Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jack Holmes and His Friend

Jack Holmes and His Friend $36.99 Bloomsbury/Allen and Unwin

This is going to get a bit gushy.  If you have enjoyed Edmund White’s earlier writing, please put down this copy of Express and simply go buy yourself a copy of Jack Holmes and His Friend, curl up in your favourite book reading spot and enjoy this beautiful novel. 

This is a coming of age novel that reflects the halcyon gay age of the 1960s.  While you will remember White’s Boys Own Story as the autobiographical tale of a young boy discovering himself in his parochial small town, this is the story of a young man discovering himself in big city New York.

We meet Jack Holmes as he moves on from his small town university life to discovering his adult self in New York.  Exciting friends and new experiences enthrall and also frighten him.  He has a wonderful perspective on the characters he meets as he finds himself a magazine job via interviews with  “two dear old alcoholic fussbudgets” who run the publication’s personnel department.  Then the wonderful Will Wright starts work in the same office and our Jack realizes he is in love.  It is the unrequited never go anywhere love many a gay man has for his straight buddy who obliviously continues the friendship while talking earnestly of his lusts and love for women.

Later the book switches and Will tells us of his life in the 10 years since he met Jack.  He is married to a glamorous mutual friend and has two children and a successful business.  The two men reconnect and the intricacies of their relationship swell up to complete the story of male friendship in what is now 80s America.

The strands in this tale unfold, blossom and takes you in.  It is storytelling of coming of age made fresh.  In the afterword White tells of how he was encouraged to write in a new style.  It left me a bit emotional and very much moved.  This is literature that cements White’s reputation alongside Philip Roth and John Irving.

Reviewed by Andrew Rumbles