Category Archives: GLBT fiction

“The Hurtle of Hell” by Simon Edge— God and a Confused Young Man

Edge, Simon. “The Hurtle of Hell”, Eye Books. 2018.

God and a Confused Young Man 

Amos Lassen

Stefano Cartwright loves to have fun and is always looking to do so. During one of his excursions in search of fun, he is almost killed by a wave on a holiday beach. He goes on a journey up a tunnel of light that convinces him that God does exist, and he may need to change his lifestyle if he does not want to burn for eternity.

Stephen Carter had known as a teenager that he was gay and understood that his parents would never accept this. So when he was just sixteen and finished his exams at school, he took all his savings and went to begin  a new life in London where he reinvented himself as Stefano Cartwright. He did not consider the effect it might have on his parents and this ended all contact with his family. sister for the five years until she was eighteen. 

We meet him living in Hackney, working in a gay bar and in a committed relationship with Adam, with whom he is on holiday at a small volcanic island. Everything seems to be going well for him but then he becomes totally confused as a result of a freak accident. When he is almost killed by a tremendous wave, he goes through a near death other worldly experience that makes him question all of his beliefs and assumptions. He soon finds himself on a journey, through a tunnel, that brings him to a close encounter with a giant blue eye. When Stefano regains consciousness, he is convinced that what he saw was the eye of God and believes that he needs to change his life. This will not only greatly affect him but will also affect everyone he is close to. 

The commotion on the beach draws God’s attention and as he focuses on it, he is taken aback when he sees two large green eyes looking back at him. The look that God sees is both of fear and astonishment. When the eyes disappear, God is confused over what he has just seen. In the past, he has watched planet Earth, noting its progress in a vaguely affectionate way but now that he has been seen by someone, his feelings harden.  Yet God is both intrigued and bored (what does a god do all day, anyway?), so he decides to find out more Stefano and his life on earth. The story is narrated in alternating chapters through the voices of Stefano, Adam and God. Later a fourth voice comes along (but you will have to read the book to find out who that is). Each of the voices tries to adjust and come to terms with Stefano’s struggle reconciling his gay lifestyle with his new-found belief in the existence of God; a God who he thinks is disapproving and judgmental.

As you might imagine, there is great humor here. We realize that Stephano is not the only character on a journey and we soon see that God becomes as confused as humans. God also questions about his place in the universe and what may exist beyond its boundaries. He often worries about this and then tries to convince himself that he must stop himself creating disasters and catastrophes. We certainly do not often think about God and when we do, I doubt we see him as lonely. The idea that he uses his “telescope” to see what was going on is a very special idea and how can we not love reading about what he sees? God’s thoughts on what he sees are wonderful as are his observations on humans. While we may think of this as a funny novel, we also have to understand that what writer Simon Edge does is provide some very thought provoking and provocative ideas on life and human behavior as well as on the complexities of relationships, belief, religion and spirituality and how we, as human beings tend to exaggerate our significance. Author Edge captures the shift in the church’s attitudes towards gay people and attitudes are not the same as they once were.

The narrative takes us back to Stefano’s childhood and the expectations of his parents. As he was coming to accept that he was gay, the AIDs epidemic was in the news. God realizes that he must spend time learning more about humans. He discovers that they have given him a great many strange powers. He states that humans could never understand their own insignificance. God derives pleasure from learning more about how they think and act during their brief lives. God’s  observations are an effective commentary on organized religion and man’s exaggerated sense of his own value.
We see that the real heart of the story here is about our need to be ourselves and understand love and tolerance, forgiveness and redemption.

“A Ladder to the Sky” by John Boyne— A Ruthless Man

Boyne, John. “A Ladder to the Sky”, Hogarth, 2018.

A Ruthless Man

Amos Lassen

Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and has great desires for fame. He seems to have everything but what he needs to be famous—talent. He knows he does not have talent but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, writers can find stories anywhere and they don’t need to be his own.

Maurice was a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988 and finds the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann, a desperately lonely older writer. Maurice manages to tease out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. This gives him just what he needs to write his first novel.

Once Maurice tastes literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in keep the high it gives him. He moves from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vida to Manhattan and London and perfects his talent for deceit and manipulation by preying on the talented and vulnerable in his calculated and cold-blooded climb to the top. What he does not realize is that the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall.

 “A Ladder to the Sky” looks at Maurice, a relentlessly immoral man and a story thief who will steal your stories, and, in essence, your soul. Maurice can write but his stories are boring so he uses his physical beauty and charm to get to famous writers in order to steal from them. Maurice is a story thief, he uses people for their ideas and throws them away when he gets what he needs. He drains people’s souls and leaves them with nothing.

Erich Ackermann was Maurice’s first act of destruction. When he was done with Erich, he simply discarded him and moved onto his next victim doing whatever necessary to get the stories that he needs. Once he has achieved his first conquest, he continues to take and take and take. His story is told in three parts by three different narrators. It is hard not to be enthralled and charmed by Maurice and as much as I came to really abhor him , I was anxious to see what he would do next. The character of Maurice is brilliantly drawn and intriguing. Boyne’s writing is wonderful and his novel is intricately plotted and filled with multi-dimensional complex characters and even though we could predict how all of this would end, we could not predict how far Maurice would go for fame.

After meeting Gore Vidal which makes him uncertain of how far his looks can help him succeed, he moves from literary circle to literary circle, from the U.S. to London and all over the world, in search of his next opportunity. As he moves through his life, the stakes get higher and higher—until there’s nothing he won’t do for fame. He is a totally amoral character, and as much as we dislike him, we admire his cunning and ambition.

We are pulled into the story from the first page and stay engrossed until we close the covers. Boyne gives us an unforgettable protagonist who is both dangerous and irresistible and who shows us a cynical portrait of the literary world.

 

 

 

“COLA DE MONO”— Christmas Eve in Chile, 1986

“Cola de Mono”

Christmas Eve in Chile, 1986

Amos Lassen

TLA Releasing brings us Alberto Fuguet’s LGBT film “Cola De Mono,” one of the most talked about gay films of recent times. It is set on Christmas Eve, 1986. Borja is a precocious teenager with a passion for film. As his extended family comes together to celebrate the holiday, the combined forces of the suffocating Chilean heat, free-flowing alcoholic drinks, and repressed desire contribute to the swift emergence of long-held secrets. What we have is a family melodrama and an explicit erotic thriller about the ways that we are controlled by passion and desire from our pop-culture tastes to our sexual fantasies.

Fuguet is the writer and director of six movies, including “Se arrienda” (2005), “Locaciones: Buscando a Rusty James” (2013), and “Invierno” (2015). He is also a novelist, having written more than a dozen books. This is his first LGBT-themed film.

“Cola de Mano” is something like eggnog and really impossible to translate so the film will be using its Spanish name and followed by the tagline, “Don’t drink it after midnight.” Fuguet is a gay artist who says, “all my work has been filtered through both my male and gay perspective.” “Cola de Mono” is more explicit in many aspects but it is not a bromance, which most of his films are. There have always been slight references in his movies to guys who are different, who don’t belong. His gaze has always been on men, whatever orientation the characters have. This film has more sex and nudity and is about desire, longing and a certain loneliness.  “Cola de Mono” is very gay but it is also a genre picture. It is also a tribute to B culture or perhaps a certain American mainstream cinema and literature.

There are many risqué scenes and a lot of male nudity yet I understand that none of the actors had any problems with this.

Fuguet superimposes the recipe for the Chilean Christmas eggnog Cola de mono and definitions for a jock strap, cruising, and info on the Baños Prat spa, in what is almost a didactic approach to the gay theme making  “Cola de Mono” a movie that a gay kid would take his mother to see. I know that I have not said much about the plot but I do not want to spoil the viewing experience for anyone. I think you can tell that I highly recommend this film.

“Leading Men” by Christopher Castellani— Fidelity, Desire and Ambition

Castellani, Christopher. “Leading Men: A Novel”, Viking, 2018.

Fidelity, Desire and Ambition

Amos Lassen

I am often asked what makes me decide if a book is worthy of praise. My answer from now on is to say read Christopher Castellani’s “Leading Men” and you will know. Set in Italy in the 1950s, it has a good plot, wonderfully drawn characters and prose that makes me tingle. It does not happen often but my eyes filled with tears because of the beauty of the reading experience. Of course, the fact that one of the characters is someone who was close to me influences my opinion. We join the “beautiful people in Portofino, Italy in July in the 1950s at a party given and hosted by Truman Capote and filled with members of literary and film circles.

An expansive yet intimate story of desire, artistic ambition, and fidelity, set in the glamorous literary and film circles of 1950s Italy. Tennessee Williams and his longtime lover Frank Merlo meet Anja Blomgren, a young Swedish beauty and aspiring actress. This meeting totally changes their lives forever. We move forward a decade and Frank is dying in Manhattan. He is waiting for Tennessee’s last visit. The mysterious Anja is now a legendary film icon Anja Bloom and lives as a recluse. But then a young man who was connected to the events of 1953 lures her r back into the spotlight after he learns that she has the only surviving copy of Williams’ final play.

Christopher Castellani brings fact and fiction together so that we can better understand the private lives of public people. Through the character of Anja Bloom we see what allows two people to stay together and what pries them apart. Most of us never have had to face major negotiations in life as great people because we have not reached that plateau and what might seem relatively minor to us can be a tremendous obstacle for those living in public.

This becomes an “ultimately heartbreaking story about the burdens of fame and the complex negotiations of life in the shadows of greatness.” Through Anja Bloom we see the hidden machinery of one of the great literary love stories of the twentieth-century.

I started reading this book this morning early and just closed the covers some nine hours later. I spent a while stunned and decided to sit down and start writing while everything was fresh in my mind. This is not only a meditation on fame but also a look into private lives of those who live publicly. It is  a love story that is sensitive and bold. I can say that from my own personal knowledge of Tennessee Williams, the man and the playwright, everything here rings true. I love that every once in a while we hear of the discovery of the manuscript of his final play. He has as many final plays as Cher has had farewell tours. Yet I am also convinced that there are still manuscripts of plays that have not been yet found. Hence we get a legend and Williams was indeed legendary.

For those of us who were aware, the love story of Williams and Merlo was extraordinary and I do not believe that Williams ever loved anyone  the way he loved Frank. Here are Merlo’s final days set against memories of an Italian summer in 1953 that changes him and his world forever.

I doubt that many of us are aware of to what great lengths artists are driven to just as most of us are unaware of what it takes to create something that lasts . Castellani seems to know as he created this wonderful story of love, fame, forgiveness and life. We see that sometimes we are so anxious to make sure that we have a place in the future that we do not realize that we are losing the present. All of us are victims to time; we all age and we all change. I am constantly aware of that two word sentence in James Joyce’s short story, “Eveline”. It simply says, “everything changes”. I do not think that we understand what being genius means and while it appeases on one hand, it can destroy if not used correctly. While “Knowledge is Power”, power is not always knowledge.

Castellani has beautiful insight into the characters he creates here and also to the ones he adapts to his story. I must admit that even though I heard great things about “Leading Men”, I approached it with caution because I knew and loved one of the main characters and I did not want anyone tampering with my memories of him. Castellani did not tamper; he enhanced my memories—  of personages, activities and life. In effect this is a novel akin to playing “what if”. We explore the possibilities of what might have happened. I am an emotional reader and I often shed tears not only because of what happens but also because of how it is told. I want to say that “Leading Men” is more than a read; it is a total experience and Christopher Castellani is more than a storyteller; he takes us where we need to be.

“Shadowboxer” by Jessica Webb— Between Past and Present

Webb, Jessica. “Shadowboxer”, Bold Strokes Books, 2018.

Between Past and Present

Amos Lassen

Jordan McAddie has not had it easy. She went through a tough childhood and then had a career as a boxer. She is a loner simply because she does not think that she has anything to offer in a relationship. She really wants to make a difference with youth so she becomes a social worker and helps street kids find their way. But then someone is targeting her kids and luring them to an underground political group whose actions protests are becoming increasingly more provocative and dangerous. 

Ali Clarke, Jordan’s first love and first broken heart, walks back into her life and becomes involved with the youth boxing program and Jordan becomes torn between past and present. More than anything, she is dedicated to keeping her kids safe but once again she finds herself fighting her old fear that she would never be good enough. At the same time, she wants to believe that there might be a chance of a future with Ali.

Jordan has used her winnings from her boxing career to start and run a boxing gym for kids who are in and out of the system. However, when a corporate wants to invest in something that reflects social responsibility, her gym is chosen as the recipient. It just so happens that the person representing the company is Ali. Suddenly, a strange and unusual symbol starts makes an appearance and it seems to involve the kids that come to Jordan’s gym.

Jordan is a well-drawn and powerful character in this story and everything revolves around her. Do not let the title fool you. Jordan was once a boxer but this story takes place after that career ended and is really about social workers and the work that they do. (Hopefully they work harder than the supposed social worker I have helping me with housing here).

The major characters in the book are a cross-section of what one might find in the world of social work. Helen is a militant social worker who harbors ill feelings for those who waste the resources she has to offer. There is Rachel, a cop who often has to find a delicate balance between the duties of her job and helping out the kids who can’t find their places in society and there is Madi, a survivor of the system who is fighting to find her place.

This could have been a very heavy story and we all know how depressing it is to read about kids who need help. Jessica Webb chooses a different way of writing and it is effective and filled with hope.

“The Daddies” by Kimberly Dark— Masculinity and Patriarchy

Dark, Kimberly. “The Daddies”, Brill Publishing, 2018.

Masculinity and Patriarchy

Amos Lassen

Kimberly Dark takes us into a world where many of us have not visited before and it is quite an eye opener. She gives us a story about love, grief and change and the pain that we feel from these. She tells this story as we see ourselves in the pop culture of today and in doing so we see quite a dark look at masculinity. It takes place after two lovers break up and while this in itself is quite a story, Dark also presents us with a narrative about the need to break up the patriarchal system in which we live. What might be difficult to do is to keep our masculinity as we break down the system of the sense of male superiority. ’”The Daddies’ is about the pain of change”.

Dark begins by asking us how masculinity has found its way through everything that exists. She sees it as seductive and protective while also being destructive and volatile. What we need to do is “to embrace and re-imagine masculinity from the inside out and hold the embrace long enough to change the world.” In this world we have a system of patriarchy, desire and pain that affects femininity in all aspects. She does this by combining fiction, poetry, nonfiction

Dark’s work is a multi-layered hybrid of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, “autoethnography, biomythography, and collage to explore the concepts of ‘Daddy’ through a social critique of news and pop culture.” We thus see what gendered interactions are and what they tell us about erotic love and masculinity. In order to do this we must look at sexual abuse, gendered expectations, identity and desire in a world that is patriarchal.

Kimberly Dark basically presents us with a complex and genre-bending contribution to “queer feeling and to theorizing through storytelling.” We have an interrogation of the psychic structures and deep ambivalences of queer desire and kinship that is so much more than the ideas of perversion and subversion. “The Daddies” is a portrait of contemporary patriarchy by and for Daddy’s girls and Dark has lived through and experienced so much of what she writes about here making her an important person to tell these stories. What we have is “an honest, disturbing, difficult confrontation with the uncontainable.” We find the world of Daddies to be compelling and repelling at the same time.

“The Daddies” is beautifully written, honest and poignant . It is so important that we share stories about gender identity and inequality, sexuality and relationships because, I believe, the more we do, the better we understand our lives and who we are.

“They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders” by Janet Mason— Beyond the Boundaries of Gender

Mason, Janet. “They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders”, My Story Publishers, 2018.

Beyond the Boundaries of Gender

Amos Lassen

I have always found it interesting how coincidences come together. For the last month I have been in a study group about the Hebrew Bible or what is commonly known as the Old Testament. We have been studying the women of the Bible and trying to raise their position in the written text so I suppose we could call this redefining gender in the holy books. It also happens that in a very week weeks the state of Massachusetts will have a referendum on gender rights and it seems that all of sudden gender has become important in our lives whereas ten years ago we would not have heard a peep about it. The third coincidence is that I received a copy of Janet Mason’s new book. “They” in which the Hebrew bible is the background for the story of Tamar that goes beyond the boundaries of gender. I believe it takes a strong person to tackle gender in literature these days and the impression that I got from reading Mason’s last book is that she is a person who can do so… and she did so, quite beautifully.

“They” is a groundbreaker and I am sure that the author will agree with me that attempting to add new meaning to given bible stories is tantamount to heresy. I have no doubt that she will suffer repercussions from those who do not agree with her approach. Personally I found her story to not only be wonderfully written but charming and liberating to us who have lived in a binary world for too long.

Tamar lives in the desert and is something of a hermit but she is happy. She is very close to her pet camel (and having lived in the Middle East and having had working experiences with camels, I can tell you that loving one is not easy). Many forget that at the time of the Hebrew bible, love for God and fellow man went hand-in-hand with sacrifices. Tamar hated this and as a result became a vegetarian. Tamar’s twin sister, Tabitha, became pregnant from having been with a young shepherd and the two women plot tricking Judah into believing that he is the father of the child that Tabitha carries. (As an aside, Tabitha does not appear in the Hebrew bible— her first appearance comes in what is called the New Testament, which is also a misnomer. If the Hebrew bible is correctly referred to as the Hebrew bible, there would be no New Testament. In order to have a New Testament, we must have an Old Testament which we do not.

The reason for convincing Judah that Tabitha was carrying his child was to provide status for the newborn. It was the custom for children born out of wedlock to be burned. When the time came to give birth, Tabitha had twins and Tamar becomes attached to the children (born intersex) and here is where the real story begins. If we follow Mason’s story as she presents it, we would know the bible as it is today and this is what I love the most about stories of this kind. We are dealing with, supposedly, one of the earliest histories of the world yet nothing in it can be proved. In fact, I find that every time I study it, is different. Tamar and Tabitha and the twins give a new dimension to the bible and Janet Mason deserves full credit for giving us an option to traditional bible stories. Whether it is true or not does not really matter. What does matter is what we learn from the story and that can possibly differ with all of us. I love the premise of the book but I am not going to share the story because I want you to read it. I found myself looking up things in the holy writings and some things I found and some I did not.

What I see as a result of reading this book is one of two things or even both we gain something of an understanding of gender even when the story that supports it might be based on ideas. The second result was something personal for me but I an others doing the same. Reading this drove me to check things in the bible and by reading it, you are stating that you believe in what it says or not. As you check you begin to realize how much is written in the early writings. For the last ten years, I have allotted myself an hour a day for bible study and I faithfully do study for that time period every day. It is great fun just as Janet Mason’s story can be great fun or very serious. At any rate, do not miss the chance to read something new with “They”. I am quite sure that it is going to turn up on my 10 Best List for 2018.

“Sketchtasy” by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore— Coming Together, Falling Apart

Bernstein Sycamore, Mattilda. “Sketchtasy”, Arsenal Pulp, 2018

Coming Together, Falling Apart

Amos Lassen

In the twelve years that that I have been reviewing LGBT literature, I have seen writers come and go. To stay fresh and well read, a writer must develop an audience. Then there are those audiences whose writing is so provocative that there is always an audience and I know that when I see that name on the cover of a book that I am going to have an interesting read that will make me think. The one thing that is certain is that it is impossible to predict what the book is going to be about and sometimes it takes until you are halfway through before you realize what you are reading. That, however, is not the case with Mattilda’s newest book , “Sketchtasy”. The blurb says that “it takes place in that late-night moment when everything comes together, and everything falls apart—it’s an urgent, glittering, devastating novel about the perils of queer world-making in the mid-‘90s.” Set in Boston in 1995, we see that this is a city that is dealing with a fear of difference.

Alexa is an incisive twenty-one-year-old queen who daily faces brutality but determined no to led it bother her. She rejects the pretensions of the and deals with trauma by criticizing the world. Alexa is a drug queen and her world is one of “drugged-out escapades”. She searches for home in a gay culture of clubs and conformity, apathy, and the fear of AIDS. It was a time when there was little difference between desire and death and death in fact became very real for many who had never thought about it before. For those of us who lived through that time, it was scary and a time when hope for a better future was tied to the present that did not seem to want to let go. In effect, we see this period through the author’s eyes and we do not just get descriptions, we find that we are experiencing her writing along with her. Some will be able to identify with the characters here while others will have a hard time doing so but it makes no difference for anyone who has ever been part of a larger group will understand what I am saying. Mattilda takes us to her characters and they find a way to enter us and make us feel what they feel. This is not your regular novel in that it is a novel of the emotions that is beautifully written. The memories that I thought I had lodged in the back of my mind rushed forward as I read and I felt honored to shed cathartic tears.

“It’s dangerous, hilarious, scary, and transcendentally beautiful.”

If I had to name my favorite parts of “Sketchtasy”, I would be unable to do so because every sentence and every word in every sentence is my favorite.  We read of Alexa’s quest for connection and we join her on it. Alexis is one of the most real literary characters I have come across lately. As we read, we live through her and she, in turn, lives within us.

We find the relevance of nostalgia and the beauty of memories. However Mattilda’s nostalgia becomes violent in that it replaces what was with mass-marketed, consumer-friendly products. Alexa is trapped in the life of the Boston gay clubs and culture and she yearns for a better place but is unable to find what she needs and wants. At the time of the time, Boston was not open to difference aside from in the Boston’s gay ghetto that tried to ape the main culture of the city and by that I mean what was considered to be the normalcy of straight society which included racism, self-hatred and, of course, misogyny. I still see remnants of this in the Boston of today.

This is Alexa’s story and she relays it to us in her first-person stream of consciousness. She has rejected the society that she was raised to subscribe to and she is totally alone yet wanting to belong. She argues with someone in a café who tells her that she is who she was brought up to be and she rejoins that those that live that way hate themselves. She plans to rise about that but… she needs a boost.

“What If It’s Us” by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera— Ben and Arthur

Albertalli, Becky and Adam Silvera. “What If It’s Us”, HarperTeen, 2018.

Ben and Arthur

Amos Lassen

Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera combine their talents in this smart story about two very different boys who can’t decide if the universe is pushing them together—or pulling them apart.

Arthur has comes to New York for the summer but finds himself involved in a romance. .Ben believes that the universe needs to mind its business. He wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things if the universe had had his back. When Arthur and Ben meet at the post office. . . ? We follow Arthur and Ben who instantly hit it off,  but things go wrong and they don’t get each other’s number. We follow the two as they attempt to find each and then go on a series of bad dates. Along with the drama are the complicated relationships that exist between friends, parents and ex-boyfriends, as well as discussions around identity. Both Ben and Arthur are gay, and Ben is also Puerto-Rican and Arthur is Jewish. This isn’t a coming out story— both guys were out to their parents and friends.

Ben has an ex-boyfriend that he may or may not be over and he regrets messing up the friendship group because of their breakup. Arthur can’t help but feel jealous of Arthur’s experience and brings unrealistic expectations into the relationship. Real life romance is messy and that is what we see here, but with fluff and cuteness.

Both Ben and Arthur have a friendship group that is going through some turmoil. Ben’s group has been torn apart by intra-group dating and Arthur feels distant from his friends since he moved to New York, and he’s sure one of them doesn’t accept him coming out as gay. Friendship complications are depicted well here. done here and friends are just as complicated as relationships. Ben’s issues with his group falling apart because some friends are now exes is something we are familiar with.

Both Ben and Arthur have many flaws that keep them from connecting properly. Ben is really proud and doesn’t let anyone in. He struggles to be vulnerable and uses a cool exterior so no one can really hurt him. Arthur is over-eager and jealous and decides things in his head without letting other people share their perspectives. Throughout the book you really see how they change and develop, and how the relationship improves them both as individuals.

 

 

“What’s Left of the Night” by Ersi Sotiropoulos— The Young Cavafy

Sotiropoulos, Ersi. “What’s Left of the Night”, New Vessel Press, 2018.

The Young Cavafy

Amos Lassen

In June 1897, young Constantine Cavafy came to Paris on the last stop of a long European tour. This trip deeply shapes his future and pushes him toward poetry. “What’s Left of the Night” is about those days as Cavafy is on a journey of self-discovery across a continent that is about to undergo tremendous change. Cavafy is dealing with his homosexuality and he is both exhilarated and tormented by it; the Greek-Turkish War has ended in Greece’s defeat and humiliation; France is ravaged by the Dreyfus Affair, and Cavafy’s native Alexandria has turned culturally East. This is a portrait of a budding author before he became one of the 20th century’s greatest poets. We read of the complex relationship of art, life, and the erotic desires. We read about the poet’s mind, his wavering between faith and despair at his own talent and his desire to be heard.

It was in 1897 during those three days when Constantine Cavafy began to understand what his destiny would be his destiny (his voice and his subject) as a major poet. Writer Sotiropoulos notices every encounter and records every intuition in her lyrical, impressionistic style. Sotiropoulos has done an incredible job of showing us Paris as it was during the Dreyfus affair while at the same time giving a glimpse into what it was like to be a poet at that time. What set Cavafy apart is his original approach to poetry. Readers may well leave this novel with a sincere desire to pick up a book of his poetry. This is both a character study and a look at the creative mind as it questions the relationship between an artist’s life and his art, especially the quality of art that comes out of immense suffering. To escape darkness of this kind is to transmit misery into works of beauty.

We can read this as an account of three days in the life of Constantine Cavafy and we can read it as a passionate introduction to his work and on a more metaphorical level as a reflection about art and where it comes from. Sotiropoulos maintains that “the gloomy darkness of real life is often the breeding ground of great work.”

This is a convincing portrait of the poet as a young man as he seesaws between faith and despair at his own talent and his desire to be heard.