July 7th, 2010

andrew potter

Top 100 Gay Novel: Strings Attached by Nick Nolan

Until I haven’t read this book I was thinking that the “strings attached” of the title was a way to refer to emotional links, and in a way it’s like that since Jeremy, the 17 years old who is the main character of this coming of age novel has never had the safety you usually find in a family while you are growing up: his father died when he was only a little baby, her mother has an alcohol problem that prevents her to be a real role figure, and they are living far from any relatives. Considering all of this, Jeremy is even a good boy, he has no rebellion feelings and he is probably only waiting to be independent to build his own life and stability.

Then suddenly everything change, Jeremy’s mother has to be recovered in a rehabilitation center and Jeremy is sent living with his great-aunt, a woman who Jeremy barely knows and only since his mother hates her. Katherine is a very wealthy business woman, living in Ballena Beach, a rich heaven for rich people and their rich kids. Suddenly Jeremy looses even what little stability he had and he is in the hand of Katherine, who wants to watch, and drive, his every step. Katherine is probably the Mangiafuoco of this modern version of Pinocchio, the puppeteer, and Jeremy is the puppet. There is even the fairy godmother (fata turchina), Arthur, the cat and the wolf (il gatto e la volpe), Reed and Ellie, and I’m not sure if Lucignolo is Cody or Carlo… but considering that Lucignolo is the bad role model, then I think it’s Cody, since Carlo is indeed a good role model, an openly and proud gay teenager.

It’s not that Carlo is perfect or has a perfect life, on the contrary, he is still grieving his mother loss, and his father has practically disowned him for being gay; he is so unsure of himself, due to the instability of his family origins, that Carlo is always trying to prove that he is there, in the center of the scene. Sometime he is even too much and so Jeremy is almost scared by him.

Jeremy is a guy with a lot of doubts. One thing he is pretty sure, he likes boys; but this is something that he doesn’t want to consider as a possibility, Jeremy is already considering himself an outcast, that adding to it also the gay chip will be too much. And so Jeremy tries to be the perfect straight guys with a beautiful girlfriend and the right circle of friends, but his desires are always there.

Even if there is a love story or two, this is not the story of Jeremy’s search for true love; Jeremy is 17 years old, he has time to find Mr Right, in this moment is more important for him to understand who he is and what he wants. So even if he has relationships in this novel, mostly platonic, I don’t think that in the end he has really reached that level of self-confidence he needs. At the end of the novel, he is still a teenager, still with all his open questions; he has maybe some clues more to understand the puzzle of his life, but he is far from resolving it.

Even if the events around him are monumental and life-changing, Jeremy’s personal life story is simple and tender, the story of a misfit who wants with all himself to find his place in what he considers the world, and that, in reality, is only a neighbourhood and an high school. Real life is still out there, and Jeremy has yet to taste it.

Amazon: Strings Attached

Amazon Kindle: Strings Attached

Reading List:


andrew potter

Double Bound by Nick Nolan

First of all, I'd like to point out that this book is a very easy read, meaning that the story flows smoothly and it maintains always an high pace. The first chapters are also very time consuming, trying to summarize 20 years of Arthur's life in few time. Arthur's past life is not the main focus of the book, but it shaped the man who he is now, and so it's essential to identify the character. Those first chapters allows also a first time reader to take in hand Double Bound without necessarily having read Strings Attached, like me, but then, at the end of the book, you will probably have the wish to read it, like me, since while this is the story of arthur, the other one is the story of Jeremy, the eighteen years old boy that plays an important role in Double Bound. And it would be probably interesting to see how the author manages a coming of age story, while Double Bond is almost a silver romance: Strings Attached was Nick Nolan first book, and it was a coming of age book... maybe the author grows with his writing? Or maybe it's only that Arthur was so compelling in Strings Attached that the author felt the need to give him his own story?

More than the story itself, that you can have summarized from the blurb, and that I would prefer not to develop more, I would like instead to talk about Arthur; the story has a lot of turn of events, and this contributes to the high pace said above. Enough to say that after all the high and down, Arthur's long and bumping life journey will end with him happy in bed with his lover, and I'm not spoiling anything, since the book starts like that, with Arthur satisfied in bed who goes down the memory lane.

Even if Arthur is a former marine, a former FBI agent and now a well-paid dogsbody who essentially has to protect Jeremy, he is not the hero type. All Arthur's grandeur gestures were made out of love or friendship, he has not a sacred fire inside for honor or patriotism. Arthur is a man who loves, and loved, too much, who can think to end his live when he is down, but that in the end never brings on the thought since he is able to love again. He loved Jeremy's father, Jonathan, and due to his betrayal he joined the Marine Corp; Arthur hoped to find in the Marine the family he hadn't and the comfort of being loved that he had with Jonathan. He did well and he opened his heart again, to Danny. But Danny died, that fathal September 11, and Arthur threw away his soldier life to commemorate Danny's love. And now Arthur is ready to love again, but at this point, it is real love, or only the memory of a lost love? or maybe the wish to finally have that family that he always searched and never found? In a case or the other, it's the proof that Arthur is able to love, and that despite all the time he was burned, he is always ready to love again.

Another thing I noticed in the story plot is that, despite being adventurous and fast paced, every events end in a "normal" way; there are not acts out of heroism, most of the time the decisive man is the one you will not expect, and even in the big action of the evil there is almost always a very small reason; and in the end, the novel closes with hope, and in a romantic way (remember Arthur in bed with his lover), but still in a very "pragmatic" way.

Amazon: Double Bound

1) Strings Attached: http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com/1078527.html
2) Double Bound

Reading List:

http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=reading list&view=elisa.rolle