18 Montrose voice / September 3.1982
Fun to Read
THE SPARTAN by Don Harriaon. Alyson
Publications, $5.95. Available through Wilde &
Stein, 802 Westheimer.
Reviewed by Daniel Curzon
International Gay News Agency
As I write this review, the Gay Games of
1982 is about to be held in San Francisco,
but the U.S. Olympic Committee won't
allow the use of the word "Olympics" is
this gay event. How dare anyone refuse to
let gay people use the word when gay people were a major element in Greek life?
Well, times certainly change. It's these
homophobes who should read The
It's an easy read that make ancient
Greek customs come to life, no small
accomplishment. Sometimes historical
novels can be crammed with far too many
historical facts for their own sake, but Don
Harrison does a good job of taking us on a
tour of ancient Sparta, Hellas, and other
parts of the past without forgetting his
main purpose—to tell a story.
The tale traces the episodic lite ot a
young wrestler, Pantarkes, as he strives
for glory in the games. The writer is especially good at de-my Btifiying the glamor of
sports, showing the tears, the torn tendons, and the transitoriness. He doesn't
idealize the past either. Losers are treated
with contempt; women have no rights, not
even the right to attend the Olympics.
If you think that sports are pretty trivial
preoccupations for grown-ups, as I do, you
may not like the focus of this novel. Yet
there is a coarse narrative vitality to the
whole book that keeps one reading.
The sexual behavior of the characters is
treated intelligently. Some of the characters are homosexual, some bisexual, some
heterosexual. Pantarkes, the hero, likes
men, but he knows that he must eventually marry and produce offspring, in
accordance with his society's expectations. The occasional sex scenes are natural, thank God, not the usual panting
disproportions of most gay magazine
The weaknesses of the book include
rushed clusters of dialogue that do not
read like anything any human has ever
said, as well as a tendency to rush dramatic moments. There is likewise a certain
pulp flavor to it all, with the author having
his wrestler-hero crack a neck whenever
the action is about to stall.
Nevertheless I would recommend this
novel. It has a good story, with a twist at
the end; it teaches something about gay
history; and it's just long enough. It may
not be art, but it's enjoyable for its own
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