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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • February 16, 2006


    [18] The Story of the Night - Colm Toibin

    The Story of the Night is an audacious and deeply moving novel about a man, Richard Garay, who hides his sexuality from his mother in during the time of military dictatorship. Stifled by his job, Richard is willing to risk new possibilities professionally and sexually. As the country is slowly changing and attaining peace, Richard tentatively begins to engage in a secret love affair that does not meet the approval of family and society. His mother is a proud, elegant English woman who will wreak a shrill revenge on Argentina when it is at war with the Britain for the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands She almost thrives too assiduously to preserve the English gentility, which she think the Argentineans lack, in her son. She mistakes Richard's reserve, his reticence, and his distance from her as gentility, thinking it is real but understanding that it is fear.

    The Story of the Night captures South America in its crucial times of political instability and turbulence: the ruthless purge of dissidents after the Chilean coup and the grim uncertainty of the transfer of power in Argentina. As England declares war on Argentina and sends its vessels southward in claiming the ownership of the Falkland Islands, Richard abrasively abandons his unpromising, stifling teaching job and to be under the wings of two American diplomats. The Americans have infiltrated the country, given grand parties with hired guests as a disguise, observed the political climate of the evolving country in order to ensure an orderly transfer of power to a civilian successor. Richard hoists a two-fold responsibility: to serve as a translator and to lobby the Americans in Senor Canetto's candidacy for presidency.

    The Story of the Night develops in the backdrop of 1980s in which Argentineans were concerned with employment prospects, inflation, social welfare, stupidity of war, and the menacing disappearances of dissidents. The novel delineates the country in a manner so stultifying and inconsolable as The Line of Beauty evokes the forlornness of England under Thatcher in the same decade. Both novels explores the impact that such rough political terrain exudes on an individual who makes choices in life that are deemed alternative. As Richard becomes an indispensable hand in assisting the privatization of oil industry, he has imperceptibly spiraled into an intimate relationship that is sealed with stalwart discretion. His desire to move from having a hidden, secret life with his partner to the aura of recognition, again, echoes to his counterpart in The Line of Beauty. Little do they know that a much greater threat, one is that more formidable than being out to their family, prey on their life together.

    The Story of the Night tops the Lambda Literary Foundation's list of 100 most significant gay novels of all time. Beneath the equanimity of the narrative voice are a poignant novel of intimacy, sex, death, and the fear of connecting one's inner life with the outside world. It conveys the hidden fear of coming to family and the fear of elaborating same-sex relationship. The protagonist, on the other hand, is unrestrained in delineating the physical passion of his relationship, rendering it in shameless, exuberant details the scenes of his life that absorbs the needs for love and friendship. The prose exudes an explosive power of suggestibility, which bespeaks a pleasure that is only possible through a mutual understanding of physical contour and desire.

    The Story of the Night, strategically puts its protagonist in a country at a time that people shut themselves off to question authority and train themselves not to see the truth. The immediate effect is an accentuation of the protagonist's isolation from his family and the outside world out of his concealing of his sexuality. This tactic is not without flaw. The politics of the novel, which occupies over a third of the text, can render it dry and insipid. One point Richard Garay makes that really hits home to me (and thus redeem the dryness on all the politics issues) is that heterosexual engagement offers none of the excitement, effortless satisfaction, pure pleasure, and the sense of ease that he gets from being intimate with a man. The novel paints a powerful picture of intimacy and the deep terrain of relationship out of sheer suggestibility that percolates throughout the text.


    Anonymous Danielle said...

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for the nice comments you left on my blog! I am sort of addicted to lists, so I am working my way (slowly) through the Modern Library Best 100 Novels. I am fond of ML editions, but I quite often look at the Penguin list too! It is fun reading things you wouldn't normally. I really should have finished Shadow of the Wind by now. It is good, but I just can't seem to make any serious progress (too many books on my pile at once?!). A lot of times I will get to a point in a book where I just can't put it down, but I haven't hit that spot yet with Shadow... I love Madame Bovary. I read The Awakening earlier this year and it is interesting to compare the two novels. I have only started The Sheltering Sky, but from the little I have read I think it is going to be an exceptional novel. The writing is wonderful. Bowles seems to have been a very interesting man!! I am looking forward to reading your book reviews, too.

    2/16/2006 7:57 PM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    I'm building up ML and Penguin collection at home, separating the classics from the contemporary/modern literature. One thing I always ask acid readers is, do you ever make the distinction between plain fiction (like pop fiction) and literature? Would you classify a book like DA VINCI CODE as fiction or literature?

    SHADOW OF A WIND appealed to me when I read the blurb. The premise about a boy searching a book whose copies had all but one been mysteriously destroyed is quite promising. Lots of twists and turns! Hope you enjoy it more as the story negotiates into a deeper realm of suspense.

    I didn't get THE SHELTERING SKY the first time I read it. A feeling of missing out the whole authorial meaning kept me from reading it further. Then I picked it up a again maybe like a year later and I enjoyed it. Books usually have that strange power in which it connects with you at a certain time of your life.

    I'm now a regular to your blog...loving it and enjoying every bit. Book hunting, like I say in my post today, becomes a hinge of my day just like eating lunch and doing laundry. Happy reading!

    2/17/2006 11:13 AM  
    Blogger bathmate said...

    I liked it.

    12/22/2009 3:13 PM  

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