Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Review: We Disappear by Scott Heim

Scott Heim
We Disappear

Published by Harper Perennial

Reviewed by Shaun Frisky
Original photos by Kurt

Have you seen the film MYSTERIOUS SKIN? Watching hot young actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt whoring himself out to men was reason enough to get me to the cinema. But the film also happens to be one of the most emotionally moving, thought-provoking, edgy and stylistically beautiful queer movies of this century. The film was based on Scott Heim’s first novel. This year Heim released a new novel called WE DISAPPEAR and it’s every bit as startling and diabolically sexy as that first book.

In WE DISAPPEAR narrator Scott is a frequent drug-user who is uncertain with the direction of his life. He returns to his native Kansas to care for his mother Donna who is suffering from a terminal illness. While reading the book you’ll no doubt be feverishly wondering what’s based on the author’s real life given that there are many obvious parallels. However, Heim saves you having to conduct a series of Google searches because there’s an interview with the author at the back of the book which will answer many of the “What’s real? What’s fiction?” questions.

Rather than taking it easy and emotionally reconnecting with her son, Donna becomes obsessed with researching missing children - not seeking to recover them, but understand the mechanism of their disappearances. She frantically tries to connect this with her belief that she herself was kidnapped as a child. She even goes so far as to develop a dangerously close rapport with a young man who wants to disappear. The abducted becomes the abductor. That’s when Scott discovers the near-naked boy chained in the basement. And that’s when the story and the narrator’s psyche takes on the feeling of a run away train.

In the end the mystery is in a sense solved, but we are left with more questions about the validity of Scott’s conclusions given the narrative’s near-hallucinatory tone. The desperation to uncover the mystery of his mother’s past runs parallel to his own sense of trying to keep his head together. Like many guys today, this sexy queer dude is just scraping by. He comes close to vanishing himself through crystal meth abuse, his unfulfilling NYC job, random short-lived sexual encounters and a lack of supporting loving friends. The effect of WE DISAPPEAR is lasting like observing something illicit through a keyhole. If you want cutting-edge and a rusty-haired writer whose dick you’d gladly kneel down and worship – Scott Heim is it!

Thanks to Kurt for the photos. See more of his work at



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