“Nets of Wonder” by Robert Heylmun— Hard Lessons

nets of wonder

Heylmun. Robert. “Nets of Wonder”, Create Space , 2013

Hard Lessons

Amos Lassen

Will has split from his wife; he has been left by the first man that he thought he loved and spends his time trying to find what he needs in New Orleans. He finally meets David who is quite the good-looker and they are soon life partners and move to California but that puts a strain on their relationship and Will soon realizes that he needs to get away. He continues to look for companionship and love and this takes him away.

I was really interested in reading because I was born and raised in New Orleans. I was so reminded of the town I once knew but chose to leave. I was immediately drawn into the story not only because of New Orleans but also because of the prose. The fact that the story is fascinating was yet another reason. Will came across to me as a composite character who was made up of traits that will remind you of men you know. He is a man looking for love and goes through all the usual steps and making the usual mistakes. Reality and despair go hand in hand here. Having lived as a gay man in the 1960s, so much of this was recognizable. It is the story of so many of us. The way the characters in the book talk is the way it was.

Roberyt Heylmun writes of gay life as it was and I found it important to remember that the story takes place before Stonewall. For those of you who are coming-out now, you should know that it was nothing like what we have today.

The big differences I believe are firstly that the local or neighborhood gay bar was the center of gay life and secondly, sexual promiscuity was rampant and the concept of safer sex was almost twenty years away. I could not help thinking how much easier it is to be gay. Even though this is not a history book, there is history here. Will has, for me, at least, come to represent the gay man of the time. There are also depictions of sex at that time and will it is the same as today, the buildup to it is different. But all was not physical—there was also intellectual intimacy and while dating was fast, there were also wonderful conversations.

This is an emotional read because it is about a period in LGBT history that is gone forever, a time when the gay community was unique. There was no gay marriage and the “gayborhood” still existed. It is candid and descriptive and for me, it is a terrific reminder of a period of time I know so well.

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