The Coming of the Night by John Rechy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this a lot and will continue with other Rechy books. I read City of Night first and this second. This is no City of Night but it was good, and I do still give very high marks, both to Mr. Rechy for not resting on his laurels and for writing something new, and for the book itself, very entertaining and thoughtful.
This book is a snapshot of gay culture in 1982, when the first whispers of AIDS were starting. I expected the book to eventually step into the AIDS crisis but it never does, making allusions to it but never going there outright. The book is more a day or a few days set in LA as the Sant'Anas blow a hot wind of change.
Rechy has a gift for being sex-positive with great characterization and still evoking feeling and meaning. I think there things are all necessary for good gay fiction and few authors can manage all three.
Rechy examines the gay culture of the early 1980's with several elements still resonating now. A wide cast of characters really try to include everyone, we see porn stars, gym bunnies, ultra macho daddies and past-it aunties.
"I accept those things, Thomas, the three curses in the gay world - unattractive, old, and fat. I've been spared the fourth curse, the curse of a small dick, but that's not a blessing for me because no one notices."
I loved the scenes at the porn shoot, to me this had the ultra vivid characterization and humour of a Robert Rodi book, but with the sex left in that Rodi always cut. All the story lines are interesting, you'll be quickly turning the pages, and this can be hard to do with a large cast of all similar gay men. Some gay books you lose track of who's who, and while Rechy isn't perfect here, its a solid 9 out of 10.
The book has some thought provoking moments, like this meditation on gay sex culture that reminded me of the resonance of The Normal Heart:
"This is all there is - just sex and more sex and still more sex. That's all God gave only us - and to no one else - to compensate for all the shit they keep throwing at us. It's the only thing that blocks it all out. That's all some of us have. When that's gone - for some of us, there will be nothing."
Again well written, I read this on a gay vacation which was the perfect time for this book. Slight marks off for not being quite as good as City, and also for the last page, the last four paragraphs really which I found confusing. If someone could message me and fill me in on the meaning there I would appreciate it. Did he die? Why the blood? Was the Christ real? Did he screw him? To understand everything but the very very end I found frustrating. Still book is highly recommended.
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