Table of Contents
Also on this website:
Toby Johnson's books:
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"
You're Not A Wave
What is Enlightenment?
What is reincarnation?
How many lifetimes in an ego?
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Buddha's father was right
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Two Loves
Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook
Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer
The Way Out by Christopher L Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson
Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry
Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr
Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois
Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson
Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low
Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman
The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman
Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor
Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine
The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada
The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook
The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther
The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel
Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak
Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez
Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr
Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman
Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano
The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo
The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar
Occam’s Razor by David Duncan
Grace and Demion by Mel White
Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso
The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery
The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
The Scar Letters
6x9 trade paperback, 234 pages, $16.95
Reviewed by Toby Johnson
The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther is a sensitive, beautifully-written and ultimately moving and heartwarming account of a modern gay man coming to terms with personal pain and human suffering.
As a young man, a little dumpy and socially-inept, Rudy Dallmann was the victim of a cruel hate crime. Mugged outside a gay bar, he was raped and terrorized at razor point by teenage queer-bashers. Double F's—faggot and fairy—were carved into his chest with the blade.
The novel begins with this horrendous event. A warning: the first chapter is hard to read. The story is told in Rudy's first person, so the reader is inside his experience. As things begin to unfold, we learn Rudy's become reclusive, sexless and isolated, living in the country as a nurseryman with his flowers as his only friends—save one, a gay guy named Tex whom he's got an unrequited crush on, an AIDS care volunteer who'd come to the rescue following the assault so many years before.
As the eighteenth anniversary of the attack is coming up, Tex encourages Rudy to break out of his shell and to see a therapist to work on getting over the trauma that still burdens and cripples him. We discover Rudy's history through the introspection that follows from being in therapy. The story is beautifully told as recollection is woven into the narrative.
In coming to terms with the assault, Rudy goes in search of the police records, and though there was no report filed on the queer-bashing, because the boys who attacked him were picked up for car theft that same night, he is able to find photos and discover their identities. Rudy seeks them out. The two have gone very different directions: Bud into a life of failure and petty crime, Stan into a successful job, a bland marriage and team swimming.
Rudy joins the swim team, and whole new layers of the charaacters—both Rudy and Stan—are revealed and the story takes a surprising and satisfying turn.
Each chapter of The Scar Letters begins with an epigraph citing terrible punishments meted out to poor homosexuals in the past. One whole chapter, in fact, recounts a tale of gay persecution in a medieval prison. This isn’t just a light romance, though it has moments of lightness and of romance. Underlying the story is a question of how we bear the weight of human suffering that comes down to us all through history. So much pain has been caused human to human, and especially to people of different sexuality.
In the end, Rudy transforms his life, forgives the perpetrators seeing how they themselves were also victims of that horrendous act, resolves the trauma of long ago, and finds the love he has been longing for—and it's a wonderful twist.
Perhaps the message is that in our happiness today as self-affirming gay men and well-intentioned seekers of love and fulfillment, we somehow receive recompense for the horrors wrought upon our predecessors.
The Scar Letters is a beautiful, wonderfully readable, and spiritually, emotionally uplifting novel of personal transformation and triumph. A great read.
Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.
Johnson's Lammy Award winning book
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are
available now from Lethe
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