Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín

I recently discovered Colm Tóibín (pronounced “Collum Toe-bean”), and this is my second read by him. After reading Blackwater Lightship, I bought several of his books off the shelf of a local bookstore. His prose has a lyrical quality and quite a bit of intensity, but it remains sensitive and absorbing. I was not aware when I bought The Story of the Night that it had won the Ferro-Grumley Award for the best gay novel in 1998, and made On Lambda’s list of the 100 best gay novels of all time. I have read Mann’s Death in Venice, Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, and Djuna Barnes Nightwood, so the genre is no surprise to me. Tóibín has written a sensitive and moving story of a young man’s coming to terms with his sexual preference, and capped it off with a tender love story. That does not give away the ending.

I do not know what else to write. If the idea of homosexuality disturbs you, then I would advise against reading this book. I am completely, 100% straight, but I have also known a number of people who are gay, and several who have died of AIDS. I know they fall in and out of love, they laugh, they cry, they try and live their lives against varying tides of intolerance and even hatred. If the names and the fact of AIDS were removed from this novel, no one would have any idea it was about gay men.

Maybe I should change my mind about anyone not reading this book. The Story of the Night portrays gay people as living through all the things straight people do: discovering who they are as people, finding their place in the working world, dealing with crises of family and friends, traveling, and having fun. If you are open-minded, then you should read this book; if you are not, maybe this book will open your mind. 5 stars.

--Chiron, 5/16/09

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