On the advice of his therapist, Viktor begins keeping a journal. In it, he writes about the daily trials and tribulations of a fifty-something man just trying to keep it together. This is no mean feat when he’s recently had his heart broken by his now-former lover. Viktor may live in New York City, but starting over in the world of romance is something of a minefield. For one thing, Viktor’s a bit choosy when it comes to men. He may be over fifty, but he’s still got some standards. Plus, he’s been experiencing trouble with stamina in the bedroom. Of course, these are issues he ought to discuss with his therapist and doctor…but Viktor isn’t convinced either man has the solutions he needs.
Against a backdrop of a tumultuous love life, Viktor’s friends are going through rough patches emotionally and Viktor himself finds his publishing job isn’t nearly as secure as he’d like. Really, what is Viktor supposed to do when his friends keep making questionable choices? And how is it his fault that a good manuscript is hard to find nowadays? When did life get to be such a big pile on? And what can Viktor do about it? Clearly, the trips to the therapy couch aren’t as impactful as Viktor would like…but maybe if he stops focusing on everything that is going wrong, he can finally focus on the things that are going right.
I chose this book for Older/Younger Hero Week in our Reading Challenge Month. Given that I think people “of a certain age” are under-represented in many venues, I was eager to find a book that focused on someone into or past mid-life (which, for the purposes of this challenge, was set at 40). The main character in Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon is somewhere past 50 and the biggest age-related topics seemed to be his flagging sexual performance and, to a lesser extend, job security.
The book seems to flow around three aspects of Viktor’s life: his friends, his work, and his love life. I bristled at how Viktor ridicules his friends. One of his friends is a dog person and when the dog dies, the friend is inconsolable. Viktor refuses to support his friend (who just wants to take a walk in the park on a dog-related anniversary) because Viktor has a first date with a man he picked up in a grocery store. This is apparently the friend who consoled a distraught Viktor when Viktor’s 12-year relationship ended. Viktor seems to hate that this friend is a dog person who prioritizes being a dog parent over finding the next hot date…and Viktor calls this (and all his friends) moronic in the love department. Similarly, at work Viktor is quick to invent mean names for the managers (who, admittedly, are little more than caricatures of corporate bigwigs). In one of these scenes, we learn Viktor cannot use a smartphone—a fact which leads him to losing out on signing a big author to his publishing company. For me, scenes with Viktor’s friends and at his work serve merely to reinforce to me that he goes beyond the “curmudgeon” mentioned in the title and firmly establishes himself in the “mean girl” or “asshole” category. For these reasons, I was unable to feel any sort of connection or sympathy for the MC.
The third aspect of the book focuses on Viktor’s lovelife. One positive about this thread is that it challenged my own ageism. Viktor is fifty plus and there are two men whom he engages romantically/sexually (at different points in the story). The first prospective boyfriend is Lloyd, a forty-something gay man Viktor meets in the supermarket. They hit it off personally, but end up being sexually incompatible. The second prospective boyfriend is Casey, a twenty-something curious man and for whom sex with Viktor is his first experience with same-sex sex. While both relationships end without a match for Viktor, they did highlight that he has some strong internalized sex hangups (bottoming, for example). Again, I was constantly checking myself and trying to not be overly judgemental about a fifty-ish man trying to have a serious relationship with a twenty-something man. For what it’s worth, the Casey/Viktor relationship didn’t feel anything like a sugar daddy scenario, but rather that these two men honestly liked one another.
Overall, however, I just did not find the style of writing or the events very engaging. The combination of vitriolic main character with too slice-of-life/stream-of-conscious writing was a huge miss for me. In point of fact, I wasn’t exactly sure this was even supposed to be a story in the epistolary style. First, Viktor seems to be able to write anywhere and everywhere. Second, the author includes chapter headings, which spoil the data entry titles apparently given by Viktor. While I think there is a reasonable balance between the three aspects (work, lovelife, friends), I didn’t feel like these aspects built towards anything. Nor were the characters or events sufficiently entertaining to capture my attention—I literally stopped reading several times to pursue my e-library to find snippets of old favorites, just as a treat to get me motivated to finish the slog.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Older/Younger Hero Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of FIVE $20 JMS store gift cards from JMS Books! Commenters will also be entered to win one of our three amazing Grand Prize book bundles. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Older/Younger Hero Week here.