There came a time in this brief, beautiful book that I sat in my chair, looked out my sixth floor window and wondered if it made sense to continue. A sudden burst of emotion had sprang from the pages to knock me back, to wet my eyes just enough to say it was a glare, and to darken my desire to read further. Such is the nature of this book, I believe — it is, from start to finish, a book filled with deep emotions, questions, and an answer we are in desperate need of today.
There are a few things that pushed me into the river that is this book. The author connects the two loves using the color periwinkle (a flower used as a love potion), mentions Gustav Holst’s The Planets and cites Psalm 139 as an inspiration. Of course, I must mention the use of Somewhere in Time as well. Perhaps this is just my sentimentality, but how could I not dig deep into this book? But, I guess a proper review is in order, before I languish with the sanguine that is my current emotional state.
In a recent article on Huffington Post, either the author or the editor included a slideshow entitled “the best gay kisses.” The article was about the lesbian wedding held next to the Westboro Baptist Church. The dichotomy here is one this book addresses. Whereas we often see gay love as sensational (or exploitable), especially by Hollywood and the porn industry, this book focuses on love — the love between two, normal, beautiful people. The article on HuffPo focused on the same thing, to be sure, but the slideshow included scenes from such movies as Cruel Intentions featuring a deceptive Sarah Michelle Geller seducing her step-sister only for the tantalization aspect of it . Indeed, we are often fascinated by sapphic love. Pornography abounds with women engaged in sex acts with other women. Even laws are written in a biased way. We could go on and mention the rise of pornography viewing in hotels hosting religious conventions, but I think you get the point.
It is a fact that this book does not once mention the words gay, homosexuality, or lesbian – words often used as a labeling feature in order to know who is different from us. In fact, there is not a sex scene, nor anything remotely sexual divorced from the physical manifestation of love (the wedding kiss) in this book. Why? Because the focus of this book is not on the heterosexual abuse of homosexual loving acts and on the beauty of a song of love, the song of all songs, sung between two people who happen to be female. No doubt, this will put many off, that there is nothing controversial here. Well, except…
Except the author has decided to dedicate a few pages filled with poetry, beauty, and something quite divine in our otherwise rather dark literary landscape littered with books on how to dominate, subjugate, and confuse love with torture. I might use some scholarship to argue the biblical Song of Solomon is made in the same mold, to use love and human workings to speak to liberation from (sexual) oppression. No doubt, I would run afoul of the ancient Rabbis and modern Evangelicals who would rather see the book remain only as an allegory of God and his people. The Address of Happiness is rather like both views on Songs – that of a myth, laden with the burden of professing something we would rather not confess ourselves (love is indeed love and should be free of our inhuman mechanizations) and an allegory we wish desperately to be true (God is indeed guiding our love).
Ernest Hemingway was known for this journalist-style writing. Short, succinct sentences carefully designed to deliver the full impact of each and every word. David Paul Kirkpatrick advances Hemingway’s plain sense writing to a new, melodious level. Each line acts like a story within itself, full of imagery demanding its own voice. While the book is overtly prosaic in its form, left out to warm in the reader’s sun is the truly poetic turn of the author’s pen.
There are two voices here — rather two stories told simultaneously for a while. Both voices are given their own style of speaking. This is a rather delightful move — so that we the readers aren’t allowed to sit idly by, repeating the words from the paper to our mind and back to our internal tongue without hesitation. By splitting up the story as he does, Kirkpatrick is able to remind us of the two intense spirits at work here. We aren’t allowed to read both protagonists the same — but must teach ourselves to see them as individuals. Only when the story is combined do we get a sense of intertwining styles. By then, however, we know our characters and their individual voices. In this manner, Kirkpatrick begs his readers to examine each character as a real person, individually. What does this examination tell us? It is deceptive because it demands us to recognize the beauty of the individual in love rather than the labels we apply to groups of people.
Is this a Christian book? Perhaps. It is a book Christians should read, to be sure. Is it a “gay” book? No more than it is a “straight” book. It tells the story of the Great Singer of Songs who, before time began, sought to bring two souls together. Once enjoined to a body, they start down a path to meet each other. This is a story of love. Do we not all want the same thing?