The colours of the Rainbow Flag projected onto the inclined tower of Montreal's Olympic Stadium, the scene of a memorable episode in
The Geography of Pluto.
What is it?
A novel by Canadian writer Christopher DiRaddo, published in 2014.
Is it about astronomy?
No, but it is about space—space and time, those dimensions we live in, and how, in this reality, nothing stays as it is. I’d say it’s a novel about impermanence, really.
Okay, that sounds scary. What’s the story about?
The narrator is a Montreal man named Will Ambrose, in his late twenties. The book begins at New Year’s in 2006, when he has recently split up from his latest boyfriend, Max. We then follow Will for a few months as he navigates the terrain of the loss of that relationship as well as other losses. The structure of the book mirrors its theme, being determinedly non-linear, switching back and forth from present to past, with past events not being recounted in chronological order. All of this flitting through time creates a sense of life’s constantly shifting sands, which is the book’s recurring theme.
Yikes. Sounds a bit lofty. I’ll bet there’s no sex.
Well, is there any?
Yes, as it happens, there’s lots! And while the book is intelligent and sensitive, it’s not, as you say, “lofty,” by which I assume you mean worthy and dull. In fact, anything but. Christopher DiRaddo has the rare gift of being able to craft a beautifully literary novel that is also a cracking great read. I really didn’t want to put this down. As a reader, you grow to love these characters and you want to know how their lives will unfold.
Principally, of course, the narrator, Will. He's a delight: intelligent, sensitive, wryly funny, given to awkward outbursts of truth-telling, such as when he replies to a stranger asking about his coming out: "Not everyone wants to be as forthcoming as the people in your discussion group. But then again … why do I make these things out to be romantic when in reality they're nothing more than tedious anecdotes about myself?" You gotta love this guy.
But let's cut to the chase: how does this stack up as a “gay” novel?
The thing that’s kind of amazing about The Geography of Pluto is that it’s super-gay—early same-sex attractions, the pain of coming out, exploration of the Gay Village, worry about STDs, omnipresent shallow sex, graffiti in toilet stalls—but the novel somehow absorbs all of that and then transcends it to become truly universal in its themes. The search for love and the pain of loss are things anyone can relate to. In this novel they are explored through a beautifully acute homosexual lens, but that takes nothing away from their universality. If I can put it this way, DiRaddo's characters are human before they're gay. The humanity prevails, in the best way.
Sounds as though you liked this. You giving it a star?
I sure am. This is quite simply a lovely novel, one to seek out and read and reread and think about. It’s chock full of moments that give you that little frisson of recognition, where you go, “Oh, I thought I was the only one who felt that, but I guess we’re all in the same boat,” and then you feel less alone in this vast solar system. What more could you ask for from literature?