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DIFFERENT PEOPLE by Orland Outland

DIFFERENT PEOPLE

by Orland Outland

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 1-55583-763-8
Publisher: Alyson

Ineptly written tale about two gay men whose lives intersect over the years.

Coming-of-age in Reno, Eric Hamilton and Cal Hewitt sense a powerful attraction to each other. In a park one day, Eric summons the courage to kiss Cal passionately and Cal recoils. The move was foolhardy, Cal protests, since it nearly sparked a beating from onlooking gay-bashers. Other forces prevent Cal from opening up to a relationship with Eric—in particular, Cal’s Christian fundamentalist parents and their homophobia. The men take separate paths. Eric embraces gay life in San Francisco in the ’80s as he fights through ACT UP for the rights of AIDS victims. Eventually frustrated by that group’s infighting, he travels to New York, where he quickly finds professional and personal success. He wins writing assignments from major magazines and the love and partnership of another man. Meanwhile, Cal takes a destructive course. Still closeted, he is able to have sex only when he’s on drugs (“He had resigned himself to his Sisyphean doom”). Soon he’s hustling the streets of San Francisco for drug money, eventually suffering a mental breakdown. Returned to Reno to recover, Cal learns that Eric has also come back home for healing after the death of his mother (from cancer) and of his boyfriend (from AIDS). Predictably, the two begin to forge a relationship. The point that many forces buffet gay love (or any love, for that matter) and that the love still survives is a strong one, however familiar. But rather than dramatize the theme, Outland (the nonfiction Coming Out, 2000, etc.) stalls his story with a seemingly interminable series of banal and ponderous authorial observations (“Power is addictive in the simplest sense, in that once addicted, you can never get enough”), clichés (“his writing . . . took wing”), stilted dialogue, and cumbersome sentences.

Back to the drawing board.