Tommy's Tale - Alan Cumming
Phew. A ride and a half. I sometimes felt I needed to imbibe drugs to keep up with this drug-ridden party boy. This book certainly lives up to its tagline ďFrank, Filthy and Fun.Ē However, whether it was a wholly satisfying novel Iím not so sure. It really was quite tiring to read at times: too frenetic, trying to be too shocking perhaps. Tommy is a young bisexual man in London, sharing a flat with two friends and in a non-committed relationship with a thirty-something man who has an eight-year-old son. Tommyís hobbies are sex and drugs and in one memorable scene he manages to combine both, discovering new and inventive ways to snort cocaine. He crashes through life clubbing, drinking, drug taking (have I mentioned the drugs yet?) and f******. Yet beneath all this, he has hankerings for something else, something more tangible. Something like, perhapsÖ a baby! When his ex-model girlfriend becomes pregnant after a mistaken one-night reunion stand, Tommy thinks the time has come for him to sober up and face his responsibilities. Unfortunately heís in New York and on the most incredible bender of his entire life, one that almost killed me just reading it!
This is a great fun novel which tries to fit in pretty much everything you could find to say on gay life, drugs, alternative lifestyles and gender non-conformity. I dipped when I felt strong enough, but itís not a curl up and lose yourself in the magic of words type of novel.
This is such a fun book, a cheery antidote to some of the more depressing gay reads we've covered here .† I adore Alan Cumming- a fellow Scot of course- so I picked up this first novel with great anticipation: the story of Tommy, a 29 year-old Londoner having a bit of an existentialist crisis of the psyche- about his relationship (though heís not prepared to use that word, yet) with Charlie, 10 years older, with an adorable 8 year-old son, Finn, who loves Tommy and wants him to stay around in his life.† I was not disappointed.† Itís kind of a modern fairytale- reinforced by fables that interrupt the story at various points, though these do rather break up the narrative flow which otherwise has a very stream-of-consciousness naturalistic style.
Tommy is in a panic because he thinks he might be in love and that scares him- last time (with a girl called India) it didnít last leaving Tommy shattered by the break-up; in fact heís still in recovery and rather emotionally fragile.† Tommy is worried heís starting to sound like heís in a Jackie Collins novel- thatís what love does to a boy!† But heís nearly 30 so time to think hard about what he wants from life- commitment, children, you know, the big stuff.
Tommy works as a photographerís assistant but itís a means to an end- a roof over his head, partying and vast quantities of alcohol & drugs.† If such hedonism bothers you best pass on this one.† He lives with best friends Sadie and Bobby, together theyíre a family.† Sadieís biological clock is ticking, though she no longer believes in Mr Right, and Tommy is just as eager to have a child.† I loved this acknowledgement men & women arenít so different, that guys can feel the overwhelming need to nurture- especially gay/bi men so often put down by homophobes because gay sex is nonreproductive, denied the right to marry and have children together.† But Tommy is depressed because he thinks he canít sustain the kind of relationship necessary to have a child, worried about his motives concerning Charlie and his son, and he lacks closure on that failed straight romance.
Itís a coming-of-age story, Tommy growing up and not being afraid anymore, accepting how he feels, i.e. that he loves Charlie and wants to be with him and Finn, happy ever after.† Of course it takes a while for Tommy to work that out- a 2 week sex & drugs binge in New York City helps.† A very modern gay novel in which sexuality is neither definitive nor an issue, and sex just something people do for pleasure, preferably with someone else who wants it too.†
So, no angst about being gay or bi, with dollops of gay and hetero sex, lots of illegal substances consumed, and no moralising or judgement.† Itís about ways of living not tied to conventional- outdated- notions about what makes a couple and a family.† Riotous, frequently moving, it is very easy to read, and says a lot of very sensible things about life & love.† Tommy is engaging - much like Cumming himself (I think it's more than a little autobiographical)- and supporting characters are well written too, so the whole thing comes to life.†
Extremely positive and uplifting the novel is a joy to read, a most auspicious debut.