A Review of Laura /. Hobson's
By Scott Stebelman
Hobson, Laura Z.
City, New York
anting Adult. Garden
Doubleday & Company,
With the publication of Gentleman's Agreement, a novel exposing the ubiquity and vicious-
ness of anti-semitism in America, Laura Z. Hob-
son established herself as an uncompromising
opponent of prejudice. That was in 1946, when
America had just defeated "fascist" Germany
and the irony of our own discriminatory practices at home was inescapable. Three decades
later she is still angry, still disquieted by the internecine effects of bigotry, only the bigotry
she now attacks is sexual rather than religious.
Her new novel, Consenting Adult, is a novel
of pain, of a pain so deep that none of the characters can talk about it. When 17 year old Jeff
Lynn discloses his homosexuality to his family,
his mother's first feelings are that of an animal
"gored," wounded vicariously as she believes
her son to be wounded, yet rejecting of the "it"
within him. The father, a liberal publisher who
abhors prejudice in the abstract, compares the
son's homosexuality to "an earthquake, a hurricane, any natural catastrophe," and avoids seeing or talking to him for several months, as does
the older brother, Don. Family communication,
low before the disclosure, ends with it.
This lack of communication creates a literary
problem for Ms. Hobson. Because none of the
characters talk to one another, stasis results and
what we feel, unmercifully, for nearly 200
pages, is disappointment and frustration. The
point-of-view throughout is essentially that of
the mother, but she is a weak character who eschews conflict. For example, whenever she
questions Jeff about his welfare or his feelings,
he accuses her of "digging," which ends her
questions and any meaningful interaction the
two might have had. She is so eager not to step
on toes -her son's, her husband's, the psychoanalysts' Jeff goes to-that she remains inert
and pathetic throughout most of the book.
Even her marriage with Ken is lackluster: he is
impotent (which illuminates, to a certain extent, his homophobia), and his earlier stroke
prevents stressful situations with her.
The author wants to show growth in the mother, but because the main character is so weak
it can only be done through a deus ex machina.
a plot contrivance tnat essentially falls flat. Dr.
Waldo, the family doctor, calls her into his
office one day and reveals that a number of
psychiatrists no longer see homosexuality as a
sickness; and with that utterance the mother
is freed of her anxiety and can now totally accept her son and his lifestyle. The fact that it is
others who decide for her how she is to perceive
her son never dawns on the mother. What if
psychiatrists next year vote gays sick again?
Will her previous fears and suspicions return?
Her failure to resolve the problem internally
and decisively makes her sudden conversion
It is unfortunate that the reader never gets
Jeff's side of the story, never sees how he lives
his everyday life after he comes out, how he relates to other homosexuals and what fears con
tinue to plague him. But then, as the publisher's
blurb notes, this novel is "unique" because it
focuses on the parents' feelings rather than the
child's. Nothing is wrong with such a strategy;
what dooms the novel, however, is that those
feelings are never made dramatically presentable.
SUPPORT FROM WOMEN
(Corpus Christi) Among resolutions passed by
delegates to the Texas Women's Political Caucus meeting in Corpus Christi July 15-17 was
one calling for support of efforts to repeal laws
against homosexuality on both state and national levels.
^BAILEY ST. MMHEREHOUSE ^
Open 2 pm - 2 am
Drag Show Every
Fri. & Sat. Night
Bailey Street Wherehouse, First Annual Picnic
atQueens Points, 1:00 PM, Sunday, August31
FREE BEER AND FOOD
^ 259 Bailey. Ft.Worth J
Community News / August 1975 / 5