Wintersalen Sale

Monday, August 13th, 2001


True Enough

by Stephen Mccauley

A review by Georgie Lewis

The homosexual comic sidekick to the heterosexual woman is a relationship we see in books and movies often. The camp, perpetually single Rupert Everett, friend to the neurotic, and embarrassingly single Julia Roberts character in My Best Friend's Wedding for example. She is the protagonist and he the disher of sage advice and sympathetic noises. Thirty something female characters, from Sex and The City to Bridget Jones's Diary, have their obligatory gay male buddy: there for the good times and the bad — the martinis and the tears.

The plot line to Stephen McCauley's fourth novel, True Enough, would appear at first glance to be more of the same. In fact, all his novels revolve around a gay male and his straight female friend. However, the characterizations are far from clichéd. Jane Cody collaborates with Desmond Sullivan on a TV documentary project about Pauline Anderton, a mediocre, long-forgotten singer from the sixties, and other similarly uninspiring artists, which will hopefully mend Jane and Desmond's flagging careers. Both are simultaneously using this project to avoid making decisions about their respective unsatisfactory relationships. The plot skips along agilely enough and with enough unpredictability and pace, but the feature that makes all of McCauley’s novels so compelling is his skillful characterization. One experiences sheer delight in spending time with his characters whose faults and foibles are utterly engaging. His are men and women who betray the small self-delusions, self-deprecation and mild neuroses we all share. Sexual orientation is just one of the many qualities of human make-up. Humans have relations with humans — and where there's sex there's gonna be problems. The cast of supporting characters are equally well written, providing even Rosemary, the bitter memoir writer, or Gloria, the sadistic yet well-renowned child psychologist, with emotional depth. But McCauley can't resist also exploiting their satirical qualities to illustrate society’s current preoccupation with memoir writers and so-called "experts." Suspicion, infidelity, and familial relations are all themes explored in this sharply observed urban portrait, equal parts bitingly funny and beautifully empathic.

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