The Vast Fields of Ordinary – Nick Burd

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

This is his first novel so we sort of assume that there is an element of autobiography in it. One interview has him saying: I’m gay and I grew up in Iowa, but it’s not really that autobiographical. My parents are very different than Dade’s parents. And there’s not really anything about his personality that is like mine. ….I grew up in a religious environment. The things in the library weren’t gay or lesbian oriented. My sexuality was forming in my mind in sixth, seventh, eighth grade, and I couldn’t find any young adults geared towards gay kids. When I found adult themed gay books that was kind of a big deal.

As for the ‘religious environment’, this is well described in the book as ‘crazy church.’ (Where ….:mid-hymn and twitched with the spirit. He said that it never ceased to terrify him, that he didn’t understand why anyone would want to voluntarily lose themselves in something when it seemed like life was all about trying to find yourself.)

It won the Stonewall Book Award It’s a classic coming of age novel but there have been many before. What might make this book different is that is more up to date, though the stupidly-named pop group ‘Vas Deferens’ doesn’t exist (nor does the Breathless Faggots), nor it is funny. Johnny Morgan does exist but I cannot work out why anyone would want a shrine to him in their bedroom. It deals with the awkward summer between high school and college, as do most others. The hero falls for the high school jock (who blanks him when he is with his sporty mates) but people like Patricia Nell Warren have dealt with this much better and more sexily.

I note that the hero’s mother shops before he goes to uni. and buys him five pares of jeans? That many? Is he going to bring his washing home every vacation? She also buys him a microwave and a fried. This Americanism seeks to have taken hold in the UK where students, after graduating, through all this stuff out saying ‘It was for uni.’ despite it being still perfectly serviceable.

The hero’s mum is going through a difficult phase of her life and he rightly recognises the sort of ‘crappy in self-help books’.

The invented small town of ‘Cedarville’ conjures up endless boredom. Maybe that’s why the hero ate two dinners one evening.

The best bit is the intro by e. e. cummings: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

How’s this for a cliché?: we were kissing again, slow and deliberate like ice melting on a countertop.

Being an American book, I had to look up ‘kabobs’ = kebabs! I had to look up ‘muy caliente’. It means “very hot”’.

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