Title: Bob the Book
Author: David Pratt
Publisher: Self Published
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Meet ‘Bob the Book,’ a gay book for sale in a Greenwich Village bookstore, where he falls in love with another book, Moishe. But an unlikely customer separates the young lovers. As Bob wends his way through used book bins, paper bags, knapsacks, and lecture halls, hoping to be reunited with Moishe, he meets a variety of characters, both book and human, including Angela, a widowed copy of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, and two other separated lovers, Neil and Jerry, near victims of a book burning. Among their owners are Alfred and Duane, whose on-again, off-again relationship unites and separates our book friends.
Will Bob find Moishe?
Will Jerry and Neil be reunited?
Will Alfred and Duane make it work?
Read ‘Bob the Book’ to find all the answers…
At first, writing a book from the point of view of a book seems like nothing more than a clever conceit; a cute way to structure a novel that observes the lives of gay men.
However, as he did with his second novel, Looking After Joey, Pratt surprised me. I was startled by the emotional power of this supposedly light-hearted narrative about the travels and travails of a book named Bob.
Bob, you see is a gay book, which in this case does indeed mean that Bob loves other gay books.
But not all the books we meet in Pratt’s novel are gay. There’s Angela, a paperback copy of a Jane Austen novel. And there’s Sunny, a life-affirming self-help book. And there are disapproving straight male books—books on history and business and Christian values.
And that’s the key. The books are their content; their character is the way they’re written. There’s nothing they can do about who they are; they can’t alter themselves to please others. Unlike humans, who can at least pretend to change their essential natures, books cannot. They can feel shame, they can feel regret, they can feel love; but they cannot change who they are.
Therein lies the most powerful aspect of Pratt’s narrative conceit. He gives his books the power of the senses, of sight and hearing and feeling and smell; but he eliminates all agency. They can do nothing for themselves, have no power over their own histories. All they have is hope.
That’s not quite true. They can speak to people, or at least some books have the ability to speak to humans and to bend their actions slightly—very slightly. It is a risky move on Pratt’s part to introduce even this tiny bit of agency, and it works. Why? Because it reminds all of us who love books just how books affect us and can alter our behavior, our view of the world.
This is not a romance in the typical m/m genre, which is why it appeals to me so much. Bob the Book is a thoughtful, even profound metaphor for gay men’s struggle to create their own happiness in the face of mass indifference, even in our increasingly accepting world.
“It’s harder for gay books, Bob thought—the pessimism and cynicism, the specializations and rivalries. Straight books have problems, too, but they own the literary world. Their problems all take place in the cushy surroundings of approval and love and knowing they’re forever in the majority.”
For a gay man of my generation, this resonates particularly; but it is also a statement of fact about the world of publishing and books today. Gay books—and anything in the creative world that focuses on gay folk and their concerns—is still kept at the margins. The overwhelming audience for all forms of creativity in the world is still straight, no matter how much we might try to pretend it’s a post-gay world. We adapt to please them and thus it will always be.
Bob and his book friends take us on a journey, and there are multiple love stories, and tragedies, rolled out for our inspection. We share in the books’ helplessness, and marvel at their ability to understand the world from the very narrow confines of a bookshelf or a coffee table.
Ultimately, we see ourselves in these books, and that’s perhaps the most powerful gift Pratt offers. We are like these books, in spite of our freedoms, because each of us knows what it is to feel helpless, to feel manipulated by circumstances.
And, of course, we are what we read.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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