LIT­ER­ARY GAYDAR

Geist - - Endnotes -

I can’t help but whip out my gaydar when I read, scan­ning ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion on the page for even a hint of ho­mo­erotic sub­text. Many queer* peo­ple might know the feel­ing of read­ing some­thing in which a char­ac­ter is ob­vi­ously queer-coded, and wait­ing with breath­less ex­cite­ment as ten­sion in their re­la­tion­ship with an­other char­ac­ter mounts. They won­der, “Is the au­thor go­ing there? Is this what I think it is?” Too of­ten, this is fol­lowed by crush­ing dis­ap­point­ment when they learn that, no, the two char­ac­ters whom they wanted to kiss are not go­ing to kiss. But some­times, in all the twists and turns of a great story, two char­ac­ters of the same gen­der kiss and it al­most makes up for all the times when they didn’t.

Lis­ten­ing for Jupiter by Pier­re­luc Landry, trans­lated by Arielle Aaron­son and Madeleine Strat­ford (QC Fic­tion), fol­lows the criss­cross­ing lives of Hol­ly­wood, a grave­yard groundskeeper who lives with­out a heart, and Xavier, a trou­bled phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sales­man; they live in dif­fer­ent cities, but they meet in their dreams. Global weather pat­terns go hay­wire and Mon­treal melts while Europe swirls with snow­storms, and the two men grap­ple with re­la­tion­ships, their health and a se­ries of con­fus­ing, com­pli­cated events that bring them to­gether and apart.

Lis­ten­ing for Jupiter isn’t mar­keted as LGBT Fic­tion, which begs an in­quiry into what’s be­ing said when a work is cat­e­go­rized as LGBT Fic­tion. It’s of­ten con­sid­ered its own genre in some weird act of seg­re­ga­tion, as if lit­er­ary fic­tion, sci-fi, fan­tasy, po­etry, comics and mem­oirs can’t deal with queer themes. If queer cre­ative work needs to be la­belled as such, then Hol­ly­wood block­busters where the chem­istry-void male and fe­male lead end up to­gether should fea­ture a warn­ing about com­pul­sive het­ero­sex­u­al­ity. So Lis­ten­ing for Jupiter isn’t LGBT Fic­tion. It’s a con­cise, dreamy, breath­tak­ing novel in which two men fall for one an­other; I won’t say which two men and spoil it for you more than I al­ready have. Their at­trac­tion isn’t a main point in the nar­ra­tive, nor is it an awk­ward foot­note: it just hap­pens, as nat­u­rally as it might hap­pen in real life. For this re­la­tion­ship to ex­ist or­gan­i­cally in a novel full of magic re­al­ism is es­pe­cially en­cour­ag­ing to see—dy­namic non-het­ero­sex­ual char­ac­ters ex­ist­ing in a well-con­sid­ered nar­ra­tive isn’t half as com­mon as you’d think.

You should read Lis­ten­ing for Jupiter for its beau­ti­ful lan­guage, en­gag­ing di­a­logue and gen­uinely unique story, or be­cause it’s whim­si­cal, funny, heart­felt and pleas­antly ab­surd, but I wouldn’t blame you if you read it be­cause you’re thirsty for queer rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Of course, none of this is to say that nov­els with a dash of gay­ness are bet­ter than nov­els that cen­tre them­selves around gay­ness, but there’s some­thing so ex­cit­ing about be­ing led shyly into queer writ­ten love, as thrilling and nervewrack­ing as nav­i­gat­ing the tu­mul­tuous queer dat­ing scene in real life. —Roni Simunovic

* When I use the word “queer,” I use it as a term to mean any­one who iden­ti­fies as some­thing non-het­ero­sex­ual.

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