Stout-Edwards, Kergan. “Songs for the New Depression”, Circumspect Press, 2011.
Reliving the Past
We all face periods where we just want everything to be finished and then we realize that life is meant to be lived and enjoyed even with the trials we face. Gabriel Travers is one such person— it is in his head that death is coming soon even though his doctor tells him that he is doing okay. Gabe does not like what he sees in the mirror and thinks that his best days are gone. When he was younger, he had the world at his feet. Everything was wonderful until he tried to make it matter and things went terribly wrong.
Gabriel is now almost 40 years old and he knows that he has to work on himself; to chase the bad feelings and demons away. It is time to take his life back as he realizes that it is all too short and there is no point in being unhappy. Edwards-Stout has written a wonderful book in which he takes on AIDS and depression from a personal point of view and he does so with great style and wit.
Gabriel is a character with flaws and in that; he is like so many of us. He is a gay “everyman” who is in search of himself. He looks at himself with respect to certain happenings in his life as he journeys looking for love and self-acceptance.
The author tells us Gabriel’s story in reverse chronological order. We start with him musing about AIDS and go back to the time when all was good and he was at peace and happy. Gabriel is a unique character—we both love and hate him and most of all see ourselves in him. His life is a struggle—a quest for understanding.
Like life itself, Gabriel’s story is not always happy and we can identify with the way we face occurrences and how they affect us. The themes dealt with include love, friendship, family and trauma. Gabe remembers being happy in high school with Keith, his first love and Keith understood him. As he approaches his fortieth year (remember how you felt then?), he does not think that he will actually celebrate it. His attitude has cost him to lose friends. Not quite sure how to deal with himself, he nevertheless realizes that he has to do so. His self-esteem was stripped from him when he was a young high school student and the effect has stayed with him. By listening to Bette Midler singing “Songs for the New Depression”, he tries to find a way to be at peace and we want that for him also.
This is Stout-Edward’s debut novel and he should be quite proud of what he has given us. Mixing caustic humor with the tribulations of life shows us that with hope and hard work, we can overcome but it does not happen easily.