Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Not-gay Novel

Let Me Explain You by Annie Liontas is not a novel about being gay, and it's not a novel about how a Greek immigrant family comes to terms with their oldest daughter being gay. But it sort of is.

The main character is an egotist named Stavros Stavros, the father of three daughters, the owner of two restaurants, and the ex-husband of one woman, who announces in an email to his family in the opening chapter that he will die in ten days.

There's a lot going on in this novel. The novel takes a close third-person perspective that sometimes sits with Stavros; sometimes his oldest daughter and namesake, Stavroula; sometimes his ex-wife Dina; sometimes one of the other two daughters, each with their short list of working class struggles.

Because there is so much going on, and because I read this hoping for a little more lesbian action, I was particularly honed into the treatment of the lesbian character and oldest daughter.

In one of the first chapters, she rewrites the menu of her restaurant to honor July, the name of the coworker she has been pining after for years. It's awkward, and another 200+ pages go by before they find themselves in a late-night kitchen, with food as the metaphor for love and desire.

The possibility of an affair, one of the primary drivers of the book, ends without a kiss, unless you count Stavroula's "We just frenched," joke, uttered as they worked together to tie a rack of lamb. Let's just say the comic release of the book wasn't the kind of release I was hoping for.

I've been reading more first novels, imagining what mine will be, gathering courage from the idea that these writers toiled away for so long before finding a pathway and putting this first work into the world. I liked this one, and there's probably more for me to excavate in that father-daughter relationship than I'm ready to do right now.

But my novel will definitely be gayer.

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