Monthly Archives: August 2012

“The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture” by Yoram Hazony— Unrevealing the Revelation

Hazony, Yoram. “The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture”, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Unrevealing the Revelation

Amos Lassen

It seems that the Hebrew Bible has always been regarded as a revelation but what if that is not what is was meant to be? Maybe it is not about miracles or salvation but merely tells us how to live in the world. Yoram Hazony proposes that we look at it differently and see it as a way to look at ethics, political philosophy and metaphysics (and the philosopher in me says “YES!!”). He offers us new studies of biblical narratives and prophetic poetry that transforms how we have understood Abel, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and David as well as the speeches of Isaiah and Jeremiah and in doing so he shows us what these were meant to teach. This new philosophy does not assume a belief in God or any other commitment to religion but it does require a background in the Hebrew Bible. There is not of the disciplinary jargon and it gives a look at a book that we, in effect, do not know and after reading this, one will never read the Bible in the same way again.

 

I must say that the timing that I received this was perfect. For two weeks I have been trying to find some new approach to the binding of Isaac for the sermon I am presenting on Rosh Hashanah this year. I was beginning to think that the adage that there is nothing new under the sun is true because I was lost to find a new angle and here one is but I will get to that later.

As I read this new treatment, I had to stop every few moments and let in sink in and then say to myself, “Why have I never thought of that”? The brilliance of the text is actually based upon very simple thoughts and Hazony clearly shows how the reoccurring political and ethical themes of the Tanach tend to try to conform or measure ancient Hebrew Philosophy to Greek Philosophy. Dr. Hazony argues that the Tanach clearly shows a unique and deeply structured philosophy of its own. The way the stories are interconnected shows a need for advancement in areas such as Form Criticism and especially Redaction Criticism. Hazony’s prose allows a layperson to understand his theories is clearly and his “horizontal” reading of the Bible, carrying themes and identifying concepts across the stories and narratives, allows us to see ideas that are both challenging and exciting.

Echad Ha’am, one of the great Zionist philosophers, said that it is possible to make the Bible say whatever is wanted or needed but in recent times, there has not been a lot said in the area of offering wisdom to live by, either as an individual or as a people. Hazony offers a voice in that silence and offers us a whole new take on the purpose of the Hebrew Bible and we get a new understanding of what is written.

This is a theoretical framework for reading the Bible as a work of philosophy, a way of reading that many Hebrew Bible lovers may have long thought possible but which no one has bothered systematically with until now. His discussion of Biblical authorship came in good measure and fairly accounted for the various academic theories that have been studied forever and at the same time making the argument that authorship may have been intended as a mystery so as to encourage free inquiry. The most fascinating aspects here (and most enjoyable) are interpretations of key Biblical narratives through a philosophical lens. These readings are in and of themselves innovative in exegesis but Hazony presents the philosophical, political, and practical ideas prevalent the Bible (such as individualism and man vs. the state) that could inspire people of all walks of life today toward better societies. We are introduced to Biblical characters who are heroes of truth and forefathers of the ideas espoused later by Aristotle, Plato and Enlightenment philosophers. The Bible renders philosophy through narrative, poetry and metaphor, the same devices used later by the Greeks. The Bible then becomes a book of philosophical thought and the source of progressive philosophy.

The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture” is a naturalistic reading of the Hebrew Scriptures that allows the sacred texts of the Jewish people to do double duty: They can be read as revelation by the religious, or by the secular as a guide to personal virtue and national prowess. The question will be asked if this is a marriage of God’s word to natural law and if so what the result is. According to Hazony, Mosaic Law is an afterthought to natural law and in explaining this he differentiates between faith and reason and maintains that the Hebrew scriptures are works of reason. (There will be naysayers who will yell, “Blasphemy” but then there are always are).

An ethical philosophy founded in natural law is embedded in the Tanach’s historical narrative and it does not require a supernatural revelation. This is what he names as “shepherd’s ethics”—that is, “the vantage point of an outsider that owes nothing and has committed to nothing that cannot be reconsidered in light of one’s own independent judgment as to what is really right.” There is virtue inherent in the shepherd that can see difference whether it be between nomad and city dweller to between Cain and Abel, between the Abram of Ur from the nomad Abraham of Canaan, Joseph the shepherd from Joseph the minister of Pharaoh, and so on.

Regarding the binding of Isaac, the Akedah, Hazony’s understanding of Genesis centers on the story of Cain and Abel, which he believes fixes the archetype of farmer and herder. As Hazony sees it:

“Cain embodies the virtues associated with the agrarian societies of the ancient Near East; Cain obeys God’s instructions; he perpetuates the order inherited from his father; and he exhibits piety to the Gods who have created this order. His brother Abel, however, resists the fate that God has decreed for him. He ignores God’s decree and becomes a shepherd—a man whose station is elevated in that he lives a life of relative ease, leaving the job of extracting nourishment from the ground to his sheep and goats”.

Why, then, is Cain’s sacrifice rejected? Because “God accepts the offering of a man who seeks to improve things, to make them good of himself and his own initiative. That is what God finds in Abel, and the reason he accepts his sacrifice. Hazony’s identification of Abel with Middle Eastern nomads in general is problematic, and his natural-law allegory seems impoverished next to the traditional commentator’s more nuanced human tragedy. Instead, Hazony is most convincing in his critique of the classical Greek state, the exemplar of the classical political rationalism he proposes to replace. He quotes Socrates’ reproach to Crito, who has arranged his escape from prison, that the individual is only the “offspring and servant” of the state, “both you and your forefathers.”

Hazony is convinced that Abraham ascended Mount Moriah so secure in his knowledge of natural law that God had no such thing as human sacrifice in mind. He writes: “Abraham at every point keeps firmly in view what is to him a fact—that whatever God may have said to him, he will not require him to murder his son. God himself will provide a ram for the sacrifice … at no point does Abraham intend to murder his son.” That is the least convincing assertion in a book full of challenges to the plain sense of the text. If Abraham knew God would provide a ram, and God knew that Abraham knew all along, moreover, why stage the whole grisly pantomime in the first place?

One answer is given by the private scholar Lipmann Bodoff, who contended in a 2005 book that Abraham was testing God. But Bodoff, unlike Hazony, is attentive to the difficulties that attend his interpretation. For example, an angel calls out to Abraham as he stretches his arm over Isaac, knife in hand. If God knew that Abraham would not strike, why did the angel bother? Bodoff explains although God is omniscient, angels “are not competent to know the intentions of human beings.” To affirm this view without inflicting violence on the text requires among other things attention to subtle distinctions among supernatural beings that have little to do with Hazony’s idea of natural law.

Hebrew Scripture, in Hazony’s view, makes no claim that divine guidance is needed for good behavior. “The different roads that are open to us are there to be compared. If we can look at them and discern ‘which is the good way’ almost empirically (sic), without need for God’s instructions, it is because the evidence is there to be discovered by those who look.” We know that worshipping idols is wrong because they are just blocks of wood, that we should not commit adultery “because we know from experience that a man will have his vengeance,” and so forth”.

Nothing in the “almost empirical” observation of the ancient Near East dissuaded men from sacrificing their children to the gods, among other revolting practices. Before Israel, infanticide was universal in the ancient world—which brings us back to the Akedah, the event that divides the bloodthirsty barbarism of the ancient world from the Jewish (and later Christian) concept of sanctity of life.

Tradition tells us that the bond between God and Abraham was based upon inexplicable love and faithfulness This is what the covenant is established And from this covenant comes the foundation of Western civilization—the sanctity of human life, the dignity of mankind and the inviolability of human rights. If we accept the traditional view of the Akedah rather than this new one, natural law of the Bible falls apart and this is exactly what Soren Kirkegaard wrote in his classic “Fear and Loathing”.

 

 

 

“The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls” by Emily W. Kane— Dealing with Gender

Kane, Emily W. “The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls”, NYU Press, 2012.

Dealing with Gender

Amos Lassen

The family is where children learn about gender and the roles assigned to it. As the world changes so do concepts about gender and now we see that the traditional roles assigned to male and female are changing yet gender expectations have not kept up with these changes. Emily Kane gives us new detailed accounts of how parents today “understand, enforce and resist the gendering of children” and she does so through stories of parents from a diverse collection of backgrounds. More and more today, parents try to get away from the usual constrains of gender and at the same time allow for a variety of behaviors that are responsible for what have long been considered traditional gender roles. These traditional roles have become part of how we live today and there is now tension in trying to change them and still let boys be boys and girls be girls.

Even the most egalitarian parents still influence children with the binary concepts of gender and Kane shows how parents

variously understand, navigate, and even sometimes resist the gender trap, pointing the way to a more humane world for all of our children”.

Most parents understand that children’s personality is a combination of nature and nurture and while many wish that they could help nurture their children to escape the gender trap, they are also aware of the demands of society and these parents find themselves trapped in the gender binary and its structure. There is the feeling that they remain accountable to the expectations of the larger society.

There is fear when boys are allowed to explore those areas traditionally associated with girls and vice versa. Kane shows us how it is possible to navigate the raising of children and that to do so, the world around us must be changed.

The book fascinates and educates as it explores and analyzes.

“I Still Have a Suitcase in Berlin” by Gerard Malone Stephens— Gay in Nazi Germany

Stephens, Gerard Malone. “I Still Have a Suitcase in Berlin”, Vintage Canada, 2009.

Gay in Nazi Germany

Amos Lassen

In 1932 Michael Renner was on his way from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Berlin to visit his ailing grandmother, Even though he had settled into a routine life in Halifax, familial pressure brought him to Germany and away from the romance he was hoping for with his next door neighbor and he reluctantly set sail for Germany, unaware of what was waiting for him and the rest of the world. On the boat over he met his first person from Berlin, Tristan who tells him that he will be devoured by Berlin. When he reaches Berlin, he finds that his grandmother’s financial situation is very poor—to the point that she is renting out rooms in her home and he quickly sees the old aristocratic class beginning to crumble.

The house is filled with a motley crew which includes Dr. Linder and his niece Hélène, both Jews. Hélène takes Michael under her wing and introduces him to Berlin’s high society, as well as to its many lows. When his grandmother dies, Michael’s cousin and her husband quickly move in—they have come to keep an eye on the family’s assets. When they discover that Michael is engaged to Hélène, they break up the union, expose her as a Jew and summarily send her to Austria while the fascists are tightening their hold on Berlin. Michael is strategically married off to the dutifully pious Lonä, and before he knows it he is a father, working for his father-in-law and auctioning the property of persecuted Jews.

Michael leads a double life as he has several affairs with young men and finds himself very much in love with a young man, Jan, does not return the affection or share the emotion. He watches Jan’s promiscuity and Jan is sent to prison as a result of Paragraph 175 that provides for the arrests of “sexual deviants” and he faces near death at the hands of the Nazi regime. Michael tries to become his caregiver and even takes money out of his father-in-law’s business so that he can pay for Jan to hide. This discovered and then Michael finds himself saved by Peter, an SS officer but Michael is obligated to return the favors in kind.

Michael had established a friendship with Tristan who is responsible for much of the debauchery found in the cabarets of Berlin at that time. Berlin seems to be losing itself as the Nazi party gains more and more power and Michael and Jan have to depend upon each other for safety and comfort. As a result of his marriage, Michael had a son, Billy, who has been taken out of his life because of his homosexuality and Michael feels that Billy is the only responsible thing that he has ever done. Peter offers him a chance to escape but he does not feel that he can leave Jan and Billy. He ultimately becomes part of the Holocaust and the horrors of it.

It is possible to feel the research that the author did to write this book. This is a story of compassion and decadence as the most horrible period in world history takes place. We most certainly become more aware of the plights of homosexuals during that time and in effect it is a warning against fascism.

The story is told in a year by year method and we see what was happening in Germany. It is extremely well written and it seduces the reader into paying attention to every word.

 

 

 

 

 

“REMINGTON AND THE CURSE OF THE ZOMBADINGS”— “Zombadings”??

Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings”

Zombadings?

Amos Lassen

 From the Philippines comes a new film that will have you scratching your head. When an evil, vengeful drag queen turns the very handsome Remington into a gay male because of a curse, a serial killer begins to stalk the gay community with his homemade laser.It is up to Remington to break the curse before he is killed himself but things get even more complicated when an army of flesh eating drag queen zombies are let lose. And this is just the beginning of one of the campiest and most outrageous film you will ever have the chance to see. I have not yet been able to find a release date but I will keep you posted and as soon as I do. This is a film that you do not want to miss with a premise so bad that it has to be a fun time.

Jade Castro directs the story of Remington who has found his first love with Hannah, his new neighbor but she doesn’t feel the same about him. But then Remington starts to say nice things to her mother and dresses a bit more “cool” and she begins to get new ideas. However, she thinks, that something strange is going on that he seems to have no control of. When Remington was younger, he insulted a drag queen in a cemetery and because of that a spell was cast on him and it was that one day he would become gay. Suddenly gay men began turning up dead and covered with some green goo. Remington will suffer the same fate if he is not able to exorcise the curse. There is also a group of Zombadings—fabulous zombies. Using satire is a tool the film takes on homophobia and the genre of zombie horror film while also giving us a poignant film about friendship and family.

Obviously this is not a film for everyone but it is well done especially when we consider that it was made in a country that is totally against freedom for gay people.

I laughed all the way through and the characters are wonderful. Looking at strong subjects—murder and rights, it is a film about humanity and uses a unique perspective to tell its story. I like that you think, at first, that you are watching a horror movie but there is so much more here including romance and humor and it takes on an important subject in a tongue-in-cheek way. There is so much more to the film than homosexual undead and slapstick and it delivers a. subversive message “that sadly and unfairly may not be universally accepted in the most universal of ways”.

 Set in a provincial town just like any other in the Philippines, the filmfollows the story of Remington (Martin Escudero), the stereotypical macho boy next door who engages in manual labor during the day and drinks at night. He was cursed to turn gay when he was a little boy by a gay man (Roderick Paulate) who he angered because of his incessant insensitive teasing, Remington slowly but very surely turns gay, first with his gestures, then his language, then his sexual preference, leaving him in the middle of a love triangle involving his best friend Jigs (Kerbie Zamora) and girl-next-door Hannah (Lauren Young). While Remington is transforming, his mother (Janice De Belen), a police officer, is solving the case of uncovering who is responsible for the murders of the gay men in town.

 Despite the having a story where crazy-looking gaydars, rollerblading widows, vengeful drag queens, homophobic serial killers and the titular gay zombies miraculously cohere, the filmis actually very intelligently and carefully conceived and crafted. Castro directs the film like a maverick conductor, leading an orchestra composed of traditionally jarring instruments but eventually coming up with a symphony that is not so hard to enjoy and adore”.

The film is great fun and it can be watched on the very bare level as a horror/comedy but watching it on a higher level shows us that it is about empowerment, the right to choose and it lashes out at intolerance. We see that freedom is precious and should not be taken lightly or literally and that perceptions last for a long, long time.

 I understand thatin the short span of time since its theatrical release Zombadings has garnered a significant cult following and while it isn’t perfect, the movie is a real joy to watch. “It treads the fine line between offensive and subversive, realistic and caricature and does it while still never forgetting to have a sense of humor”. This is a film that hits hard and it is completely over the top and it is wonderful. “Imagine a horde of decked out zombies in drag tearing through a village festival, and you’re on the right track. “Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings” is low budget, campy, and outlandish. There’s murder, mayhem, cross-dressing, and a surprisingly gooey emotional center”.

 

 

 

 

”May We Be Forgiven: A Novel” by A.M. Homes— Unexpected Intimacies

Homes, A.M.”May We Be Forgiven: A Novel”, Viking Adult, 2012.

Unexpected Intimacies

Amos Lassen

Harold Silver has taken of his younger brother, George, for almost his entire life. George is smarter, better looking, wealthier, etc but he has a bad temper and when he lost control once, something happened that changed both brothers’ lives forever. Harry, quite suddenly, faces the responsibility of taking care of George’s two teenage children and is thrown into a life that he really knows nothing about. Harry has to play parent and build a family that was created by choice and as he does, we are made aware of how history becomes destiny and either force us to change or repeat previous mistakes. This is a story about putting a family back together after it has been torn apart. It is an intense look at a catastrophe and a year in the life of an American family that has been broken. The book will seduce you with its prose and with its plot and you will be all the better for having read it.

After George is involved in a traffic accident that kills three members of his family, he is hospitalized in a psych ward and his wife begins an affair with his brother, Harry. With the accident being the catalyst, a family is totally transformed.

Accidents propel the action here until Harry begins a movement toward a substantive life. Harry who has been quite passive is torn from that existence and becomes a Job like figure and problems rain down on him. We see him as a man beset by catastrophes as he tries to do what is right—he adopts his brother’s children, he has casual sex with then moves to another level and he tries to correct what his brother does wrong. Before you realize it, Harry has sucked you into his life and the author’s wit and prose keep you there as we cheer for Harry as he maneuvers and meanders through a life that was not all his choosing. Yet this is a comic novel, albeit black comedy and we want even more when the book is done.

The themes are familiar– a passive narrator who lives a surreal life he doesn’t even realize he’s not living, things that happen that are beyond control and how we respond or not respond to them. The overall theme, it seems to me, is the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability to deal with problems as they surface. While at times the novel seems to be absurd, there is brilliant absurdity and Homes’s style matches the tragic-comedy of the plot. It is a tragedy that moves Harry to action and it is the comic nature of his character that allows him to deal with it. Put this on your list of “To Be Read”—you will not regret it.

 

 

 

“INTIMACIES: MICHAEL KEARNS”— Remembering Kearns

“Intimacies: Michael Kearns”

Remembering Kearns

Amos Lassen

Michael Kearns was a gay actor, playwright and AIDS activist whose career took a downward spiral when he announced that he was HIV-positive. He had appeared in “Cheers”, “Murder She Wrote” and “The Waltons” just to name a few. Using just a red sash as a prop, Kearns performed a six character play, “Intimacies” in which he played all six characters (A Hollywood accountant, a Black hooker, a confused Flamenco dancer, etc) and the show was controversial and very explicit.

David Hoffman, renowned documentary maker, preserved the show for us and we get a look at a man fighting for his life in a very open way. We need to be reminded of all AIDS affected our lives and watching Kearns performance reminds us all too well of what was lost. While this is not the best film on AID, it is an important one. AIDS was our Holocaust and it is heroes like Kearns have done so much so that we may have the freedoms that we do today. In “Intimacies” Kearns dares audiences to come closer to the truth of what it is like to live being HIV+ and also gay.

 

 

“HEAVY GIRLS”— Sven and His Mother and Daniel

Heavy Girls” (“Dicke Madchen”)

Sven and His Mother and Daniel

Amos Lassen

Sven and his mother Edeltraut live together and she suffers from dementia. Yet they share their lives and their bed. When Sven goes to work at the bank during the day, Daniel, a straight family man, watches Edeltraut. He takes her to get her hair done, shopping or just go out for a walk. One day, his mother locks Sven out on the balcony and goes out for a walk by herself. Daniel and Sven desperately look for her and they not only find her but each other and their lives become confused.

This is a new kind of offbeat comedy that makes you think as you laugh. When Daniel’s wife throws him out of the house, he crashes with Sven and this is the beginning of their coming together.

Even though Edeltraut suffers from Alzheimer’s, her life is full and she has a chance to have fun. Sven (Heiko Pinkowski), her son and Daniel (Peter Trabner), her caretaker watch over her. Sven and his mother look at life as a spontaneous happening and sometimes as a game. They depend upon each other yet at times their relationship seems to be symbiotic. When mother decides to go on a walk by herself, we see that Sven has a romantic interest in Daniel. As things begin to become heated between Sven and Daniel, the two men begin to see each other as an escape from the world that they live in.

As the two men become closer, Daniel’s son starts to turn up unexpectedly and he is the embodiment of Daniel’s heavy conscience and an obstacle to the possibility, for Daniel, of truly escaping his life. It is hard not to like everything about this movie from the acting to the music to the script. There are twists and turns yet the film remains intimate and I love that it pushes the envelope.

 

 

 

“THIS IS NOT A DREAM”— Queer Artists with Video Cameras

“This Is Not a Dream”

Queer Artists with Video Cameras

Amos Lassen

“This is Not a Dream” is a documentary film fresh off of the LGBT Film Festival circuit that looks at how queer artists and video cameras have transformed their world. All of us are aware of how much the video camera changed our lives when it came into being in 1970 (for layman use) and the price was reasonable enough that artists had a chance to use it and respond to the mainstream; something they had been financially limited from doing. They found other marginalized people like themselves and the voices of protest and gender queers moved into mainstream media. We take a journey through forty years of artistry and meet such people as

Vaginal Davis, Nao Bustamante, Kalup Linzy, David Hoyle, Cole Escola and Holestar among others. Exclusive interviews and incredible archive material is complemented by live video-interactive performances are presented. We learn a great deal from this documentary that examines the relationship between video technology and how gay people regard the moving image. The film plays with drag, music, celebrity and popular culture, and the artists have powerfully and playfully engaged the video camera with queer visibility and this is how they have drawn attention to themselves helped to change the world.

 

 

 

“PINK TRIANGLES”— Homophobia and Oppression

Pink Triangles”

Homophobia and Oppression

Amos Lassen

I probably would have never known about “Pink Triangles”, a documentary about homophobia and oppression had I not met someone who worked on the film which is part of Cambridge Documentary Films. This is an educational film that was produced by nine men and women, health workers, social workers, historians, people from the media and art straight and gay and their aim here is to explore and examine the roots of oppression of people who are marginalized; not part of mainstream society. This was one of the earliest and one of the first to look seriously at the growth of homophobia in America and it makes us aware of the dangers of “scapegoating” and how it can cause violence.

Things have changed since the film was made and keeping in mind that it was made in Cambridge, Massachusetts where homophobia was not a major issue does not make it any less significant. It is a valuable resource and teaching tool for places not as diverse and free as Massachusetts and after living in Arkansas, I can certainly see how it could help the situation there. Interestingly enough, few Arkansans will admit to being homophobic or that homophobia actually exists in the state and they simply do not understand that subliminal messages are just as dangerous and hurtful as verbal. Unfortunately, as long as there is humankind, there will be hate, intolerance and prejudice and while learning about it will not make it go away, it opens our eyes and hopefully makes us think enough before we engage in any form of hateful behavior.

While the film addresses homophobia specifically, it is likewise a careful look at discrimination and oppression. It examines the historical and contemporary patterns of hatred and persecution and does so with regard to race, religion, politics and sexuality and especially to those who have been called out as “different”, “abnormal” and “inferior”. These are the usual victims of “scapegoating”.

 

Some of the ideas looked at in the film include:

 

  • The research of a German born historian who escaped the Nazi imprisonment of homosexuals and returned to investigate the plight of many thousands who suffered in the concentration camps wearing the Nazi insignia for gay men — the pink triangle. 
  • Discussions with mental health and health care providers who are struggling to change institutional biases against lesbians and gay men.
  • Historical material from the McCarthy hearings and the pontifications of the “Christian Right.”
  • Perspectives of parents who have confronted their feelings about their children’s homosexuality.
  • Ideas of educators, authors and activists concerning the political motivation for homophobic attitudes and the enforcement of rigid sex roles in our culture.
  • A Gay Speakers Bureau discussion about sexuality with a group of high school students.


 

“After Ben” by Con Riley— Living

Riley, Con. “After Ben” (Seattle Stories, Book I), Dreamspinner Press, 2012.

Living

Amos Lassen

Theo Anderson cannot stop grieving over the loss of his partner Ben to a sudden death a year ago. He certainly is not interested in a new relationship bout life takes some funny turns. Theo is strongly physically attracted to Peter, a guy at his gym but he is more attracted to Morgan, his online friend, who provides him with intellectual stimulation. Morgan is a guy whose wit is sharp and he seems to be well versed in many things. Theo feels he is ready to “hook up” with Morgan and then he discovers that his cyber buddy is half his age.

Ben was considerably older than Theo and this put a stain on their relationship especially with Theo’s family and Theo is certainly not prepared to get involved in something that might end quickly. He realizes that he must also make sure that in his mind Ben has been laid to rest so that he can come to terms with his family and rebuild the friendships that his relationship has caused to let slide.

Riley takes us on a bittersweet journey with a man suffering from grief as he tries to find a way to happiness, love and satisfaction. It is very hard to read this book without becoming emotionally involved with Theo and feel the pain that he does. The narrative is written with beautiful sensitivity especially in the sections of Theo facing having to say a permanent goodbye to Ben. He has to go through the grieving process and all of its steps and we, like Theo, feel Ben’s presence. The fact that Ben died so suddenly (from cardiac arrest while driving) makes it even harder for Theo to pick up and go on. Theo becomes a loner to a degree and feels that he cannot be around other people. He puts his own life on hold and does not answer the phone and ignores messages from his friends. He knows that he has lost Ben but he just cannot leave him behind. When he finally tries and meets Peter at the gym, he is encouraged to begin the road back to life and while his body allows him to do this, his mind says that he is not yet ready.

But then he meets Morgan online and during the course of a few months they build a virtual friendship. Both men have baggage and each is challenged by the other. Theo begins to fall in love with the character he sees on the computer screen and pays little attention to Morgan’s opinionated ideas and thinks of him as having a big heart. Still it takes a while for them to actually meet face-to-face. There is even a hint of sexual tension before their first sexual liaison but the most surprising thing is that Theo remained in the dark about the issues that Morgan was dealing with.

Morgan has big shoes to fill. Ben was such a good guy and such an important part of Theo’s life that it will take a great deal to win him over. Even though Ben is dead, he is still a larger-than-life character in the story. As Theo finally begins to move from darkness to life, he begins to exhibit some really fine character traits and this is the reason that it takes him so long to move forward. He is a considerate and thinking person who has known true love and is afraid that he has had his chance so nothing much will happen in his life.

This is a first novel for the author and the good news is that we know there will be a sequel since the title includes the subtitles of “Seattle Stories, Book I”. I am not going to include any spoilers because it is not fair to do so but what I will do is recommend this book as a really terrific read.