Benjamin, Larry. “In His Eyes”, Beaten Track, 2017.
It does not happen often that you pick up a book whose prose is so beautiful and mesmerizing that you have tears in your eyes. Be prepared for that to happen with Larry Benjamin’s “In His Eyes” which aside from the glorious writing there is a very beautiful story. We meet four guys and read their stories in 139 vignettes, each about a single event. Our guys meet when they are in college and from there they move forward some twenty years and find their ways in the adult gay world. They are guided by a piece of advice that quite simply says,
“When you boys fall in love, fall in love with his smile – because his smile will never age or change – and his eyes because in his eyes, you will always see the truth.”
Many have tried to write about gay life but few have succeeded in painting the picture of the reality that it is. One of the reasons for that is the fact that we really do not want to share it since it is ours exclusively. Those of you who are old enough to remember the scandal that Larry Kramer brought about with his roman a clef, “Faggots’, a book that parodies our lives while at the same time let people see how many were living and acting back then. Many were outraged that Kramer dared to let straight society see how we lived our lives (although I have my doubts about how many straight people actually would have considered reading it). Even Andrew Holleran in “His Dancer From the Dance” was ostracized for writing about what goes in gay bars. But those two books are from the 70s and so much has changed. We learned from that experience that not every writer can give an actual picture of gay life and those who try must be very careful about what they write.
Larry Benjamin has succeeded in doing so by being playful and using a bit of imagination. He never ignores the reality that we live in a world that has been hostile and is just now beginning to deal with acceptance. The first chapter shows us this by giving us a discussion on throwing a gay son out of the family and then moving on to wondering if someone can tell that someone else is gay just be looking at him.
We are taken on quite a journey and we are with the guys when they mature and fall in love, struggle to maintain relationships, suffer disappointments and have broken dreams all the while searching for internal and external acceptance. I remember a gorgeous poem that states, “love doesn’t die, people do” and we certainly see here that after we think love is gone, it is reborn in another time and place.
How could I not love a book that is about all of us. Micah, Skye, Reid and Calvin could be Paul, Henry, Michael and Clark—their names are not important because they are us. So there are four different points of view but then there are some of us who also have four different points of view in the same body and mind. Yet, it is easier to read about four different entities and as we do, we grow to love each one. As I read, I laughed, cried, went into myself, cursed and so on and we see about all else that love is undeniable.
I could say so much but I would rather you have the experience of this book yourself without me spoiling one word. Life is all about friendship and maturing and it is that much more difficult when one is part of a minority that is often marginalized. Knowing what love is certainly helps us to find our way as does friendship. I was totally taken into this book and know that I will reread it and reread it. I believe most of you will do the same.