Posted by: chartroose | May 2, 2008

Now Is the Hour

Tom Spanbauer, 2006, 459 p.

“Fiction is the lie that tells the truth truer.” 
~Tom Spanbauer
 

I’ve been dreading writing this post on Now Is the Hour even though the novel was very good.  I liked the characters, the settings, the plot; basically everything about it, but I’m still quite reticent about discussing it.  I hate to think this, but maybe it’s because Now is the Hour is the first real homosexual novel I’ve ever read.  I’ve read other books that have mentioned homosexuality or have had secondary gay characters in supporting roles, but I’ve never read a book that is largely about what it is to be gay.  My neglect of gay fiction makes me wonder if I should join the ranks of those bible-thumping, Dubya worshipping, Ann Coulter loving, intelligent design touting, Jesus fish decal on minivan displaying, rabidly jingoistic, Conservative Christian dogmatists who feel that the wimminfolk ought to be kept at home to cook-n-clean and who repeatedly brainwash our future Jesus freaks and believe that those nasty homosekshuls should just die, die, die.  I’m not anything like them!  I am tolerant, dammit, except I can’t go within fifty feet of a brussels sprout.

Really, I think the main reason for my neglect of gay fiction is because it has just recently become mainstreamed.  It’s kind of like letting the mentally challenged kids finally attend public schools in the late 1970’s.  One day you look up from your desk and there’s a drooling idiot sitting in the seat next to you asking if he can borrow a “penthil and thom paper.”  (This is obviously not a good PC day for me).  J  Gay books have finally been released from the retard facilities, so to speak.

All right, now that I’ve cleared my conscience a little bit (and offended at least one or two people, hey, my work here is done!), it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of the novel.  Now Is the Hour is a coming-of-age tale about a young man growing up in Pocatello, Idaho during the ‘60’s.  Rigby John Klusener is a sensitive and likeable kid who was unfortunate enough to be born and raised by strict Catholic parents in an unforgiving and unbending farming household.  He doesn’t fit in, but then neither does his sister.  Nobody would fit in with parents like theirs.  The Mother’s religious fanaticism and the Father’s passive-aggressive and sometimes overt physical and emotional abuse would be enough to make anyone a little wonky.

Rigby John is beaten and bullied in school by a dreadful kid named Joey Scardino.  I think Joey was a closet homosexual, which provided him with some extra strong “gaydar,” and sometimes just the sight of Rigby John would be enough to infuriate him.  Poor Rigby never stood a chance against Scardino until the end of the novel, and I’m not giving that part away!  So, Rigby has a terrible time at school and at home until he hits puberty, when one part of his life starts to make everything a bit more bearable.  Rigby John becomes romantically involved with his penis.

A few memorable chapters in the first half of the novel are devoted to Rigby’s discovery of himself.  I’m going to call this part of Rigby’s life “joyously priapic.”  He becomes the king of mastubation and pleasures himself all over the place.  This journey of self-discovery makes him feel more alive than he ever has before.  Rigby explains it quite well in these sentences:

“When I found my cock, my body suddenly landed in the world.  The real world with things in the world.  Suddenly our farm, which so far had been more of an idea than a place, started to be different….  It was like I’d been sleeping for a long time, then suddenly woke up. Scintillatingly gorgeous.”  (p. 85).

I didn’t find any of this to be offensive at all.  Rigby’s thoughts and actions seemed to be simple and honest and real.  Several of my male friends have told me what it felt like to go through puberty and experience this all-consuming sexual awakening.  My cousin once remarked that he had a nearly constant erection for several years in middle school, and was concurrently embarassed and exhilarated by this.  Even my Dad has revealed that there is nothing to compare with the feeling of being a young man in his sexual prime.

Rigby’s first homosexual encounter and first great love affair was with an alcoholic and half-crazy Native American man named George Serano.  I really liked George, even though he was a horrible person in many respects.  He was one of the most complex and conflicted characters I’ve encountered in a long time, and I felt a great deal of compassion for him.

Now is the Hour is a long and meaty J novel, and like a good summer sausage J, it retains its flavor until the very end.  I always know that I’ve really enjoyed a book if I want the story to continue after the last page has been read.  I desperately wanted Now Is the Hour to continue.  I’d love to know what happens to Rigby John and George in the future.  If Mr. Spanbauer were to write a sequel to this novel, I’d buy it in a Pocatello minute!

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Responses

  1. OMG I am wiping away tears! Long, meaty, and like a good summer sausage, LOLOLOL! Thank goodness the gay books have been released from the retard facilities!!

    Honestly gay fiction is not even on my radar and I’ve never thought once about reading it, until today. So thanks, I think.

  2. Thanks, Lisa! I was trying for belly laughs because it’s really hard to write your opinion on something that is so different from anything you’ve ever encountered before.

    The hardest part of writing this entire post was deciding between brussels sprouts and collard greens!

  3. “I’m not anything like them! I am tolerant, dammit, except I can’t go within fifty feet of a brussels sprout.”

    lol! 😀

    I neglect gay fiction as well, and I shouldn’t. This sounds like a book I’d really enjoy. Thanks for the review!

  4. I truly enjoy your reviews!

  5. This idea of neglect is interesting, if only because I wonder if we tend to favor (and thus gravitate toward) fiction we identify with, in some way. One of my readers has joked that “Shakespeare in Love” is my favorite movie solely because it’s about the greatest writer ever, whose name also happens to be Will– there is, in fact, truth in jest. I think my favorite novels are novels I find some resonance in, or with, and which touch something deeper than any label of creed or sexuality or race–that are about what it means to be human. I think most immediately of Holden Caufield; no matter race or class or gender or creed, we’ve all felt the way he feels, at some point, I think. To some degree. He is familiar, and such a fully realized character that he transcends any such labels.

    I think a good work of “gay” fiction would be more about what it’s like to be a human who happens to be gay, than about the “gay experience,” as if one exists.

  6. Hi Will! Recently, I do seem to be gravitating toward gay fiction, or fiction written by gay authors. I wonder why? One of my best friends in high school was gay, but I haven’t heard from him in years. I know I’ve been feeling quite narrow-minded lately, and I’m going to blame it on this stupid backwoodsy bible-belt city I’m living in! Maybe my recent exploration of gay fiction is my attempt to break the conservative bonds that seem to be tightening around me at the moment. Whatever the reason, I’m going to run with it.

    You’re also right about good gay fiction being about what it’s like to be a human who happens to be gay. I think I just didn’t express it right. “Now is the Hour” is really good, and it’s about a lot more than just the “gay experience.” It’s about life and death and everything in between.

    Thank you for pointing this out, and welcome to Colorado!


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