I have a special tenderness for that period piece—the gay coming out novel. A gently musty smelling, but valued relic of any LGBT museum of history, the standard coming out novel conjures up the giddy aura of the pre-HIV generation. It is usually redolent of dark, clammy bars, reeking of poppers, sweet hormonal sweat and stale sex, of dancing the night away to Donna Summer and Diana Ross, cutely dated in an era of equal marriage discourses and concerns.
DLuis Meyer’s ‘Coming out in New York’ (Lulu USA: 2012), is one of the latter day (presumably) semi-autobiographical attempts at breathing life into this well-squeezed, almost desiccated genre.
Meyer’s narrative is a bit different than its retro predecessors. For one thing, it is set not in the New York of the giddy ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, but in a grittier and disillusioned recent context. The ominous clouds of AIDS, Rudy Giuliani’s misguided ‘clean up the city’ Republican mayoral zeal, and 9/11, hover over the horizon of the Meyer text.
Thus, ‘Coming Out In New York’, lacks the feverish but charming glitter of the ‘70’s, even the ‘80’s coming out novel. It is tinged with a prosaic sombreness, accentuated by the survival struggles of the central protagonist, a young German immigrant passionately addicted to New York City, from 1998 onward.
That said; the novel has a disappointing flatness about the many attempts at capturing the transitions, flashbacks and fast forwards of the Meyer character’s coming out adventures in NYC. Some of that has to do with the embarrassing English as second language quality of the writing—it certainly could use a good editor!
The Roxy night club is projected as the late ‘90’s successor to the famed Studio 54. Meyer’s Roxy certainly lacks the breathless promiscuity and drug culture of its predecessor.
The problem with the DLuis persona is that it reflects an endless narcissism—all ‘other’ characters, including the revolving slideshow of temporary significant others, are mere placeholders in the self-absorbed central character’s drama du jour. As a result, not one of them (not even Roy, who initiates him into the joys of gay New York and is probably the most fleshed out character in the novel), seems ‘real’ in any sense. That doesn’t mean that they are interestingly surreal, or experimental non-dimensional characters—they are just flat little adjuncts to the main Voice and its stories.
The DLuis character displays a cold, austere upper class Euro-moral provincialism toward others who disappoint him, though he fails to realize that he is directly responsible for most of their changes and reactions toward him.
He deliberately disses characters who find other lovers, because of his long absences in Germany and England, remembering them fondly, but never making an attempt to contact them. Thus, Roy, his first and most intense New York lover, quite understandably, finds someone else, but DLuis does not seem able to accept, or even forgive Roy for this moral ‘lapse’.
Among the Meyer character’s more unlikeable qualities: an implacable ageism that typecasts Roy and Paulo for finding older lovers. He sulks, yells, and assumes that this must be a sugar Daddy relationship, simply because he is reluctant to admit that an older man may fulfil needs that he, the well-built body by Gold’s gym or better (one of the ‘Chelsea boys’), cannot meet, or even understand.
Overall, take me back to Donna Summer and the bygone golden age of the coming out novel!
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