Urquhart, Jack Andrew
SO THEY SAY
CreateSpace (674 pp.)
November 21, 2011
Linked short stories follow a half-century in the life of a Florida-born gay man and his search for emotional happiness and stability on two coasts and two continents.
Urquhart presents a cycle of interlinked short stories (one late entry brushes novella length), some previously published in literary journals, to form one leapfrogging life-arc saga—approximately 50 years for protagonist Rex Fordham. First introduced in the late-1950s as a pudgy, introspective boy born into a Baptist-repressive community in central Florida, the young Rex learns that some aspects of the adult world are of a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” nature, and this includes his own growing attraction to males, which increases when he exercises his flab into muscle and catches the interest of other homosexual men in college-level wrestling and adventure-sports spheres. Despite these furtive side encounters, Rex tries to fit in with the American mainstream, moving to Colorado, becoming an architectural engineer and marrying up in society to a responsible woman (albeit one in deep denial about Rex’s proclivities—and her own father’s, for that matter). They have twin boys, but a tragedy finally ends the marriage and compels Rex to come out of the closet. He continues his quest for lasting love and full acceptance, moving to San Francisco and even to France, and in middle age learns to value the people around him, the partners he has lost and the possibilities that still lay ahead. The fragmentary nature of the narrative succeeds in giving it the forward motion it might have lacked as traditionally structured, brick-thick novel. Urquhart wisely restricts himself to his character’s interior lives and desires rather than attempt to dole out history lessons in 20th-century LGBT life (AIDS is barely mentioned, Stonewall is AWOL and even religious intolerance and homophobia aren’t made much of an issue), though he does frequently invoke the dynamic of closeted husbands/deceived wives. Some segments shift the POV from Rex to supporting characters, with mixed results (a porn-addicted father-in-law rants like a cackling villain of the pulps), but Urquhart’s prose is usually on the mark and richly resonant, even for non-gay readers. The author, a former writing instructor, appends the collection with a “Reader’s Guide” selection of questions for discussion.
Solid storytelling and a sequential short-story format uplift the potentially ponderous, gay-specialty plotline about a restless quest for love.
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