Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back to School Assignment

Ahh. Back-to-school time. I’m still catching up on some reading at the beach, but next Wednesday when my students come into my classroom they’ll have a quiz (I’m evil that way) and a form to fill out about their attititudes on reading and writing. One of the questions is about their favorite book. I fill out the form every year right along with them and while my answers about a lot of things change, my favorite book is always the same: The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Some people have a keeper shelf, some have a desert-island-keeper shelf. This book is on a shelf by itself, the throw-it-in-my-coffin-with-me shelf. (I know. It’s kind of Ancient Egyptian.) This is the book I want brought to the hospital if I’m stuck there. This is the book by my bedside so I can read it on those nights when I need a comfort read.

And what’s really funny is that it took me some time to pick it up, despite the recommendations of trusted fellow readers. Because like Marty and Maia were saying in their two previous blogs, there are formulas that just make people turn away. I just couldn’t wrap my head around this setting. Late forties? Circus family? So not for me. But one day I picked up The Catch Trap. Around the second page I became unconscious of the act of reading. The story simply unfolded in my head, and when I finished it a few hours later, I flipped right back to the beginning to start it all over again.

There’s a lot to get past before you pick it up. The back-cover blurb makes it kind of unpalatable. And I was a little concerned about the age difference between the two main characters: Tommy is fourteen and Mario is twenty-three when they meet. You’d think for me to praise a book this highly it would be steamy, but it’s not. The description of the sex is vaguer than an impressionist watercolor that got left in the rain. But the characters dug right into my brain and their hold hasn’t lessened even twenty years later. The story is absolute magic.

So what is it? Historical fiction? Gay fiction? Family drama? I don’t know. It’s a romance and it isn’t. It’s a coming of age story and it isn’t. It isn’t the best book ever written but it’s my favorite over a lifetime of voracious readership. It’s a part of my head now, and probably pieces of my writing are a breadcrumb trail right back to The Catch Trap.

MZB is gone, I’m sorry to say, but she left us more than one gay-positive story to read. I’m pretty sure The Catch Trap is out of print now, but you can find it at Alibris. I’d love to hear what other fans of our genre think of this classic.

Okay now, class. Let’s get to work.


Anonymous said...

...I became unconscious of the act of reading. The story simply unfolded in my head

Aren't those simply the best kinds of stories? Suddenly it's one in the morning and you don't care, because you've just been somewhere magic.

After you and TP recommending this I think I might just need to put it on the to buy list. :)

K.A. Mitchell said...

I hope you have that magic experience with it. Like I said, it isn't perfect, but I love the story she tells. And angst! Ah the angst! If I need to cry on cue, I can just come up with a few lines and instant waterworks!

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