This book has been on my to read list for a long time, I’ve been meaning to read it for far too long. I’m not sure why it kept getting passed over, I always knew that I would enjoy it. So, I decided to read it as part of the Eclectic Reading Challenge to ensure that this was the year I actually read it.
Straightaway I was drawn in. The opening description of Jim, clearly devastated, in a bar getting drunker, detached from all around him was masterful and intriguing. I wanted to know what had brought him to such a low point. Although it was immediately clear that it related to his school friend, Bob, I had no idea exactly how devastating the ending was going to be.
I can see how this novel would have been so shocking at the time. While it is not explicit, it is unflinching in its description of the life of a gay man in the 1940s. It tells of Hollywood affairs, of the secrecy and sham marriages, of the underground bars, a complete other world. From a modern perspective, it’s effect was twofold. In some ways, it seems like this story should be centuries old, such a lot of things have changed. At the same time, some things haven’t. The question of whether or not a celebrity should come out or not would not be such a loaded one if we truly had left all those old opinions behind.
In the preface to this novel, Gore says that he felt that he was at a crossroads just before he decided to published this book. He’d already published two novels and had a certain amount of acclaim. He knew that once he published The City and the Pillar, this would change. In one direction, a glorious future, Gore describes it as the ‘holy Delphi’. Instead he chose to publish and ‘end up accursed in Thebes’. One can only imagine the level of bravery and honesty that this must have taken.
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I was genuinely upset at the end, not only because the ending was so awful but because it was finished and I was not still reading it. An absolute classic.