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am 18. Dezember 1999
With the year 2000 approaching, everybody's looking back and remembering what made its impression most strongly, and the books worth rereading. I read this novel ten years ago, and it's stayed in my memory. I didn't want to read it again in case it hadn't held up. But I did, and I'm glad, because not only does it hold up, but it becomes even better, this view of America from New York to Los Angeles, not just the gay world, but a look at all people searching for meaning, finding substitutes sometimes. The scenes at Mardi Gras are spell-binding, capturing the revelry, and the loneliness and the humor, and the excitement. It's all there, even more vivid than I remember. A masterpiece.
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am 5. Dezember 1999
"Best" lists are appearing everywhere, and some are pretty unreliable. But I note that "City of Night" is appearing on several lists of outstanding novels; it deserves to be there. When I saw it listed, I read it again--I had read it first 10 years ago, and I was surprised that it seemed even better than the first time. It moved me even more in reading about these lives, and there's terrific humor thorughout, too. It's an epic book that spans across the country, with a cast of unforgettable characters--who can forget Miss Destiny and Skipper and Sylvia? Parts of it are sheer poetry. This is a masterpiece that deserves its place among the top 100 books.
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This book hit me like a million bricks. As a sexually confused 18 year-old male who never reads I actually believed I was present in the situations. I know this book has changed the way I look at life, I suggest anyone, gay or strait, to read this fascinating novel.
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am 30. Juni 1999
The recent list of 100 best gay books of all time included "City of Night" among the top, but as far as I'm concerned this novel belongs at the very, very top. I don't know of another book that has the scope this one has, the varied characters, men and women, cruisers, hustlers--and it goes all over the country, from Texas to New Orleans, New York, California. It has an epic sweep that captures a part of the world that still remains very much like the author described it and parts of it still remain misunderstood. It's a great novel,period, not just a great gay novel.
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am 31. März 1999
City by Night by John Rechy is a classic. I had to read it when I did a paper on the history of homosexuality for my history class. That was twenty years ago, before I had ever gone to the US. Now that I am a priest and my parents live there, and I have gone there to the US myself many times over, the book seems like a fossil frozen in time before the advent of AIDS and Mayor Rudy Giuliani's cleansing of Times Square and the closure of bath houses in Los Angeles (I remember I had just arrived in LA and the closure of bath houses was bannered in the papers. John Holmes had just died of AIDs and his death was not given prominence. A feature story appeared in the front page, prominently boxed. It was about a sparrow that died in Santa Monica Beach. A lady wanted to save it so she called for the Red Cross. The Red Cross team arrived, but the sparrow died nonetheless.) Now the novel, as I say, may be a fossil already if not yet a relic. But the bathos of the novel still haunts the crevices of one's mind, and the memory of having read the book sort of makes me giddy because with the book the jukebox, the flower people, the subculture of the third sex, the Vietnam War and the unfished America Dream spring back to life. Side by side with the computer and the Generation X, however, the novel recedes into the past, like Casablanca, like the old, original Heaven Can Wait, like the westerns of Randolph Scott (when his playing good buddy with housemate Cary Grant never generated suspicious snickers), when the world was young and everything seemed so greeen, before the El Nino phenomenon, before the devirginization of the moon by the Apollo, before the advent of the incoming millennium and the forthcoming century, before the transformation of splendid fiction into reportage plain and simple. City of Night is fiction at its best and will remain so forever.
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am 31. März 1999
"City of Night" is a novel that I haven't read in about eight years, but its storyline and poetic prose still lingers in my mind to this day. It is a sad yet beautiful story of a young, nameless, faceless, street hustler that roams the large cities of the U.S. looking for love in a homosexual relationship. But the main character is sexually confused. He continually claims to be straight, however he has sex with men for money. Paying for sex with another man is not an act of a "fairy", according to the character. This is a myth of the streets. He is gay, but he hates himself for it, leaving the main character to learn to accept himself while going through the tarnish streets of New York, LA, and finally New Orleans. The majority of characters within the novel live on the fringes of society, and they all have poignant stories of their pasts, but no real direction for their future. Our hero sweeps acorss the country traveling through the pre-Stonewall gay community and finds a motley crew of flawed but colorful characters. We can sympathize with charcters like Pete, Skipper, Miss Destiny, Sylvia, bacuse they all want what we want: love, acceptance, desirability, a second chance. This book is not a "gay" novel, rather it is a novel that uncovers the loneliness and desparation that we all have felt sometime in our lives. It is a piece of fiction that is indispensable in the canon of 20th century literature. A brilliant work!!!!!
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am 24. November 1997
John Rechy's "City Of Night" is a wistful, moving, ultimately very sad account of a young man's erratic journey through the now-vanished Homosexual subculture of America's cities in the late 1950's, early 1960's. The narrator, a masculine hustler, known in the parlance of the time as "trade", moves from city to city, searching for business, and also, futilely, a sense of self-worth and love. He actively avoids the lives and world of the self-admitted and well-adjusted gay men he encounters, and instead pursues the outcasts, the maladjusted and self-loathing men with homosexual desires who make up his clientele. The novel is repetitious and over-long. Parts of it (the chapter on "Miss Destiny", a Los Angeles Drag Queen, for instance) are powerful and moving, and stand well on their own in the reader's memory. The narrator's crippling inability to come to grips with his own sexuality is ultimately off-putting to the reader, but Rechy does a good, almost documentary, job of recording a long gone landscape and lifestyle - - the urban United States before the Gay Liberation Movement and the present day visibility and partial integration of homosexuals into American life. All in all a worthwhile, often profoundly touching novel about alienation and the pursuit of love among the hopeless and the outcasts of society.
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am 14. Oktober 1997
John Rechy's pseudo-gay novel, "City of Night," tries hard to be good but lacks the lyricality and subject to be anything of a masterpiece. From the start, the book was a disappointment. It continually posed homosexuality as bad (e.g.: the father molesting the boy), as strange (e.g.: the man who acted like a mother), or as shameful and to be hidden (e.g.: when the nameless main character discovers his homosexual leanings to another hustler). The main character is, as we are told over and over and over again (becoming a sort of mantra through the work), not gay. He does this as work and precisely because it is gay-related, it is destructive. Such inability to come to terms with homosexuality ruins the entire book. You feel sorry for the boy because he is ruined by these fags around him, not for his sexual confusion (which would have been more interesting and less weak). Besides all this, the book is a disjointed series of images and places that leaves you confused as to where you are and who you are dealing with. I would like to say that Rechy intended this, but I think it is his own shortcomings that produces this. The ending is a letdown; it is like forcing yourself to eat a piece of stale cake after a very bad meal. It doesn't leave a bad aftertaste - it makes you sick.
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am 22. November 1999
I guess my tipoff should have been the word "classic" used in so many previous reviews. Yep, it sure reads like one. Reminds me of high school and Shakespeare. I'm a reasonably intelligent guy and I found this one to be extremely difficult to understand. The style is so poetic and chock full of metaphors as to really obscure meaning a lot of the time. It often took great concentration on my part to even understand some of the metaphysical arguments the protagonist had going on in his head continually. Nonetheless, I did finish the book out of curiosity, and I have to say I did enjoy a good bit of this novel. It does indeed paint a what I guess is realistic picture of streetlife. And boy it's grim! I certainly felt for the main character. This is just not a style of writing that I particularly enjoy. Perhaps I am just not sophisticated enough. For those looking for something one doesn't need a doctorate in philosophy to comprehend, I recommend Like People in History by Felice Picano, The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren, Frontiers by Michael Jensen, Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley, And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts and The Best Little Boy in the World by John Reid.
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am 13. Oktober 1998
When the recent list of supposed "100 best novels" written in English during the 20th century appeared, I searched,in vain, for any novel written by a gay person that dealt with the gay experience. Not one. Certainly there was some kind of bigotry involved among the judges and the publishers of the list. There are a lot of great books written by gay writers, from before the 20th century, and certainly that has not changed. If any novel belonged on that list, it's Rechy's "City of Night," a sweeping epic about America. I re-read it recently, and was surprised to find that Rechy has included virtually every kind of character one would encounter in the world he depicts--and he brings them to memorable life, queens, hustlers, the woman who owns a gay bar--I'll never forget her, nor Chuck the cowboy, nor Miss Destiny, nor the narrator searching for himself. Yet the judges and publishers of the "100 best" seem to want to banish our writers from literature. Finally, of course, they can't.
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