“Fiction is the lie that tells the truth truer.”
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!