DeSimone, Lewis. “The Heart’s History”, Lethe Press, 2012.
Connecting with Edward
I first discovered Lewis DeSimone when I read his “Chemistry” a few years ago and I remember being in awe of it. Simone is a wordsmith and a wonderful writer. I often wondered why I hadn’t read anything more recently but now I am glad to say that I have and DeSimone has, once again, blown me away. “The Heart’s History” is the story of Edward, a man who seemed to have it all—looks, money, good job, love but Edward did not let others into his life. We meet him as he is dying and all of those who have loved him now want to know just who he was. Edward is a haunting character and even when you close the covers and know that he is dead, he will stay with you. He was an individual and he guarded that. I suppose I could say, quite simply, that Edward was Edward.
Edward took sick at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic when we were sure that a cure would be found and before our community was decimated by the loss of so many. It was also a time when assimilation and conforming to society were the rule more than the exception and while privately we partied together and had sex, publicly, we were the guys next door. If people knew we were gay, they spoke about it in whispers. Yet we were on the verge of creating a new kind of community where we would face life head-on.
Some of us have aspired to be together with someone else—to build a life together while others do not cotton to the idea. (Where did that expression come from? I haven’t heard it or used it in years). This is one of the major ideas of the book.
As intriguing as the plot is, it is DeSimone’s writing that propels this novel. His prose is clean and to the point and beautiful because of that. His descriptions of his characters give us a family that stays with us as we read. DeSimone guides us into the characters as he describes them via their traits. Every word, every sentence and every paragraph is handpicked and every character—each member of the Bostonian group of friends is delineated for us and we know them as we meet them. (I have not been in Boston that long yet—I moved here just six weeks ago but I have already seen the kinds of characters that the author writes about).
This group of five friends epitomizes the word “friends”. Two are HIV positive, one of whom is Edward who just happens to be the character that is the center of the other four’s lives. He represents to them what they do not know but would like to. There is a lot to think about here but I think that the underlying theme of relaxing, finding a love and settling down to build a relationship is the major idea. Each character has his own ideas and opinions on the way our community was going and is not afraid to elaborate. Basically this is Edward’s story that he shares with his lover Roger and his three friends and it is through the interaction of the members of the group that lets us into the way they feel about death and dying and AIDS. They try to find the clue to understanding Edward because he has not let them into his life to the extent that they desired. They each know parts of him but none of them know all of him. As we learn about Edward, we learn about the thematic ideas I have already mentioned.
I do feel that the plot is the canvas for the author’s writing. There is a touch of action but the majority happens in the minds of the characters thereby allowing the reader to come to his own conclusions. Using dialogue, we hear the characters speak and as they speak we build up images in our minds so that when they are together, we not only know that they are close friends but that we are also close friends to them. Therefore the characters also drive the plot forward. The relationship of Edward and Robert is both the core and the frame of the story. Robert is the youngest of the group and often feels like he does not belong but as the book moves forward, becomees more a part of the group. He becomes close to Kyle who is not only Edward’s best friend but a man who has harbored a crush on Edward. The other members of the group are Victor and Greg, one man is totally out and at peace with his life (Greg), the other (Victor) is somewhat new to the scene—he had been married before coming out. He does not feel comfortable with stereotypical ways of gay behavior and Harlan, the fifth member, takes him to task because of his discomfort. Harlan, by the way, will have sex with almost anyone and he is a true solitary man who is game for everything and cannot possibly see himself in a monogamous relationship. Even when he has the chance to do so, he runs from it. Harlan is a jokester, poking others and speaking in one liners.
Part of the book looks at each character’s thoughts on gay marriage and relationships. Herein lies part of DeSimone’s genius. We do not get what he thinks about the topics and the characters are all given equal time to discuss them.
I could write a great deal more but that would give too much away and I can in no way compete with Lewis DeSimone’s wonderful writing. I may have already said too much and if that is true, I humbly apologize. This is a book that must be read and relished.
- Posted in: GLBT fiction