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Not Quite Mature

Not Quite Mature


Tom Bradley's Lemur may not score points with LGBT activists, but it's entertaining nonetheless.

What must happen at the end of all comedies? On the last page of this novel Spencer Sproul stands in fond reverie on the front stoop of his newly successful restaurant (significantly, a family-style establishment). At Spencer's side is his favorite employee, his "special-best busboy," Spud.

What is this place, other than a chapel? And what is the seven-foot tall fiberglass effigy of Lemmy, the restaurant's Lemur logo, other than a god, presiding over this sacrament? What color is Spud's busboy apron but bridal white? And as for the wedding party, who are they but the hundreds of morbidly obese customers queued up for the brunch buffet?

Like all comedies, Lemur is the story of a fragmented self becoming whole. And the wedding at the end is requisite, the bringing together of the conflicting elements of the protagonist's nature.

Spud is not exactly the most attractive character in the annals of fiction, yet Tom Bradley has cast him as the successfully won love-object. The fact that it's a gay marriage and that the bride is a compulsive nose-picker and borderline mentally challenged might seem calculated to anger activists. Tom Bradley has never been loath to anger folks with his writing.

But a mark of the maturity, indeed, the triumph of any progressive social movement is its ability to embrace other than cosmetically ideal public personas, types, stereotypes, and archetypes. Think of Sidney Poitier. And then fast-forward through 20 years of cultural ripening in the African- American community, and consider Cedric the Entertainer -- particularly in his role as the Right Reverend Beverly H. Hooker in the film Kingdom Come.

To have Spencer and Spud get symbolically hitched at the end glorifies gayness in all its manifestations, warts and all. Lemur can be read as a homophilic tract, at the very least. A touching gay wedding, like the ones you used to see on CNN when it was still news, where the bride and groom were often pudgy, dressed clumsily, in violation of every golden gay rule, can do more to legitimize the practice than any 10 Attitude Magazine photo spreads. These are just plain old schmucks like the rest of us, trying to temper the agony and horror of incarnation by cleaving to someone stuck in the same bucket of monstrous worms.

In these latter days of metrosexuality, even hetero males are investing emotional and financial resources in the perpetuation of the gay ideal, trying to live up, superficially at least, to the stereotype of the consummately presentable gay. Where does that leave the shlubs and the pudgy dorks and stupid homos who have no sense of style and no elegance of self-expression, but still love and need each other just as deeply?

An Early Frost was the first major movie to deal with AIDS. In that film the great actor John Glover says, very cattily, "He's not good-looking enough to be gay." That was 23 years ago. Lemur has just followed the natural progression, taking that same maturation process further in the same direction: from averageness to sub-par.

In the meantime this novel has introduced a type that seems new to the public eye, but has obviously been there under our noses ever since alternative sexuality began: the compulsively nose-picking borderline mentally challenged member of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community. Spud's IQ and personal hygiene don't necessarily make him inhuman -- quite the opposite -- nor do these demerits and handicaps render his love illicit.

Spud is distinguished by what appears to be a depth of stupidity that sinks to pre-linguality. Finally, on the last page, he breaks his near-bestial silence, with the penultimate utterance of the book. It's a malapropism, but what the hell? Lemur could do as much to raise the rainbow flag as two medium-size Midwestern Stonewall Day parades.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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