Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Man Without a Face

Introducing a new feature today: Blast from the Past, in which I'll review some of the classics of gay YA literature.
Isabelle Holland, 1972. Fourteen-year-old Charles is desperate to get into boarding school to escape from his dysfunctional family. He's already failed the admissions exam once, but has been given another shot. Time is short, and his only hope is to work with Mr. McLeod, a former teacher and the village recluse. McLeod lost most of his facial features in an accident, about which no one has the details.

McLeod reluctantly agrees to take on Charles as a student, and they grow quite close, with McLeod taking on more and more of a parental role throughout the summer. Sometimes the two hold hands, but when Charles wants more, McLeod quickly backs away. Something Big happens, but it's hard to tell what; the author describes it vaguely as "It was like everything -- the water, the sun, the hours, the play, the work, the whole summer -- came together. The golden cocoon had broken open and was spilling in a shower of gold. Even so, I didn't know what was happening to me until it had happened." It's unclear whether the two had sex, or maybe Charles had a dream...but in the aftermath, McLeod confesses he is gay. In the next few pages, before the book ends, McLeod leaves town, has a heart attack, and leaves all of his possessions to Charles.

The book is a weird mix of honest emotion and hazy sex. It feels quite dated, as you'd expect from a book published four years before I was born. The sexual relationship is also problematic, of course, and it's hard to imagine marketing a book to teens today that features a fourteen-year-old and an adult in a happy consensual relationship. Recommended for those interested in the history of gay YA literature, but I wouldn't suggest it to most of today's teens.

1 comment:

paul said...

In this country your free to do what you want as long as it dosent hurt another individual, however, that being said a book implying a sexual relationship between a grown man and a fourteen year old boy is beyond distasteful, i am dissapointed that America accepts such a book