Completing the Course: A Fairy Tale Set in the School of Life – Tom Nussbaum

(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

In October 2013, our group (apart from me hated the author’s ‘The Boy in the Book’.

I was interested enough to get hold of this book, written much earlier. His first novel, in fact.

It deals with the tricky subject of a teacher mentoring as student. Such relationships can be extremely beneficial but society has become ever more suspicious of them, not trusting that people can have a genuine concern and friendship without ulterior motives. As the author points out: Regardless of what anyone assumed, regardless of my label, Steven simply was not my type. Although he was an attractive, enjoyable person, Steven’s unfinished physicality did not arouse me. He was, after all, a teenager.

My motivation was something else: I was responding to Steven’s implied request for me to be available, to listen, and, perhaps, help him sort out some ideas, fears, or feelings, whatever they were.

In its 126 pages, it deals with coming of age, coming out, friendship and facing one’s inner demons.

The story largely comes together around the campaigns for and against Oregon Ballot Measure 9 (1992) which was similar to but worse than Britain’s Section 28 to stop the supposed ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. Campaigners were wanting to have gay teachers sacked, though the actual proposal read, “All governments in Oregon may not use their monies or properties to promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism. All levels of government, including public education systems, must assist in setting a standard for Oregon’s youth which recognizes that these behaviors are abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse and they are to be discouraged and avoided.” It was defeated in the November 3, 1992, though it dragged on because The Oregon Citizens Alliance went on to introduce a series of watered-down ballot measures along the same lines.

We get the ubiquitous tank top but at least they were fashionable back then (1997).

As with the other book, we get some cheesy phrases:

Steven’s cheekbones glistened from moisture, too. But this sheen was not like that covering his scalp and brow. This wetness reflected a different kind of pain, the pain from within.

And:  Her golden hair fell into a simple pageboy style. She I was attractive in a nonthreatening way. She was like many of the girls I had dated in high school and college a generation before. She was a “safe” date. It was obvious to me why Steven had asked Lisa to the prom. She would not have any sexual expectations of him. Nor would he feel pressure to violate his personal moral code.

Of someone’s accent: His drawl was as comforting as iced tea on a shady verandah in August, and Southern charm oozed from him like nectar dripping from an overripe peach.

And an accurate description of a long day at work: watching the hands of my office wall clock slowly plod onward, like an aimless window-shopper meandering through a mall.

There are too many coincidences in this book. Old enemies become reconciled. All questions, the sort that have puzzled people for a very long time, get answered, just as in The Boy in the Book which my group loathed. However, I think this is a better book than that. I certainly enjoyed it.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] To see another book by the same author, see https://gaymensbookclubbristol.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/completing-the-course-a-fairy-tale-set-in-the… […]

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