Author: L.A. Fields
Publisher: Lethe Press
Cover Artist: Inkspiral Design
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 06/01/2016
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Contemporary, Gay Fiction
Two college seniors: Noah, frail like the hollow-boned birds he enjoys watching, caged by his intellect, and by his sense that the only boy as smart as himself is his best friend; Ray who has spent years aping leading men so that his every gesture is suave, but who has become bored with petty cheats and tricks, and now, during summer break in Chicago, needs something momentous to occupy himself.
Noah’s text says, I’ve found some candidates for murder. Ray chuckles and knows that Noah sent the message to cheer him. Both boys realize they stand apart from others their age. One lacks social graces, the other has perfected being charming. Both are too willing to embark on a true challenge of their superiority but neither realizes what such a crime will do because no matter how they see themselves, how they need one another, they still possess the same emotions of H. sapiens.
L.A. Fields is an engaging, literate, amusing and even elegant writer. I greatly enjoyed her prose, which pulled me along through “Homo Superiors” as it effortlessly probed deeply into the minds of the two teenaged protagonists, Noah Kaplan and Raymond Klein. There was a moment when I realized that this was, in effect, a YA novel.
And that’s where I got into trouble, because I wouldn’t particularly want an LGBTQ teen struggling with their identity to read this book. Ever.
I wrote a very positive review of her larger work, “My Dear Watson,” for Prism Book Alliance, but was acutely troubled by it, in spite of Fields’ skill as a writer. That book got her on the Lambda Award Finalist list. It troubled me deeply because it showed a sociopathic Sherlock Holmes unable to capture and hold the love of a bisexual Thomas Watson. Heterosexuality triumphed in the narrative voice of Watson’s second wife—who hates Holmes with a passion for having tainted her good husband. It was only the deep historical context of this beautifully written book that saved it in my eyes.
The bottom line is I guess I stopped enjoying reading about gay self-loathing thirty years ago.
But, both of these books, good as the writing is, seem to be books that people who hate gay men would enjoy reading. Right-wing Christian politician Marco Rubio would love “Homo Superiors” because it feeds into every negative Freudian (or Jungian) fantasy of why homosexuals are miserable and sick. Fields has given us a contemporary reboot of the horrific Leopold and Loeb story (for those of you who don’t know this notorious story, here’s a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_and_Loeb, although Wikipedia carefully avoids the homosexual nature of their relationship). Leopold and Loeb were used for decades as exemplars of why homosexuals were evil. By removing her retelling from its historical context (the 1920s), and placing it in modern-day Chicago, Fields is effectively presenting this as a plausible narrative for today’s society.
In this version, Ray Klein isn’t gay, not even presented as bisexual. Noah Kaplan, the frail, humorless, brilliant boy, is gay. But he’s gay in a way that seems embryonic and pathetic. At fifteen they go to college together, and Ray becomes highly skilled at using Noah’s pathetic homosexual yearning for him as a tool to enlist Noah’s help in his increasingly brazen petty crimes. Ray is an even more dangerous sociopath – charming and handsome and smart, but lazy and selfish and apparently without much of a moral compass. Noah is weird and homely and a loner, but he is no more than that, at least until Ray begins to manipulate and use him.
And, spoiler alert, Fields pulls the punch and ends the book before the actual murder takes place. She leaves us knowing it’s going to happen, and soon. Maybe I should have been grateful.
So, in the end, I’m sort of startled that Ms. Fields submitted this book to Prism Book Alliance. “Homo Superiors” is sort of like writing an updated version of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg story and selling it as Jewish Lit. The book is intelligent and well crafted. But it celebrates nothing. It teaches us nothing. I hope Fields’ fascination with the unhappiest aspects of homosexuality does not become the hallmark of her writing career. I don’t think I could bear another book like this.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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