Friday, July 14, 2006

Review: Ron Nyswaner's Blue Days, Black Nights: A Memoir

Ron Nyswaner, Blue Days, Black Nights: A Memoir
published by Advocate Books
Reviewed by Gregory Woods

This brisk memoir will provide you with everything you didn’t know you needed to know about Ron Nyswaner, the man who wrote the screenplay for Philadelphia. The book’s main focus is his relationship with his master, a Hungarian hustler. Nyswaner falls in love with this man, and then suffers the usual problem of not knowing if his love is reciprocated, or whether he is just getting what he has paid for.

Nyswaner sums himself up in one sentence: ‘I was a middle-aged man who had loved a hustler; I was moderately successful in my work, abjectly lonely, probably alcoholic, certainly drug-addicted, self-absorbed, pathetically grandiose, but not without a sense of my own ridiculousness.’ To this vibrant mix of confessed weaknesses we should add self-harm and suicide attempts.

This is serious stuff, but Nyswaner can’t decide how seriously to take it. He has not quite shaken off the crowd-pleasing instincts of the Hollywood hack, so he has to make light of some aspects of his own abjection. But the book survives its uncertainty of tone. It would make a better film than Philadelphia.

Gregory Woods teaches gay literature at Nottingham Trent University. His poetry is published by Carcanet, his criticism by Yale University Press.


At 6:19 PM, Blogger Eric Anderson said...

If you like stories about men who fall in love with hustlers (or just beautiful prose and exhilirating honesty), Bruce Benderson's The Romanian is a brilliant book.


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