When I was about 18, I read Spanbauer’s The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon. I was amazed, moved and startled, but I was at an impressionable age. Since then, I’ve read his other books with mounting embarrassment, and have never had the heart to revisit the one that got me started. I suspect it might be every bit as self-consciously ‘shocking’ and pretentious as his most recent effort.
Now Is The Hour tells the story of Rigby John Klusener. Just writing that is enough to make me want to throw myself off the roof. This is a Tom Spanbauer novel, so of course Rigby John is trapped in a stifling environment where he struggles to be understood (in his case a devout Catholic household in 1960s rural Idaho), of course has sexual awakenings with preternaturally attractive Mexicans and a cross-dressing American Indian, and of course flees to San Francisco to ‘find himself’. And yes, all of this is every bit as tiresome and affected as it sounds. The book is so explicitly gay and graphically sexual, that that’s all it is. In Spanbauer’s world, sexuality isn’t a part of people, it’s all people are.
And the writing! Give me strength. Main characters break down in paralysing fits of laughter at inappropriate moments (as the reader, you miss the joke), one chapter extols the virtue of the word ‘fuck’ (for fuck’s sake), and if you stripped out all the repetition of particular phrases (that are clearly meant to be deep and meaningful) the book would be 50 pages shorter.
Long passages are given over to descriptions of Rigby John masturbating, which is appropriate given that this book is a load of wank.