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– Photography by Fred Goudon

Even before it was published late last year, this debut novel was attracting major buzz: firstly, its US publisher Knopf paid the author an advance of two million dollars for it and, secondly, due its length of over 900 pages. The investment seemed to have paid off when notoriously tough New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani gave the book a glowing review. However, other reviewers were less enthralled and have complained that the length of the novel is excessive. What’s in it for the gay reader? Two of the main characters are a biracial gay couple. Mercer Goodman is from Georgia, a recent arrival in New York, working as a school teacher, and with ambitions to write the great American novel. His boyfriend, William Hamilton-Sweeney, has turned his back on the privilege and fortune of his wealthy family, and dropped out. He achieves cult fame as the singer in a short-lived punk band and dabbles in painting, but his real passions are heroin and anonymous sex. Straitlaced, naïve Mercer can’t compete with the allure of either.

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