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?
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
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.
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.