FATHER’S DAY by Philip Galanes


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Timid debut about a gay man and his mother regrouping after his father’s suicide.

Matthew Vaber is the 35-year-old manager of a photography gallery in Manhattan. Without a partner, he spends an inordinate amount of time dialing a dating hotline. The results range from unsatisfactory (a guy with plucked eyebrows, dismissed at the door) to disastrous (a fag-basher who stuffs him into the closet after some vicious kicks and blows). Sometimes Matthew visits a bathhouse, but we hear nothing about the sex—which is a bit like setting a scene in a restaurant without mentioning the food. Six months ago Matthew’s father, a successful architect and engineer in Vermont, shot himself in the mouth. A gentle soul, he had no physical or financial problems that his family knew of but had never talked much to his wife or son (“so shut down it was ridiculous,” in his brother Andrew’s opinion). Matthew and his mother have desultory conversations about the suicide. Did Dad sense that Matthew wanted him out of the picture so he could have Mom to himself? She dismisses that explanation and also dismisses the idea that her husband had a rival in her old friend Sheila; she was never a lesbian, she declares emphatically. Matthew’s sessions with the ancient shrink Goldstein don’t turn up anything either. Galanes alternates present reality with flashbacks to Matthew’s childhood intended to provide texture, but the technique seems merely skittish in a story without a destination. Matthew is a cliché, the man afraid of relationships, and when he eventually stumbles into one with a patient, good-natured child psychiatrist it doesn’t come to life on the page. Only rarely, as in a good scene at the gallery where his salesman’s skills are vividly on display as he tries to close a deal, does Matthew actually engage with another character.

Touted as a comic novel, but there are precious few laughs here.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-4000-4160-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2004


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