Gerry B's Book Reviews

Sandel, by Angus Stewart

A Masterpiece of the writer’s art – tender, evocative and sensitive

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sandel - coverStory blurb: The story of two young lovers whose passion for one another is exclusive, lyrical, tender and subject to the tensions that any intense romantic relationship is liable to.

A love affair between a thirteen-year-old schoolboy (Tony Sandel) and a nineteen-year-old undergraduate (David), written and published at time before moral panic set in and the false dogma was established that all such relationships damaged the younger partner for life. Sandel is an evocative portrait of boarding-school and Oxbridge life and the intense, often romantic friendships that flourish there. It is also a novel of sexual awakening, whose light touch disguises the profound emotions that such friendships generate; the relationship portrayed is partly of equals and partly, as often happens, one where it is the younger partner who decides whether and how it should persist.

About the author: Angus Stewart’s [1936 – 1998] first published work was ‘The Stile’, which appeared in the 1964 Faber anthology Stories by New Writers. He won the Richard Hillary Memorial Prize in 1965. His breakthrough to public and critical attention came in 1968 with his first novel, Sandel. Set in the pseudonymous St Cecilia’s College, Oxford, the book revolves around the unorthodox love between a 19-year-old undergraduate, David Rogers, and a 13-year-old chorister, Antony Sandel. The novel appears to have been based on real events, recounted by Stewart in an article under the pseudonym ‘John Davis’ in the 1961 anthology Underdogs, edited for Weidenfeld and Nicolson by Philip Toynbee. The story is treated with delicacy and sensitivity, and has a place in English literature comparable in importance to Roger Peyrefitte’s treatment of the same subject in his 1943 novel Les amitiés particulières. Over the past forty years Sandel has become a cult gay novel.

After Sandel Stewart moved to Tangier in Morocco, partly as a project in self-discovery and partly to experiment with drugs in a sympathetic environment. His Moroccan experiences resulted in two further books, a novel entitled Snow in Harvest (1969) and a travel diary entitled Tangier: A Writer’s Notebook (1977). He also wrote poetry, some of which was published as Sense and Inconsequence (1972), with an introduction by his father’s longstanding friend W. H. Auden.

After his mother’s death in 1979 Stewart returned to England, living for the final twenty years of his life in an annex to his father’s home at Fawler outside Oxford. He was an accomplished portrait photographer. For much of his life he suffered from clinical depression.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Scen from Les amitiés particulières.There is currently a controversy raging over Amazon.com’s decision to arbitrarily exclude certain types of erotic novels from its catalogue. However, to the best of my knowledge it has yet to define in specific terms which novels are unacceptable, beyond some broad-stroke classifications—i.e., underage sex, depictions of rape and incest, or bestiality, etc.

To say the least, this is an ambitious undertaking given the millions of indie books alone (for these seem to be the ones targeted the most), so I expect there are many ‘babies’ thrown out with the bath water—certainly some of my friends have complained of this already.

My reaction is that it is a backdoor approach to censorship by a monopoly that has little regard for its authors anyway. This has been my personal experience, and if asked I will gladly provide chapter and verse regarding the details.

Part of this purge can also be attributed to a hypocritically-prudish North America that prohibits an author from writing about sexual activity  with a minor under the age of eighteen, but sets the bar for consensual sex at sixteen, and adolescent-to adolescent sex at thirteen, i.e.

163.1 (1) In this section, “child pornography” means

(b) any written material, visual representation or audio recording that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act;

(c) any written material whose dominant characteristic is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act; or

Age of consent:

From 1890 until recently, the age at which a youth could consent to nonexploitative sexual activity was 14 years. With the recent change to the criminal code of Canada, the age of consent for nonexploitative sexual activity is now 16 years.

Nonexploitative activity is defined as sexual activity that does not involve prostitution or pornography, and where there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency between the persons involved (1). A coach, spiritual leader, teacher, school principal, guidance counsellor or family member are all examples of persons in a position of trust or authority with youth.

For exploitative sexual activity (prostitution or pornography, or where there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency), the age of consent is 18 years.

The spirit of the new legislation is not to regulate consensual teenage sexual activity. To this effect, there are a few notable exceptions to the law:

  1. Youth 12 or 13 years of age can consent to nonexploitative sexual activity with peers when the age difference is no more than two years. For example, a 12-year-old child is deemed capable of consenting to sexual activity with a 14-year-old, but not a 15-year-old.
  2. Youth 14 or 15 years of age can consent to nonexploitative sexual activity when the age difference is no more than five years. For example, a 15-year-old can consent to having sexual intercourse with a 20-year-old, but not with a 21-year-old.

Children younger than 12 years of age can never consent to sexual activity with anyone, of any age, regardless of whether they say they do. (Canadian Paediatric Society – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2532909/)

With all this in mind I immediately ordered a copy (from Amazon) of the late Angus Stewart’s much acclaimed novel, Sandel, [Pilot Productions, August 10, 2013]. Like it’s equally acclaimed predecessor, Les amitiés particulières, by Roger Peyrefitte (1943), it deals with younger/older love in a tender, evocative and sensitive way. In fact, they are both masterpieces of the writer’s art.

Scene from Les amitiés particulièresSandel tells the story of Anthony Sandel, a choir boy at St Cecilia’s College, Oxford, and an undergraduate organist (David Rogers). At first their relationship focuses on their mutual love of religious music, but over time it progresses logically and with great credibility into an erastes and eronomous type of love. However, remembering that it was first written and published in the 1960s, this aspect is more implied than explicit; to the extent that the Daily Telegraph wrote of it: “A love not despicable.”

However, as one reviewer has pointed out, the 60s may have been quite ‘liberal’ compared to today, and I quote:

“It is merely difficult to imagine today an aunt who would think or dare to rescue from their outraged school her 13-year-old nephew caught in his master’s bed, and dispatch the lovers on a ten-week honeymoon in Italy. It is impossible though to imagine anything but imminent catastrophe if today a choirboy being interviewed by newsmen were to tell them about his love for his teacher and the latter punched one of them to the floor for making snide remarks about it. The threat “You shouldn’t have done that,” couldn’t possibly sound “unconvincing.” The newsmen would know only too well that a visit to the police would ensure an investigation almost bound to wreck the lives of both man and boy.”

Or,

“One wonders how long it will be before the child abuse lobby succeeds in imposing on productions of Romeo and Juliet the interruption of the most romantic scenes with sour warnings that despite the strongest contrary indications love involving a pubescent is always really no more than false cover for a satanic plot to satisfy selfish lust. ~ – Edmund Marlowe, author of Alexander’s Choice, an Eton boy’s love story.

I agree wholeheartedly. To Sandel – Five Bees for a true masterpiece.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Springhill Nova Scotia Mine Disaster – Oct. 23, 1958“The Springhill Bump”

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

            

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October 28, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Angus Stewart, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Older/younger relationships | 9 Comments

Older Man Younger Man: A Love Story, by Joseph Dispenza

A break through topic, a mentor’s example, and a good news story rolled into one.

 

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older man younger man - cover“Older Man/Younger Man” is a memoir of the relationship between a middle-aged man and a man thirty years his junior, from their first meeting, through the challenges of living together across a wide age-gap, to a climactic confession of shame and regret, the terror of loss from a life-threatening disease—and, ultimately, the triumph of love. This is a passionate, bittersweet story of a powerful love that transcends gender, bridges generations, defies convention, and brings to the partners the richness of spiritual fulfillment.

The relationship between an older man and a younger man is one of the last taboos left in our culture’s sexual closet. “Older Man/Younger Man” is the first book to address an inter-generational gay male relationship as a path of spiritual redemption.

What makes this book unique and special is its presentation of the pairing between an older man and a much younger man as a healthy, successful relationship and as a spiritual journey.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I grew up in a rural community of less than one thousand inhabitants, where everyone knew everyone back to their second-great grandfather, and where the first question asked was always, “What will the neighbours think?” Moreover, I too have had lovers who were decades younger than myself, and so I can relate in several ways to Joseph Dispenza’s personal memoirs in Older Man Younger Man [Sept 2011].

A  personal- experience book of this nature is tricky write, for it has to straddle a narrow line between self indulgence and ‘author as example.’ Dispenza does this fairly well, with only a few examples of overworking certain parts with personal detail: such as the bathroom regimen preceding the detection of prostate cancer. Nevertheless, I can well understand how such a traumatic discovery would stand out in one’s mind.

One of the aspects of Older Man Younger Man to which I could particularly relate was the first introduction of the other to parents, relatives, and/or friends. Almost invariably this is an awkward time of ‘double whammy’: Your friend/partner/lover is male, gay, and also young enough to be your son—or father, as the case may be.

After this it is the ‘smirky’ looks of strangers and certain business associate until everyone gets used to it.

All of these Despenza and his partner experienced, but the rather cool part is that he doesn’t dwell on them. Yes, age differentiation is a regrettable part of an older/younger relationship, but Dispenza chose to talk more about the ordinary routines of living together, and the joys and challenges that entails.

While it is a fascinating story, well written, and insightful to read, it is difficult to categorize. It is a break through topic of sorts (inasmuch as there are few older-perspective, gay stories out there); it is a mentor’s example for those faced with a similar situation; and it is a good news saga because love prevails in the end. Take your pick. Four and one-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews to date – 55,835

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Benedict Arnold – A Canadian Connection.

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In spite of worldwide condemnation, GBLT individuals are still suffering mental and physical abuse in Russia. Please do whatever you can to protest the Sochi 2014 Olympics by boycotting the sponsors: Coca Cola, Samsung, MacDonald’s, Visa, etc. Yours may only be one voice, but if you speak out others will join you.

boycott sponsors

 

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

            

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back then.

September 30, 2013 Posted by | Gay romance, Memoir, Non-fiction, Older/younger relationships | Leave a comment

   

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