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[250] Almost History – Christopher Bram

“It was a comedy, Meg told herself, a frivolous farce. Out in the streets [of Manila] was frivolous tragedy, glitz and poverty, Las Vegas piled on Calcutta, a feverish spectacle that amazed and exhilarated until something in the soul gave way and grew sick of the wild extremes. But in the private theater of her uncle’s life, it was all privileged comedy…” [310]

Like many Christopher Bram’s works, Almost History ponders at how inevitable crossover between publicity and privacy shapes real lives. The main character, Jim Goodall, reflects on a career with the Foreign Service that played out in the no-man’s land between public events and private pathology. In the 1950s, during the full swing of McCarthyism, being a homosexual would reap a consequence as macabre as a Communist. To distract himself from perverse proclivity and his stupid infatuation of a straight colleague (who actually turns out to reveal his other emotional side away from home), he lavishes his affection on favorite niece, Meg, who years later has become a history professor and witnessed moral dilemma and political complications her uncle faces.

He’d been celibate for too long, he told himself. He’d outlived sex, outgrown the opportunity and the threat of it. That was for the best, he told himself. Homosexual attachments were difficult enough without the intimate messiness of sex involved. [110]

A murder of a suspected Viet Cong in a jungle (Goodall did the only thing possible under the circumstances) and a Saigon pool orgy party of on-leave servicemen and Asian gay men force Jim Goodall into more than sexual awakening: a dramatic confrontation with himself. Twice-posted in the Philippines, where corrupted bureaucracy has eaten the country from inside out, he becomes obsessed with exposing the lies and atrocities of the Marcos administration. When his undertaking as the Human Rights Officer exposes a man who is both a spy from the government and his trick to arrest and interrogation, The Marcos reign resorts to a kind of moral blackmail that makes Jim responsible for the welfare of their guy.

Maybe I thought if I saved a few people I could square things between myself and the world. Or just one person. If I could save just one. But if that’s the case, I was as ignorant as a swan. Ignorant and innocent and blind. [365]

Almost History explores how political emergency in the Philippines where horror in under everyone confronts the flaws of his personality. He has rolled all his emotions and sympathy into a tight ball–all human emotions and passion held in reserve. The series of incidents, from back home in Washington to Saigon, Bangkok, and Manila, filled with human drama, sexuality, and political intrigues, forces him to re-examine his resignation to failure and personal life. Morally and emotionally repressed, he is tautened and wearied between his own lies and those of his government. But the political struggle in the philippines threatens to expose them all. Consider that Christopher Bram has never visited, Almost History is an authentic depiction of the crisis in Southeast Asia and Marcos regime’s glitter, corruption, and human right violations. Almost History is a novel on self-redemption with a lasting power.

409 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

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7 Responses

  1. Just popping by to wish you a very Happy New Year….. with lots of reading and lots of blogging. x

  2. […] [250] Almost History – Christopher Bram […]

  3. Soungs like I need to give this one a try. Certainly since it also makes your ten best list this year.

  4. I read this one a number of years ago and your review is very good. Bram is a very secure stylist and the plot is well crafted. The pool party scene (if I am remembering this right) is an accurate portrayal of life when the closet was the default.

  5. […] [250] Almost History – Christopher Bram […]

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