Ever since our teacher in Gender Studies and Literature exposed us to readings related to feminism and homosexuality, my inhibitions about perusing gay short stories and novels gradually vanished, probably because it opened my eyes to issues regarding gender, especially the plight of the marginalized members of our society–women, gays, lesbians. I remember the first time my teacher made me read a gay poem “It’s a Delicate Matter Sucking Cock” and figuratively I couldn’t swallow some of the lines. I mumbled to the point of laughing. So there, upon getting acquainted with this emerging form of literature, I varied my readings, including genres which tackle homosexuality and feminism. And so far, one of the best gay novels I read was Bart Yate’s The Brothers Bishop (2005, Kensington Books).
One thing I love about the novel is its sensible hilarity and wit distinctly dispersed in every character. Despite being gays, Nathan and Tommy are as different as two brothers can be. Nathan is a more serious and controlled type of character who always saves his brother’s ass, so to speak. He lives in this old cottage by the beach, which symbolically indicates his existence, being haunted by the past (as an abused child). On the other hand, Tommy is the golden boy who takes men into his bed with a seductive smile and turns them out just as quickly.
But one summer screws up their lives together when the latter makes out with Simon, one of Nathan’s students. This secret challenges everything Nathan remembers and unravels Tommy’s carefully constructed facade which bring the two to confront their past and eventually lead to a tragic end.
Brimming with colloquial and unassuming language and interestingly queer (and sometimes dysfunctional) characters, the novel has left me flipping through its pages, always finding Nathan and Tommy engaging in fuck-and-shit fall outs, but always end up apologizing and caressing (yes, they “do.”)
Honestly, I cried reading the novel, especially throughout the ending when the Brothers Bishop spent the evening by the beach after Tommy went out of the jail. It somehow reminds me of The Kite Runner but with a different twist. The tragic ending has an unspeakable poignant effect for me, especially right after their ala Romeo-and-Juliet conversation prior to Tommy’s opted demise.
Tommy: No. You need to be safe, too, and if I’m around, you will never will be… You know I’m right.
Nathan: Do you ever wonder what our lives would have been if we’d never crossed the line?
Tommy: What line?
Nathan: You know what I mean.
Tommy: It’s a little too late for us to be having this conversation, isn’t it?
Nathan: You mean what we did.
Tommy: Yeah… we never really had much of a chance for a normal existence, did we? Not after something like that… though I guess if you think about it, it’s a fucking miracle nothing else bad has happened before now, considering the odds.
Nathan: I’m so sorry, Tommy. I should never…(breaks down)
Tommy: Don’t, Nathan… I’m not sorry at all, and you shouldn’t be either.You’ve always been the best thing in my life, no matter what. Nothing else even comes close.
The Brothers Bishop may present the usual theme of sexual abuse, pedophilia, incest and suicide, but it approaches these commentaries in an authentic and almost non-melodramatic(apart from the ending, I think) manner. It still gives you space to breathe.