Manage episode 355277121 series 2381791
Luke Rutledge is a writer from Brisbane. A Man and His Pride is his debut novel.
In late 2017 people across Australia are debating, marching and furiously returning their postal ballots in the Marriage Equality Postal Survey.
Sean’s is stuck to the fridge and he’s not sure if he’ll get to it.
Sean’s been out for years and marriage is not something he sees in his future. Until three months ago he’d never even had a steady boyfriend.
But when that chapter of his life comes to an unceremonious end, Sean finds himself thinking differently. Is it possible there’s more to life than Grindr and hookups?
Sean’s finally looking to the future, but inevitably that means he’ll have to come to terms with the past.
There’s a lot to love about A Man and His Pride but I feel the novel’s strength lies in the way Luke Rutledge has drawn the character of Sean and the way he draws out aspects of Sean’s character through glimpses of his past.
It is quite the challenge to build a narrative that turns on a single character. There is of course an ensemble of support that Rutledge draws on to paint a picture of Brisbane’s gay scene but it is Sean we return to.
The Sean we meet is hard to like and he doesn’t exactly work to gain anyone’s approval (unless he’s swiping right). Sean’s narcissistic and more than a little shallow about anyone who’s not a perfect ten.
When he meets William though he finds himself evaluating the things he’s valued so far in his life. William’s definitely not Sean’s type, in fact he needs Sean’s help to even get onto the scene that Sean is a self-proclaimed master of. Yet in William’s openness and willingness to put himself out there Sean finds another way of being.
Through his burgeoning friendship with William though Sean is exposed to a world where gay men make loving committed relationships work.
A Man and His Pride is set against the backdrop of the final weeks of the Same-Sex Marriage plebiscite. The question means little to Sean’s life because he can’t see commitment let alone marriage in his future.
I remember this time and how the vitriol was turned up by the usual crowd of conservative bigots but as a straight, cis man I wasn’t in any way the target of these public attacks. Through A Man and His Pride we are given some insight into the wrenching daily battle to try and capture the public’s sentiment.
In a particularly moving scene Luke works at a volunteer call center supporting the vote. On a random call he must face up against the sort of vitriol and hate he hasn’t experienced in years. He’d thought he was hardened to words spewed from hateful mouths but it cannot help but impact him.
A Man and His Pride challenges stereotypes of gay men and their relationships by forcing Sean to confront his own narrow views. It doesn’t offer simple solutions because it understands that anything too simple is likely to be a facade.
As we follow Sean we are forced to confront his careless behavior even as we learn why he has never been able to open up or trust someone wholly. While we, as readers, may know the ultimate result of the same-sex marriage vote we aren’t given the same sort of guarantees about Sean’s future.
And it is the strength of the storytelling that we come to care so much about just that.
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