Most people lead their lives within the structures of relationship established by their society, drawing them like a blanket of security that reassureMost people lead their lives within the structures of relationship established by their society, drawing them like a blanket of security that reassures about the nature of self in relation to the world and others. For some however, who are torn out of that comfortable place and broken in some way by their early experiences in life, usually within the family, there is another side of life, a darker side than dwells near the fringes. Most people have some awareness of it, unless they live in complete naiveté, but they can never get the feel of that edge from newspaper, from tv reports or dramatizations; that will take a taste. Many flirt with that taste and some are smitten.
Just like an addictive drug, the slide into companionship with the fibre of that place can be slow but once its tendrils have hold it is a hard place to leave, to break away from. By its nature, the darker side of the gay world, the hustling, forms a substantial part of that place. Things are reduced to absolutes, and the sense of self is reduced in the same way. Unable to cope with the implications of what they do, the boys' cling to small things often blown up into important symbols, like a soldier's talisman to reassure them that they are in some way OK. "I do this but never that!" When the implications of all of it only ever point in one direction, to the loss of soul to the dynamics of power and abuse that are central to it all.
This story is about a boy and his efforts to move beyond his attachment to "the life", he leaves for years but like the booze for an alcoholic, it lurks in the wings, working its way back into his life "for just 10 days" then it will be done. Like all tests of this type, the mere acceptance of the test is in and of itself a declaration of being totally lost in the currents that drag to and fro, but that is seldom seen as the decision is made.
Rechy's first book "City of Night" captures the absolute essence of that dark world, that book had a significant impact on me, having lived the life on the streets of Sydney as a kid, he clarified much for me. He revisits it here, but not so powerfully, while the book seeks to explore that terrible hold that addiction to "the life" has over many so exposed to it, it just doesn't quite cut it. The explicit descriptions of the anonymous sex, somehow obscures that point. It rings true though to anyone who has even had that "taste". In a way regardless of where life takes you, once a person has had "the taste" it forever has its hooks into the deepest recesses of mind and soul, whether the choice is made, as the main character does here, to follow its beckoning through some rationalization or another or whether it can be held at bay and life lived to a different drum. No matter its shadow always has its place in a corner somewhere....more
This is really a collection of three separate stories or novellas. There has been an attempt to tie them together with a weak and implausible story liThis is really a collection of three separate stories or novellas. There has been an attempt to tie them together with a weak and implausible story line. They would have been better if that had not been attempted. Otherwise each is Forsyth at his best. A good read, great airport reading!...more
This is raw! A collection of accounts of the battle trauma suffered by a number of veterans, principally in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the author wasThis is raw! A collection of accounts of the battle trauma suffered by a number of veterans, principally in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the author was embedded as a journalist. The book is prefaced by an exploration of his own experiences and the impact they had on him. The book is really a classic collection of case studies of young men, who brought back, not only physical wounds but the mental wounds , now known as PTSD. They are text book case studies. They not only show up the consistencies between the experiences of every individual not matter what the particulars, but also the shamefully ignorant and inadequate way in which government and society has responded to their need.
After a century, yes what is happening now mirrors almost exactly what happened to warriors suffering from psychological wounds from WW 1 through every conflict since right up to Afghanistan. There is now a major difference, particularly in the US. The nature of the military organization that has supplied the troops to fight these wars has created a tsunami. The use of National Guard units on short term rotation, has meant multiple tours without sufficient decompression time between. This has entrenched and exacerbated the symptoms of the disorder and its deeper causes in ways that will make it, if anything more difficult to treat. That assumes that those responsible for the treatment actually have a clue why they are doing. They don't! Certainly not in Australia! Where, the approach is disjointed poorly organized, poorly delivered in the main, by inexperienced mediocre health professionals, who have literally ignored all the knowledge accumulated over 100 years and gone always with the latest gimmick, whether that be CBT, exposure therapy or whatever else. They all fail to meet the need. That has led to the evolution a veterans organizations, often the blind leading the blind, to fill the gaps that should be covered by government veterans services. They skate around the edges never really addressing the primary issues that relate directly to the effects of trauma, the shattering of identity! The approach must be not one that looks at these veterans as sick and needing a cure, but as human beings who have been through an extraordinary experience that equips them in ways others do not have access to, to employ wisdom and compassion in addressing the great issue of human existence. They've faced those issues in their barest and basest form, relying solely on whatever they might have had on the day.
One thing is for sure, the society from which they spring has failed them entirely, firstly by providing nothing to bolster and feed the spiritual resilience necessary to make sense of their experience and to turn it to good use, but by denying society's responsibility for the warriors actions taken in their name. Instead they prefer to ignore the soldiers need, turn away to another beer or the latest trivial annoyance in their lives and leave it to government to throw money at the problem, without any understanding of how it should be used.
It is a tragedy, and one that is going to increasingly haunt those who choose to ignore it....more
This is the last volume of three in the series and I have enjoyed all three very much. An achievement to trace the lives of these two men from teenageThis is the last volume of three in the series and I have enjoyed all three very much. An achievement to trace the lives of these two men from teenage years until old age, together with the friends and acquaintances they make along the way. Dealing sensitively and accurately with the mindset and attitudes each hold over a period of some 50 years McDonald has produced and enveloping, entrancing story, often very beautifully written. By the time i got to this volume I felt the characters had become old friends. A really good read, I recommend starting at the beginning as I did, the story is so much more fulfilling in its entirety....more
This was an experiment that just didn't come off. The Dog in the Chapel series was a really good effort and this volume contained snatches of that staThis was an experiment that just didn't come off. The Dog in the Chapel series was a really good effort and this volume contained snatches of that standard of writing. As a whole though the two parallel story lines, just didn't fit, a shorter book of one or the other would have been better. It seemed disjointed and scappy at times which was a disappointment given how much I enjoyed the Chapel series. I bought this and another volume based on that experience I hope I am not as disappointed with the next volume....more
An average book, in saying that better than most in the genre. Exploring the difficulties of growing up gay in a small country town, and the rabid desAn average book, in saying that better than most in the genre. Exploring the difficulties of growing up gay in a small country town, and the rabid destructive position so often taken by Christian churches in such communities....more
A very funny take on a very intense experience. All the more appealing if you have actually done it yourself. In the end there was little difference bA very funny take on a very intense experience. All the more appealing if you have actually done it yourself. In the end there was little difference between this experience and that of so many others. When the draft was in place there were many like the author who would never have opted for the military, they lacked self confidence and suffered from a poor self image also. The training very often made them into someone they would never otherwise have been. Not to say that the methods used were all acceptable but they certainly got the job done, if the primary aim was to turn out soldiers with the ability and commitment to kill.....and that after all is what it is all about no matter how you slice it up!...more