This reads as a slightly peculiar tale that can easily be read by a younger audience and oldies as well. It has appeal for those who could immediately identify with the young Tom’s life in some aspect among many. Older readers might do so in retrospect but also have the older Tom to consider. There the identification can only be very partial indeed as the older Tom story line is no fairy tale with a characterization that is not always easy to identify with. There are three elements, therefore, youthful struggle in a family context, gay (or Bi) identification and an older man struggling with his demons.
I would offer what I think is an interesting theme to consider alongside this book and the many others that cover similar territory. I wrote a note for the group on David Halperin’s “How to be Gay” recently and I would like to quote him at length remembering his extensive use of movies and musicals as part of a gay identity development process …
‘Such a feeling of superiority to boring, normal people has long been a noted (celebrated or abominated) feature of gay make subjectivity. It reflects the elitist, aristocratic tendency in gay male culture, also evident in the gay male cult of beauty and aesthetics. The most striking and characteristic expression of that sense of superiority is the stubborn refusal to believe that you are in fact the offspring of the individuals who claim to be your parents. Four years before Freud observed and described the generic version of this “family romance “– the child’s fantasy that his real parents are not the ones who are actually raising him and that his true people come from a nobler or more glamorous world than his ostensible family – Willa Cather had already diagnosed a case of it in Paul.’
I must confess that I seem to have either been blessed, indifferent or stupid as I cannot recall instances of bullying at either my primary of secondary school. I was not short on problems of identity and may have been largely unconscious of what impact they were having on my developing behavior. Yet there were elements in the story that did bring back memories. I belong to a generation that had boys going to school shoeless. I remember a newbie arriving at about Grade 5 or 6. He came from the New England district and favoured fair isle sleeveless jumpers and Prince Charles shoes. He also was happy to let the world know that he was a Betty Hutton fan and was into musicals (what were they?). Oddly enough, he was never even vaguely bullied that I was aware of and went on to become a leading stage director and teacher at NADA (no names, no packdrill)