Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Declaration by Geoffrey Knight

Title: The Declaration
Author: Geoffrey Knight
Cover Artist: Deanna Jamroz
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: historical, short story
Length: 6000 words

A humble stable boy might just be the inspiration Thomas Jefferson needs to finish writing The Declaration of Independence.

On the night before his draft of The Declaration of Independence is due, Thomas Jefferson sends his trusted servant boy Jasper to fetch more writing supplies. It is a task Jasper jumps at, knowing he'll be able to spend a few last precious moments with Myles, the stable boy, before Jefferson and his staff leave Philadelphia in the morning.

But just as their love begins to fully blossom in the lantern-lit stables of the Graff House, the drunken stable master threatens to end not only Jasper and Myles' romance, but their lives as well. Can the love of a black servant and a white stable boy overcome hatred and cruelty? And will their declaration of love be enough to give Thomas Jefferson the inspiration he needs to finish writing one of the most important documents in human history?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These are words that changed the world and redirected history. These words helped create our current lives: they ring with poetry and truth. But they were truly revolutionary when they were written, and how did Thomas Jefferson come to change our thinking so much?

I’m a sucker for “real moments in history used in m/m stories” which is what attracted me to this piece. The blurb tells the bulk of the story, which is quite short. The only real bit of novelty is the actual achievement of the inspiration, but it’s still a sweet and sexy look into what could have possibly happened.

This was a time of both radical innovations in thought and politics and institutionalized injustices to large portions of the population. Geoffrey Knight performs a delicate balancing act with both. Jasper is a slave, but important to both Jefferson and his lover Jasper. He’s an object or an annoyance to some, but a fully realized person to the forward thinkers in his vicinity, and if a hint of a personal interest on Mr. Jefferson’s part drives that, it doesn’t matter a whit to Jasper.

The language has the merest whiff of period to it, just enough to place us in time, and a few charming turns of phrase, as well as a few clunkers, sometimes in the same sentence. My favorite:

Unsure of what to do, Jasper imitated Myles’s actions as the two guessed their way through foreplay.

The ending does turn into a bit of history lesson and lecture, but it’s true for all that. There’s not much for me to spoil; the blurb does a better job of that than I could.

Fortunately for the lovers and for us all, history is made. Thomas Jefferson may have declared only that we may pursue happiness, but Jasper and Myles really did catch some. 3.75 marbles


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