“Looking for who I am is who I am.”
I wish that more LGBTQ readers were familiar with the novels of Tom Spanbauer, and not just because he is Portland’s own or that I have the pleasure of his acquaintance.
Among the 20th century’s landmark works of Queer Fiction: Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain (1997), Song Of The Loon (1970) by Richard Amory, A Boy’s Own Story (1982) by Edmund White, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (1956), A Home At The End Of The World (1990) by Michael Cunningham, the most audacious, because of both its prose style and for its depictions of raw sex, is Spanbauer’s The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon (1991). Expressively, vividly narrated by a half-white, half-native American teenage orphan named Shed during the era of the Idaho gold rush, this novel bites down on to the classic American themes of self-discovery and identity.
It is also one wild ride. The story starts in a bordello in the fictional town of Excellent, Idaho, where Shed is raised by Ida Richilieu, who “always said she couldn’t sleep if there was a hard-on in the room”. Young Shed falls in love with an early customer, Dellwood Barker, a white rancher who might actually be his biological father.
In one memorable sequence, Shed and Barker have anal intercourse where Shed learns about “Wild Moon Man”, an anthropomorphic representation of tantric sex and expanded orgasm.
What is most amazing, for its first decade after publication, each year The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon sold more copies than the previous year. That’s strong word of mouth. The NYT Book Review praised it, saying:
“The miracle of this novel is that it obliges us to rethink our whole idea of narration and history and myth. Tom Spanbauer’s Wild West is the hurly-burly of the mind. He takes us into territories where few of us would ever dare to go.”
Spanbauer mixes raunchy dialogue, deep pathos, local western color, serious heartbreak and takes a bracing look at racism in its stunning narrative. It’s my husband’s favorite book, and one of mine. It’s truly magical and a true Queer Essential.