- File Size: 408 KB
- Print Length: 70 pages
- Publisher: The Atlantic Books (April 30, 2013)
- Publication Date: April 30, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00CLJAMII
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,306 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Denial: My 25 Years Without a Soul (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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"Denial: My 25 Years Without a Soul" is a story of writer Jonathan Rausch's childhood, adolescent, and young adult years and what it was like to be gay without realizing one was gay. Rausch just believed that he was either asexual (or a heterosexual whose sexual feelings were just around the corner), and - smart as Rausch was - his brain ratioanlized his obsession with men's muscles as a strange case of envy. But meanwhile, where everyone else could feel romantic love, Rausch simply believed that that he was incapable of those feelings.
The book starts during Rausch's early teens, when he realizes - just like that - that he'll probably never get married. He just doesn't have feelings toward girls. We follow Rausch through his burgeoning obsession with the male (athletic) figure and, in particular, a bodybuilding friend named Paul. It literally doesn't dawn on Rausch that he is gay, because (he says) he doesn't have sexual thoughts about boys. He rationalizes his admiration for their bodies as a sort of envy of a scrawny awkward boy of his "betters." In college, the same, and when periodic friends suggested he may be gay, he very honestly denied it (again, because homosexuality was about wanting sex with men, different from what he felt). It was only in his twenties (for reasons I'll leave you to discover) that he realized he may be - and then was - gay.
I must reiterate - per Rausch's above quote - that this is not a memoir or even a story per se; Rausch is writing a psychological account of who he - this unsuspecting gay man, obsessed with his muscular friend Paul and convinced he was just abnormal and broken - was from childhood through adulthood. It is very well written, unflinchingly honest, Not a book you read if you just want a good story, but one you read if you really want to feel things you may never have felt before about a boy who exists but you've never known. This is what happens when a writer (given to self-analysis and -reflection) sruggles mightily with his sexuality and can put it into words for us.
This book, that may have seemed too egocentric had it been a full novel's length, was quite perfect at less than 100 pages. Rausch's writing is appropriately self-reflective (even if his prose CAN be grandiose at times, using phrases like "dear reader" a bit too much for my tastes.) In this short book, though, Jonathan Rausch gives us a very compelling portrait of a boy trying desperately and unsuccessfully to figure himself out and finally - finally! - doing so.
I grew up in a small city in the 1970s and remember well the name of its "one and only" homosexual. Sadly, that person had sexual issues that only added confirmation to the idea that homosexuality was, indeed, deviant. In my hometown, that man's name was synonymous with "queer" and was frequently flung as a teasing slur among the adolescents. It was not meant to seriously injure anyone; all in good fun, as they say. Except it would not have been so for a boy like the young Mr Rauch.
Times were different then in most American towns and cities. Homosexuals were classified as perverts and deviants. An adolescent's coming of age and sexuality are difficult enough to traverse without these labels.
This is the foundation on which the young Mr Rauch's rationalizations, inner turmoil, and denial were built. Fortunately for the reader, Jonathan the boy finally grew up to be a man who would have the ability to look back unflinching at his past and the talent to share it in what I can only describe as a sweet and endearing style.
This is much more than a story of a young man's realization that he is homosexual. It is the story of a young man who suddenly realizes he is capable of giving and receiving love. After years of denial, he realizes he is normal after all.
We all have our secret selves that we are certain, once exposed, will forever alienate us from society. For some, those secrets aren't really that different from what society expects, and time releases us from our self-built prisons. For others, the secret we hide is that we truly are different, and we must find a way to appreciate that difference in order to merge peacefully into the lives of others in our world. Whichever camp you find yourself living in, this book is for you.
In the end, the only truth that matters is that we love.
For straight folks, it provides an authentic view of how it can be for gay friends and family members; it should be required reading in every PFLAG chapter. There are difficult moments in the book: Not because of x-rated material, but because one is in the presence of someone sharing personal moments that most would keep hidden. As other reviewers have said, there are times when it's almost painful to read: It's that unsparingly direct.
It would have been easier to present those 25 years "without a soul" as unmitigated misery. But Rauch is too honest for that. He presents us with the seeming paradox of good times, of achievement and acceptance -- accompanied for so long by that great emptiness inside. His prose style is undramatic, humorous, personal. He draws us in simply by his willingness to disclose his humanity. There is no artifice here.
When, at the end, he recounts the moments when he was able to end the denial and affirm his sexual nature and claim his birthright, I wanted to cheer: For him, for me, for all the men who have gone down this path and found release from those very demons.
It also brought tears to my eyes and an ache in my gut: For all those men who never made it, and for those still on the road. Hang in there, brothers!
It's a short read, but you won't forget it easily. I recommend it without reservation.