Sunday, August 11, 2019

Book Review: 'The Story of Teddy and Eddie' by James Halat

The Story of Teddy and Eddie
Author James Halat has experience from several locations of living. He was born in New Jersey, lived in New York City, and now lives in Tokyo Japan. To date he has published three books - SYNCOPATED RHYTHM, CLIFFORD AND CLAUDIA and THE STORY OF TEDDY AND EDDIE. Few authors can handle same sex stories as well as James as those who have had the pleasure of reading SYNCOPATED RHYTHM especially will witness. But fine as that story is, it s a novella. His full-length novel CLIFFORD AND CLAUDIA proved that he can interplay gay characters with aplomb and make his story so universally relevant that the reader can simply sit back and enjoy the entertainment. He carries that gift, developed even more fully, into this new novel THE STORY OF TEDDY AND EDDIE.

James’ elegant style of writing inserts italicized poetic passages, the thoughts of the narrator, into his prose – a technique that with lesser authors becomes disruptive, but in James’ case these passages elevate the meaning of the psychological dilemma of the story to even greater heights. This is a story that keenly explores sexual identity and does so not only in the present as our narrator Nino explains his days, but also reflects his past in a shadowy mirror that helps us understand and love the psyche. He opens the novel with the following: ‘Familiar shapes emerge from the darkness: A desk chair with a towel thrown over the back, books piled haphazardly on the shelf, Teddy’s sleeping profile in the other bed, one hand on his bare chest, the bedsheet pulled up over his naked hips. I rest my focus on him for a while. Motionless. Soft rhythmic breaths mark his sleep.’ And then italicizes the following’ Twenty years old, never been on a date, and living with a roommate I have a minor crush on. I can’t tell him, of course. I can’t tell anyone. I wouldn't know what to say. All I can do is invite him into the forest with
me, as I do the other boys.’

The plot summary walks around the periphery of the story well: ‘Nino is an atypical child growing up in a conventional New Jersey suburb in the 1960s. By the age of 12 he carries a bottle of whisky in his backpack and spends his days studying boys from a distance. His only rule: Look but don't touch. Then, in a way peculiar to being adolescent, he falls into a routine of mild detachment that never quite feels right; it often feels good, but it never feels right. Now, at age 20, and long settled in his ways, Nino is approached in the university library by a winsome looker named Aki. He suddenly finds himself looking for a place that isn't on any map, and wanting to go there. Not knowing what to do, he turns to his best friends, Teddy and Eddie, for help. Thus embarking on a breathless joyride of the senses that, in the end, drops Nino off at his destination. Compelling, sexually charged, and awash in anxious uncertainty, The Story of Teddy and Eddie follows Nino as he makes the terrifying choices no one should ever have to make, illuminating the indelible impact of childhood and memory on decisions so close to the heart.’

Jamie O’Neill’s ‘At Swim, Two Boys’ has a similar this impact. But for this reader, having read all three of James Halat’s book, this young author is most assuredly a unique voice who is well on his way to becoming an established, significant American author. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, October 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.