The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon - Tom Spanbauer
I feel utterly inadequate to describe this book. Perhaps I shouldnít try. I can tell you the affect it had on me though. I want to take myself to an elemental placeóa place of clear water and ancient rocksóand listen to the earth. I want to listen to the stories people have to tell. I want to change my life.
This story is a story about namesóthe names people give themselves, the names they give others. Itís about the importance of these names. For what are we if not defined by words? What is gay? What is good? What is evil?
The boy in this story asks these questions. His quest to understand himself and his names will leave you reeling. I donít think Iíve ever tried to absorb a book into my mind beforeówanted to be part of the telling and the discovering, wanted to find my name, my story.
This book isnít an easy read; itís almost stream of consciousness in places and doesnít follow a linear plot (to great effect). Itís sometimes deceptively simple but the most incredibly painful events are told in this simplistic way, and itís very much for the reader to feel the pain behind the words.
Itís a wonderful gay love story, with some of the best-written sex Iíve found in a novel: not especially graphic, but very, very powerful.
If youíre an adventurous reader and donít want a story handed to you on a plate, then I highly recommend you give this one a go.
This is one of those books it pays to read more than once, not because itís difficult (though it is complex) but thereís just so much in its 355 pages itís almost impossible to take in first time.† I read the novel a couple of years ago and was so overwhelmed I couldnít organise my thoughts/impressions into a coherent review.† Iíve just read it again and to tell the truth I donít feel any more confident about my ability to convey how amazing it is so youíll rush out and buy a copy- but really you must!† Iím only trying because everyone who would appreciate this novel should hear about it.† If it wasnít such a celebration of gay sex & love I bet it wouldíve been snapped up to become a major Hollywood movie- Johnny Depp when he was younger wouldíve been perfect in the lead role.
Anyway, I canít even begin to summarise the plot other than to say itís an epic tale of the Old West at the turn of the last century narrated by a boy called Shed or Duivichi-un-Dua (a story in itself), part Native American on his (dead) motherís side.† Shed likes sex, itís part of the human being story (there are Little Big Man parallels).† Heís not bothered whether he does it with a man or woman but prefers boys- eventually he discovers the Native American tradition of the Berdache or two-spirit, a holy man revered among tribes who is not afraid to inhabit opposite gender roles and practice same-sex love.† Shed finds strength in what he calls killdeer, a game he plays to survive.
Shed lives in Excellent, Idaho where he works Out in the Shed as a male prostitute servicing selected clients interested in boys.† Shedís employer Ida Richilieu is a larger-than-life character but realistic in her time/place.† Ida sort of adopts Shed when his mother dies.† Sheís loving and caring, frank in ALL things including sex.† Ida is a lot more than the stereotypical tart with a heart.†† She puts Shed to work when heís old enough by her reckoning and heís happy to oblige.
There are so many threads of plot, recurring themes, and the structure of the narrative gradually reveals until what we read at the beginning all makes sense, so itís difficult to convey the bookís scope- wide.† It has lots of gay elements.† Words are very important, stories (and the people who make them).† Thereís beautiful romance between Shed and green-eyed, black-haired cowboy Dellwood Barker, the crazy moon man who helps Shed make sense of the world and his place in it.† Together with beautiful whore Alma Hatch who is obsessed with birds (each characterís eccentricities weave into the plot), Ida, Shed and Dellwood make a family and a perfect way of life, earthy & wild, fuelled by liquor, drugs and LOTS of sex.
A crazy story about crazy people told by a crazy.† Shed looks for the story HE needs to know, scrutinising people and the world.† Itís only when Shed loses everyone close to him he learns the truth: things arenít the way he thought, that what he was doing wasnít what he thought it was either, nor who he thought he was.† Confused?† It all makes sense in the end.
Funny and tragic, totally engrossing, beautifully rich and cleverly written.† Itíll make you think hard about the truth behind the stories we hear (we all have them as individuals and family members).† It reflects a particular time and place, when men AND women had freedom of expression, though this was coming to an end, as represented by the Mormons, righteous zealots determined to stamp out lawlessness and the sexual free-for-all enjoyed by Shedís happy family.†
Bad things happen and there are disturbing scenes:† Shed is raped as a boy and there is violent retribution at the climax that is very hard to take.† But thatís how life was then, cruel and harsh.† This is a story about love and acceptance, tolerance and understanding.† Weíre all human beings regardless of our differences, and the story embraces diversity with passion as well as sensitivity and breathtaking imagination.† Those that say explicit sex has no place in a literary novel should read the scene between Shed and Dellwood in their otherworldly hideaway.† One of the most erotic things Iíve ever read.
Characters you will never forget, sex, intergenerational and mixed race relationships, incest, spirituality...all these and much more.† As Ida would say:† Ah, the humanity.† A stunning and haunting novel with incredible depth and vision as well as real compassion for its characters.† That just maybe might change the way you look at yourself and the world as you travel with Shed on his epic spiritual quest for self-knowledge and love.† Definitely one of the best books Iíve read.† One of those rare novels Iíll return to again, and again, finding something new every time.