Sunday, December 7, 2008

A gay novel with a cricketing twist: OUT OF BOUNDS by Mike Seabrook

Summer's coming on in this country (Australia) and with the cricket on the tv and a whole cricket season in front of us, I had a hankering to read a gay cricket novel.

You think no such thing exists? Luckily, you'd be wrong if you think that! OUT OF BOUNDS by Mike Seabrook is a nice afternoon read for summer, north or south of the equator.

There's just enough cricket to make it a 'cricket novel' without the book getting so 'crickety' that a footy fan couldn't read it (or an American??). The story is also angsy ... quite rich with the paranoia about getting "found out" being gay. It was written back in the 1990s, and the edition I have is the one you see right here -- the GMP issue, with a much nicer cover (for me) than the other edition (see below).

Some readers are going to have a problem with this book because it features a school teacher of 29, and a kid just turning 18 who's fallen in love with him. Personally, I don't see a problem. At 17 or 18, people are driving cars, getting snockered, getting married, making babies, going to war and using machine guns, committing felonies, getting tried as adults, and being banged up in prisons. So what's so outrageous about a guy turning 18 having a proper love life?

And, assuming you don't believe that people should be forced into celibacy till age 21 ... and/or that it's morally bankrupt for a late-teen to fall for a guy of 29, there's nothing else in OUT OF BOUNDS to grate on your nerves. (If you have a problem with a teen falling for a guy of 30ish ... what about the 14 year olds who drooled over Han Solo? Harrison Ford was 34 when the first movie was filmed in 1976. The wicket gets a bit sticky around here!!)

OUT OF BOUNDS is about the relationship between a kid from a home controlled by religious nutters, and a teacher at his school. Cricket is their common ground at first, and when they fall in mutual lust, they find out they have a whole lot more in common! Then there's trouble with the school, and a blackmailer -- and the kid's parents turn out to be Christian above and beyond the call of intelligence ... complete morons.

The book is very romantic and not at all sexy, so if you're looking for something that's heavy on plot and sort of skirts around the tricky issue of gay sex on paper, this is a good book to start with. (Personally, I could've stood a lot more graphic treatment of the love scenes, but on the other hand the book is very romantic, and author Mike Seabrook definitely wrote what he intended to write. His love scenes are the kind you find in some romance novels where the characters slide into each other's arms, their lips meet, then there's three dots, two blank lines, and the next scene starts. Writer's prerogative, I reckon. For me, he could have jazzed it up more, but, there you go. That's just me.)

If I had any kind of a problem with OUT OF BOUNDS, it's the resolution ... and again, this is totally subjective on my part. The characters basically run away from the problem of getting caught being gay. They go to Paris -- which is fair enough. The French make a heck of a lot more sense on subjects like the Age of Consent, and being gay in general. But then you have this highly intelligent young man who's going to go to Paris to be a 'boy toy.' I don't say it doesn't happen! It does. But ... I have a slight problem with an intelligent young person letting their education go, not building a career, their own life, etc. etc.

(Why? Well, because it comes back to bite you on the ass when you're 35 or 40 ... about the time middle age sets in, your looks are past their use-by date, and maybe you're divorced or widowed, and suddenly you have to go get a job, and you can't, because you're unqualified for anything. Life is like that. It bites, if you don't stop it.)

But you can also accept OUT OF BOUNDS as a kind of fantasy in which the two handsome princes escape to the magical kingdom and live happily ever after. And if you like cricket (I do), there's a lot in this novel for you.

AG's rating: 3.5 stars out of five. Recommended.
Mike Seabrook's page at Library Thing:

Copies of at least one edition are available at alibris: