Saturday, December 3, 2011
Junction X by Erastes
Title: Junction X Author: Erastes
Cover Artist: Alex Beecroft
Publisher: Cheyenne Publishing
Length: 200 pages
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Set in the very English suburbia of 1962 where everyone has tidy front gardens and lace curtains, Junction X is the story of Edward Johnson, who ostensibly has the perfect life: A beautiful house, a great job, an attractive wife and two well-mannered children. The trouble is he’s been lying to himself all of his life. And first love, when it does come, hits him and hits him hard. Who is the object of his passion? The teenaged son of the new neighbours.
Edward’s world is about to go to hell.
Readers who require happy endings, you are excused now. The rest of you, come over here, let me tell you about something really extraordinary.
Conformity, thy name is Edward Johnson, stockbroker, family man. Aside from a friendship with benefits with his neighbor, he's the picture of standardized suburban success. And why shouldn't he indulge? It's not like either Phil or Ed's wife will give them blowjobs, and it's really the best way to cap off a round of golf. His life is stable with this unconventional arrangement until Phil and his wife move away.
The new neighbors don't fit the neighborhood: he's an engineer (how shocking! He works with his hands!) and she's a nurse (extra shocking! She works!). They've come to a neighborhood nearly beyond their means in order to get their beloved, brilliant son into the best school, hoping to prepare him for the best universities.
Alex is a youth born too soon for the love he's about to encounter. This is 1962, he's still under-aged, and he's gay in an exuberant way that it hurts him to hide. He's on the cusp of adulthood, knows what he wants, and what he wants is Ed. It's fitting that they begin to bond over his huge set-up of model trains: too serious to be toys, too playful to be work, but an acceptable reason for a thirty-three year old man to spend time with a seventeen year old boy.
This is told as Ed's memoir, which gives a definite air of doom from the very beginning. From his intermittently frosty relationship with his former tennis-pro wife, his indulgent irritation with his young twin children, to his strangely lopsided relationship with Phil, Ed is bored and primed for a grand passion, but given the times, his lover, and his self-delusion, there isn't a bit of hope that this will end in any way but tears.
And I cried, oh I cried. I gritted my teeth, I wanted to shake Ed and smack Phil: I wanted to lead Alex by the hand away from this life, this man, into another decade where he could be happy all his life. This might be a throwback to an older form, where gay lovers had to be punished, but the prose is so beautiful, the tragedy so poignant and inevitable, and unfolds so perfectly that the step back works. Ed is not an entirely reliable narrator: his capacity for deluding himself is high, though he comes to recognize that he is depraved, but it's a corruption of integrity, not sexuality. Everyone around him, from his family to his friends, suffers from his flexible honesty; Alex suffers most of all.
Ed lays himself bare, given the restrictions of his ability to speak honestly; Alex is seen through his eyes with either a beatific glow or an unwarranted dismissal. The secondary characters suffer from Ed's narration but have a vivid presence: Valerie chafes at her life, worrying at Ed, Phil, who can do friendly blowjobs and winks at an affair as long as he thinks it's a woman, and the Charleses, Alex' parents, horrified at the last by their golden child.
This story has a lot of elements that I'd say, as a knee jerk reaction, that I hate. Lying, cheating, an underaged MC. And yet I loved the story. I do sad endings if they're fitting. This is fitting.
This is one gorgeously written story; it's painful but intense. I'm glad I read it, though I don't know that I'll revisit it; it hurts too much. But one time through hurts so good. 5 marbles