“Slant” by Timothy Wang— Alienation

Wang, Timothy. “Slant”, Lethe Press, 2011.


Amos Lassen

James, a student at MIT is out yet naïve. When we first meet him he is a virgin who accepts his sexuality and learns to behave from the pages of Cosmopolitan Magazine. He reads about what guys want (from women o course) and he seems to be the typical MIT student. Then he meets Stan at a coffee shop. Stan is older but handsome and suave and James loses his virginity to him.

Timothy Wang gives us a fascinating character in James who looks at sex as he does at formulas. He jokes about fulfilling his hypothesis when he meets Stan. Stan and James begin to date and James begins to pick up gay lingo and he discovers what he likes doing sexually and what he doesn’t. Before long Stan has been hopping bars and then introduces him to drugs.

As James begins to understand his own feelings, he sees that Stan is playing him yet James feels that he loves him. He proved correct when he is dumped for another young guy and so James picks himself up and begins to date Michael, a medical resident. They had been smitten with each other when they met earlier at a party at Harvard. James, however, is determined to get Stan back probably because, unlike Michael, he is mysterious (and his first love). Michael is just too predictable for James. Stan does made contact occasionally and even convinces James to try bareback sex and as a result James panics and runs to get tested.

Wang has something to say about what goes on in the gay scene and it is obvious that he is familiar with it. He writes about dress codes, gay yuppies, competition, A-listers, and fitting in. In fact I am quite sure that James and Wang are one and the same especially when James complains about the way he looks as an Asian American. Hence the title, “Slant” which refers to James’s eyes.But the book is really about James wanting to be loved and then live in his own special world. He also gives us wonderful descriptions of Boston and the academic campuses of MIT and Harvard and his other descriptions are also clear.

Yet there is something more important here and that is what this book is really about–the basic themes of love, trust and developing a sense of self.

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