom he has a passionate three year affair.

It was the style that really kept me from getting anything from this book. The story is told in the form of strobe writing:

Words. Meaning. Not really. When I wanted more. My mother at Christmas and a turkey she would stuff, crying. Always Christmas.

Well, okay, Iím taking the proverbial there. But it was a bit like that all the way through. I guess Iím too thick to read a book what is supposed to be literary.

Apparently the rock star is Michael Stipe, the lead singer of REM, with whom Martin collaborated on a book of poetry with. In Outline, Martin mentions the death of River Phoenix (calling him only the boy who fell outside a club), and Stipe and Phoenix were friends. He also mentions this mysterious lover being the producer of movies and Stipe formed a production company called Single Cell, working on many well-known movie productions. It all seems to fit. To be honest as Iíd never heard of Stipe before reading this book, I didnít really care.


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