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Almost History Hardcover – April 30, 1992

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 409 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (April 30, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556112319
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556112317
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,693,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although Bram places his fourth novel in the Philippines during the Marcos era, he delivers little more than a surface exposure to this potentially explosive setting. Beginning in the 1950s, the narrative follows the 35-year career of Jim Goodall, an idealistic American foreign service officer committed to serving his country and bolstering basic human rights. The story is filtered through his oddly codependent relationship with a tomboyish niece, who serves as muse and mirror to his experience as a "house guest of history." Goodall's own outlook is expressed in the prologue, in which he serves warning that his career was "small potatoes" and that he will "stick to the potato's-eye view." Unfortunately this makes for a rather undramatic narrative: this minor character in history neither accomplishes his goal of self-actualization nor succeeds in exposing government corruption. Concerned that acknowledgement of his homosexuality will hamper his career, Goodall never matures beyond adolescent accommodation of his needs, and he is unable to forge meaningful relationships. His fight to illuminate the atrocities of the Marcos regime has ironic consequences. That Goodall is shallow, awkward, insecure and ultimately unlikable further diminishes the book's appeal. While earnest and sometimes insightful, this novel lacks the wit and charm of Brams's previous offerings (In Memory of Angel Clare) .
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Bram has described himself as "a gay novelist . . . who tries to treat gayness as just one strand in a life that has more similarities with 'mainstream' life than dissimilarities, without denying the similarities." His latest novel provides a good example of this approach. Its protagonist happens to be a gay foreign service officer who only begins to come to terms with his sexuality when he reaches his mid-40s. But while his awakening is undeniably a significant (and sometimes a bit forced) thread within the story, it is not the main thrust. Rather, Bram is concerned with the moral and political complications inherent in diplomatic life: personal integrity versus truth and "nation al interest." The Marcos-era Philippines with its glitter, corruption, and human rights abridgements provides the ideal setting for this thought-provoking story. Without its gay thread it might even have had a shot at best-sellerdom--maybe someday this will not matter but probably not yet. Still, this is an excellent choice for most public libraries.
- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Christopher Bram is among the most intelligent novelists working today, and this is his most ambitious attempt so far at taking the gay novel out beyond the ghetto. It includes a clear-eyed indictment of American foreign policy, that addresses - and by inference links - the horrors of American militarism in Vietnam and the more insidious but no less vicious diplomatic support for the Marcos regime in the Phillipines.
The central figure, Jim Goodall, is a Washington career diplomat at once homosexual but only 'almost' gay. In the course of the novel he travels from detachment to muted acceptance of his sexuality, and from detatchment to confrontation with the war machine that employs him. Unlike the attractive gay heroes in some of Bram's novels - Hank, in 'Hold Tight', for example - Goodall is not particularly appealing. But unlike Bram's better-known bystander, the James Whale figure in his 'Father of Frankenstein', Goodall is living at points where history truly is happening, and there are no sidelines. His urgent question is whether gayness and diplomat status do keep him only 'almost' complicit with the gung-ho male-bonding military that he's actively on side with - and the answer is (almost) 'no'. So it's not a simple book with a positive-image hero, but something braver. Like a lot of great big bold novels - from 'Middlemarch' to 'Lolita' - it takes the risk of centring on a protagonist who is never fully likeable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ford Ka on January 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
There are so many good books about the Big History (always spelled with capitals) that some writers feel the need to look for almost history (with no capitals at all). Christopher Bram made an attempt to carve a sizeable novel out of a not-so-important (from the point of view of the US) historical event and a not-so-interesting character. The result, as one might quite easily guess, is not-so-good. One can quite easily see Bram's good intensions (a non-standard gay character, a non-standard point of view etc.) but don't we all know the real value of good intensions? I am no specialist on the Philippines but sticking to home turf does him much better. An Almost Good Read in effect.
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Format: Paperback
Recently, I decided to reread some of the novels that have been on my bookshelves for decades. Among these were several by Christopher Bram.

The term 'epic' is often overused, but with a personal perspective from the life of Foreign Service agent Jim Goodall, with chapter variations from the POV of his niece Meg, the entire arc of the Marcos regime in Manila, and parts of Vietnam, are seen through the perspective of an American whose idealism for democracy erodes.

With numerous up-close encounters with the Manila dictator and his infamous wife Imelda, this story charts the shifting corruption of U.S. influence in southeast Asian politics from the 1950s to the early '80s.

Goodall's closeted life is gradually cracked open through a unique array of encounters and affairs, but love remains a foreign entity for him. His once earnest values are questioned, particularly through the eyes of his niece and Goodall's affair with her duplicitous boyfriend. The strange and secretive world of Washington D.C. politics and global events become uniquely personal and effecting.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This story sounds so authentic, the hero, Jim, so flawed -- like Everyman -- that his journey grips you from the first page. Don't expect James Bond but instead you will get inside the head of a real Foreign Service officer, one who happens to be a gay closeted man in the era long before AIDS. Jim sometimes makes bad decisions and I cringed when he did. He ploughs on, grappling with the cards he's dealt and trying to serve his country yet keep his secret. Through every twist and turn I was enthralled...and watched Jim evolve, from his loving relationship with his niece, to his business and diplomatic dealings. The story goes from the USA to the Philippines to Viet Nam. Every character in the story is memorably drawn, so real that I believe they actually existed. I got my first copy from the public library and now own my copy to read again.
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