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[227] Gossip – Christopher Bram


“There’s got to be something else. What are other people for? Something besides sex and money and votes. Or we wouldn’t constantly talk about each other. Are we just entertainment? Distractions? Are we just burying our own shit in other people’s shit?” [305]

Christopher Bram delves into the adage “the personal is political” and wages war against the dark, manipulative forces and conspiracies against gays in Gossip. Ralph Eckhart, 34, is the manager of a Greenwich Village bookstore who adopts a mild political view. Young but a bit jaded, he enjoys falling in love yet knows not to trust it. Despite his passion for Bill O’Connor, a young closeted Republican who writes misogynistic propaganda, he knows he should not wear his heart on the sleeves too soon.

Even requited, such love would be foolish, messy and brief. Unless it changed Bill’s politics. That fantasy was back, larger than before, giving value to lust, turning sex with a Republican from a self-betrayal to a good deed, a moral rescue. Bill went against his best interests by seeing me. [92]

They are lovers, even if neither of them is in love, because God political discrepancy and political conservativeness forbid. When Bill writes a tell-all book that spreads gossip about women in Washington, including a footnote about a lesbian affair between a speechwriter, who happens to be Ralph’s friend Nancy, and a married senator, Ralph ends the relationship. He picks friendship over love: it’s no way he can be with someone whose lie has hurt a friend and jeopardizes her career.

You would have to be blind not to realize that I’ve had second, third and fourth thoughts about us ever since we met. It was over our political differences yet I now see that your politics are symptoms of deeper faults: opportunism, thoughtlessness, and self-absorption . . . I have been sleeping with the enemy . . . [146]

But it isn’t anywhere near the end. The end of personal liaison marks the beginning of a power struggle between left- and right-wing politics, fueled by a homophobic culture that has defined the politics. Ralph is charged with homicide after Bill was found dead in his apartment, coincidentally, just days after the author has come out on national TV to win Ralph back. He is arrested on no grounds except that he was once a politically aware gay man who once knew the right-wing victim.

Deeply disturbing and chilling, Gossip is both a knife-sharp satire and revelation of how in a politcally charged environment, nobody can afford to show themselves in a bad light, and in defending and sustaining a cause, anyone, regardless of affiliation and beliefs, can become an institutional liar. Christopher Bram drops the bomb on politicians left and right, exposing all the hypocrisies that unfortunately sustain the political climate of this country. At one point Ralph is asked why he isn’t angrier at the violation of his rights, and that he is emotionally and politically autistic. The truth ironically is that Ralph is the only person who is not morally blinded by the so-called cause pertaining to any political interests. It just shows how assimilating to a general cause can backfire that an individual can lose his own identity and idiosyncrasy. Gossip is convincing but disturbing: a book that I enjoy reading but not sure if I love reading. The ugliness of the content is as unbearable as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

337 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] Well-written and witty, but my ineptitude and indifference in politics will render this book less memorable. This is an important book of our time.

22 Responses

  1. I just read a murder mystery taking place in D.C., and yours sounds so much better, even though it’s a skim! :–) I love the line about sex with a Republican as a moral rescue!

  2. This sounds good. I’m intrigued by the character in the closet who writes misogynistic propaganda. I mean, I know that that is sad, but it kind of cracks me up, too.

  3. The out gay man falling for a closeted Republican and politics brings to mind Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Have you read it? It’s dark and sad, but beautiful and humorous at the same time…and one of my favourite plays.

  4. I actually had a hard time with this book. I found the writing a bit hackneyed. I found myself a little annoyed and didn’t finish it.

    I still think that Bram’s first novel, Surprising Myeself, which I read in high school back in the 80s is my favorite of his.

  5. Wow, what a story!

    And, it could happen. That’s the scary part.

  6. Hello, Matt! I’ve been looking for a good GLBT-themed novel for the longest time, and I think this book might be it. Thanks for your review.

    Also, congratulations on your well-deserved nomination! I voted for you, of course!

  7. Wowsers this sounds excellent. Would definately not have heard of this one if it wasnt for you! A book that I am going to have to look up, have added it to the wishlist!

  8. rhapsodyinbooks:
    I debate whether this is going to be “Skim” or “Read”….consider the fine writing and the twist and turn of the plot, it’s a “Read.” I’m intrigued!

  9. J.T. Oldfield:
    I, too, feel sorry for such a character. But he turns out to be more substantial than he appears to be. 🙂

  10. Mish:
    Thanks for mentioning Angels in America. I actually thought it’s the same book as Exiles in America, by Christopher Bram also!!!!! So I went to the bookstore and ordered a copy! 🙂

  11. Thomas:
    I had a hard time with the politics (political jargons) at the beginning but the different leads begin to converge at the end. I enjoy the second part of the book so much more than the first. Maybe you should stick with it and see how you like it? 🙂

  12. Isabel:
    Like Duvall in California? LOL

  13. Peter:
    Christopher Bram has written numerous books with gay theme that explain how the personal has become political. I also recommend “Exiles in America”, which concern open relationship and bisexuality. Have you read anything by Alan Hollinghurst? He also incorporates politics into his gay-themed novels.

  14. savidgereads:
    Oh this is going to be a very quick read if you can get through the politics jargon. It’s actually a great story with lots of surprises!

  15. Hi, Matthew! I’ve read The Swimming Pool Library and I think I’m goign to read In the Line of Beauty soon. Thanks for the recommendation. I checked Bram’s books in bookstores and they don’t carry his books, so I’ll just order them online.

  16. Very interesting setting for this book. I like the whole premise of it.

  17. Peter:
    Alan Hollingurst can be difficult to read. How do you like The Swimming Pool Library? The Swimming-Pool Library exposes the day-to-day episodes of gay life. Nipping into a library of uncatalogued pleasure is a realm of halt, darkness, and unknown possibility. I think I need to re-read this book because it’s a landmark piece and that i have forgotten most of it! 🙂

  18. Staci:
    I forgot to mention in the write-up that the book takes place during the Clinton administration, which adds more touches to the authenticity of how badly the Republicans want to scandalize the Democrats.

  19. Me wanty! I find politics interesting 🙂 (or as much as a journo grad student can anyway)

  20. Hello, Matthew! I’ve read The Swimming Pool Library several years ago. I vaguely remember what it was all about. I guess it’s about time I re-read it.

  21. Sounds like a really interesting and important book. Definitely adding it to my TBR list. Thanks for the great review – like many of the books on your blog, this is probably something I would totally bypassed if it weren’t for your wonderful insight leading me there.

  22. […] Longest and shortest book titles? The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food and Gossip. […]

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