Reiter, Jendi. Two Natures. Hilo, Hawaii: Saddle Road Press, c2016. 374 p. $22.00 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-0-9969074-2-2.
Two Natures is a literary quality gay novel by an award-winning author of poetry books and short stories. Although this is Reiter’s first novel, it received a first prize in ‘best gay contemporary fiction’ from Rainbow Awards. ‘Bildungsroman’, a charming German word for a coming-of-age novel, is an apt word to describe this story as it tells the story of Julian Selkirk, a native Atlantan on scholarship studying fashion photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
The novel takes place in New York City in the 1990s, ten years after the AIDS disaster struck. Gay young men are getting tired of the restrictions and are not always careful. Julian falls in love with Paul, a working class man from Pittsburgh who works as a physical trainer. They develop an open relationship as Paul gets into drugs, porn and contracts AIDS. A political activist named Peter helps Julien cope. Together, they care for Paul, who then dies. His straight-laced family offer no recognition of Julien’s role in his life. Julien, Peter and friends drive to Pittsburgh for the funeral, a decision that causes a scandal.
Admittedly, fashion freaks will love this novel more than I did. Outside of fashion, the realistic gay drama was more than enough to maintain my intense interest. Quality writing abounds. “The film of another day developed in shades of gray, roofs and windows emerging from the bath of darkness, touched with the pallor of dawn.” Characters are finely drawn and dialogue is genuine.
This is a truly fine novel that belongs in collections of current gay fiction and will be enjoyed by all lovers of quality writing on gay themes.
James Doig Anderson
Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science, Rutgers University