When Harry Meets Jay – Beatitude by Larry Closs

Beatitude is one of those books that might just build a cult following.  It contains a love story – but not in the traditional sense. It talks about the Beat generation – but in a new way.  Well written and completely engrossing, this is a novel that refuses categorization.

When Harry meets Jay the two discover that they share an obsession for the Beats. Harry’s recovering from a devastating love affair.  Jay is handsome, interesting and writes poetry.  They become best friends, inseparable, bonding over books and recordings Harry scores through his job as a writer for a popular entertainment magazine.  All is wonderful…and then Harry does what he’s sworn not to do.  He falls in love.  With Jay. Who is straight.  And has a girlfriend.

What happens next is unexpected.  Because that love triangle?  Well, it never gets off the ground.

Harry Charity (in my TOP 10 of best character names EVER!)  narrates Beatitude.  He’s an incredibly vulnerable man, someone you can’t help caring about and rooting for.  He never comes across as needy or whiny about his situation.  And even when he wears his heart on his sleeve and makes mistake after mistake in his friendship with Jay – you still want him to come out of it OK.

Jay is not the bad guy of this story, by the way.  Despite the fact that for a while I believed, along with Harry, that he was throwing out mixed signals. And before you think you know what’s coming next:  Jay’s girlfriend, Zahra, isn’t the bad guy (er, girl) either.   They both come to care for Harry as much as Harry cares for Jay… just in a different way.

The antagonist of Beatitude isn’t a person, it’s a situation.  Dominated by a misconception about what makes a friendship between men.  And that’s where the Beats come in.  These were men defined by their relationships with each other – sometimes  sexual, sometimes not.  But they were always important, essential even, to the individuals creative process and eventual mythos.  Larry Closs uses this history to flesh out the basic concepts of  male love and friendship – in all forms.  The enemy, if there is one, is society’s conventions.  An idea that  falls right in line with the Beats’ message.

Ginsberg even makes a few cameos in the novel (which also contains two of his previously unpublished poems).  There’s a wonderful conversation between him and one to the main characters at the end of the novel. Without giving too much away – I found this encounter touching and lovely.  We visit the aging Ginsberg (vividly drawn) in his apartment.   It’s filled with photographs of friends and fellow Beat artists, most of whom are now dead.  And the reader suddenly gets a sense of what it means to outlive the people you love.

And that’s the heart of Beatitude:  the reminder that love is love, regardless of whether it’s romantic or platonic. Larry Closs weaves together a beautiful and complicated narrative around this idea. He’s created a novel that shouldn’t be pigeonholed as any one thing: as a love story; GLBT lit; a memorial to the Beats; a book about NYC.  Because it’s all those things and more. There are multiple layers to the story Closs has given us, and it’d be a mistake to allow ourselves to get caught up in just one.

Note:  The Next Best Book Blog will be holding a blog tour for Larry Closs’ Beatitude beginning Sunday, January 22nd. BookSexy Review will be hosting Larry for an interview that week.

Publisher: Hulls Cove, Maine. Rebel Satori Press (2011)
ISBN: 978 1 60864 029 4

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