Entertainment » Books

The Decade of Blind Dates

by Ellen Wernecke
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Oct 25, 2008
The Decade of Blind Dates

Who remembers dating before the Internet? Richard Alther does. The author of The Decade of Blind Dates has created around protagonist Peter Bauman, a divorced gay New Englander taking his first tentative steps into the whirlpool of his own love life. He's ready to experience everything, but there's no way he could have been prepared for this. The result is a novel that reads like a deeply felt memoir in which the search for love is always paramount, even when the sex is great.

After the amicable end of Peter's marriage, the former adman turned painter and his teenage son settle in a ramshackle farmhouse not far from his best friend Barry, whose 25-year relationship (long since ended) provides every example Peter needs in how not to find love. Through newspaper personals, innumerable set-ups from friends and a letter written on a whim to a fellow artist, he discovers the spectrum of gay life, from a buttoned-up doctor with a deal-breaking fealty to the Republican party to an eccentric, emotionally impenetrable basketmaker.

The closest fictional cousin to "The Decade Of Blind Dates" is probably a chick-lit novel in which the search for Mr. Right -- preferably right now -- drives the narrative more than any other endeavor, including Peter's career as a painter and his difficult, still undrawn relationship with his dead mother. (Not that most chick-lit novels include the letters with which, in virtually every case, first contact is made between our hero and his potential conquests. And what letters they are!) But Alther's first novel is both deeper and more optimistic, because Peter learns both that there are some things more important than romance -- like his continuing friendship with Barry -- and that, truly, one can't hurry love. Instead of giving up after the doilymakers, the unendowed and -- shock of shocks! -- the odd female, Peter is consoled by his own self-esteem; there's a lesson in which any single person can take comfort.

iUniverse, $17.95

Ellen Wernecke’s work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and The Onion A.V. Club, and she comments on books regularly for WEBR’s "Talk of the Town with Parker Sunshine." A Wisconsin native, she now lives in New York City.


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