The acclaimed novelist and playwright traces one of his significant relationships, from its inauspicious origins on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1959 to its heart-wrenching conclusion during the height of the 1980s AIDS epidemic.
Caldwell (The Pig Goes to Dog Heaven, 2010, etc.), the winner of the Rome Prize for Literature, packs a lot into this brief yet rich, meditative memoir about a talented Midwestern transplant trying to make his mark on New York City. Aspiring playwright, defiant Catholic, struggling novelist, courageous civic activist, conflicted soap-opera scribe: Caldwell approaches the many roles in his life with an offhanded aplomb that belies his depth as an artist. In reconciling his homosexuality with his steadfast Catholicism, the author writes, “whenever I’m asked about my sexuality, I say, ‘I am, by God’s good grace, as gay as a goose.’ Glib, I know, but true.” Later, he wonders if “the greatest satanic success since the eating of the Edenic apple was the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity.” The author’s sexuality, no wonder, plays a central role in this story, and much of it predates the Stonewall uprising, in an era when being gay could get you fired from a job on a trailblazing soap opera like Dark Shadows. As Caldwell explains, not only did he have to keep mum about his homosexuality while writing for the enduring cult TV favorite, he also had to mute any intrinsically gay themes. Ultimately, though, this memoir is about the author’s 30-year, on-again, off-again (mostly off) relationship with the young photographer named Gale that he met at dawn on the Brooklyn Bridge. Throughout his triumphs and travails, Caldwell never abandoned hope that the two would one day be reunited, and when the reunion ultimately occurs, it hits as hard as any love story could.
A simultaneously tragic and uplifting story of enduring love.