I don’t know if someone straight and cis could be as moved as I am by These things happen, by Richard Kramer. A gay man says that being gay is gay, in the offensive teenager’s sense. It’s a bit crap, a bit below par. We know we’re “born that way” because no-one would ever choose this. This book is sufficiently well written, and shocking, to elicit sympathy from the straight people, and has me-
It is alien to me. A boy at an elite school is being hothoused for an elite university: at one point, though he is 15, he uses “existentially” and “epistemologically” in the same sentence. He loves the things he does, “Soccer” and tae kwon do, and hates the way he will be asked to list them, in interviews in those universities. Intelligent, sophisticated and witty people feel the pressure of the need always to say sophisticated things- there I can relate.
What have I done? How could I ever have done that?
How could I ever even believe that? It’s not possible. That’s not me.
But I always know what I think. I have to, it matters to me. It’s what civilized people do.
I’m bigger than whoever that person who’d think that is, or say it.
I always thought I was safe from that. I assumed it. That could never be me.
Here am I, a valued member of my community, where my idiosyncrasy is not loaded. It is a thing about me people know, like I know S and S are teachers. Is there something like that, underneath anywhere? If you are straight, however empathetic you are, will you feel with George as I do?
At the end there is a Proustian section where two people talk, and after each speech we hear what each of them thinks and feels about it. Telling not showing is justified, here, because of the depth of understanding I have of the interaction. They grow in trust and understanding of each other and themselves.
I loved it. I love the characters, and I feel wrung out by it. So how could I read the actual experiences of an actual person whom I know and love? I fear this sort of reaction, it is a loss of control and how could that be other than eternal? Though I have survived it.