New York City, 1995: Harry Charity is a sensitive young loner haunted by a disastrous affair when he meets Jay Bishop, an outgoing poet and former Marine. Propelled by a shared fascination with the unfettered lives of Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation, the two are irresistibly drawn together, even as Jay’s girlfriend, Zahra, senses something deeper developing.
Reveling in their discovery of the legendary scroll manuscript of Kerouac’s On the Road in the vaults of the New York Public Library, Harry and Jay embark on a nicotine-and-caffeine-fueled journey into New York’s thriving poetry scene of slams and open-mike nights.
An encounter with “Howl” poet Allen Ginsberg shatters their notions of what it means to be Beat but ultimately and unexpectedly leads them into their own hearts where they’re forced to confront the same questions that confounded their heroes: What do you do when you fall for someone who can’t fall for you? What do you do when you’re the object of affection? What must you each give up to keep the other in your life?
When I first picked up this book I honestly had no idea what the Beat Generation was. I had heard of Kerouac's novels and poetry, but had never really read anything he authored; however, after a little research, I was ready to dive into Beatitude, (clever title, beat + attitude). Jay, Harry,and Zahra's everyday lives and complicated relationships are chronicled throughout an emotion-fueled dialogue. What would happen if you found your soul-mate in someone you could never have? The interactions between Harry and Jay describe the depth of this conundrum from the beginnings of an innocent friendship to the eventual depression following unrequited love. I was pulled into the reality of their lives as soon as I "met" them, their characters fully-developed and easy-to-relate to. Everyone has their secret loves, suspicions, and fears, and sometimes those feelings can drive us to our most vulnerable points - this is evidenced in Larry Closs' novel. His writing style captivates the reader, making them a part of the characters' lives. The subplot about Kerouac and the beat generation adds to the overall tone; a welcome and interesting addition to the novel. I definitely saw some parallels between the lifestyles of Kerouac/Ginsberg and the main characters. Beatitude brought a generation that I had never heard of back to life. I would not call this book "gay fiction", it describes more of a deep male-to-male friendship that could possibly become something more, but there is a lot of tension, awkward moments, and envy between the friends. Overall, Beatitude is a well-researched and artfully-written novel about love, obsession, jealousy, and the experiences that make us human. I would have loved a couple more chapters, but hopefully Closs plans to write more in the future. Recommended for fiction aficionados and those interested in the Beat Generation.
Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)
* I received this book from the author (BookShots) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.