The contemporary story deals with modern gay life. The historical novel within the novel is set in late 1800s America with a sweet romance.
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The Books of Toby Johnson
Getting Life in Perspective is a post-modern novel about a big city literary editor who, when faced with serious illness, retires to the country to relieve stress and to write the novel he's always been intending to write. Living alone in a ramshackle old mansion in the Texas Hill Country, he begins to imagine that the characters of his novel are real. Two young gay men from the 1890s then appear to him and recount the story of their lives.
In the turn-of-the-century story, the two characters, having managed to find one another against great odds, seek refuge in a gay utopian colony in Colorado loosely modeled after Edward Carpenter's farm in Sussex, England. There they discover a gay positive, post-Christian, Whitman-inspired spirituality.
The writer is never clear whether he is seeing ghosts or simply very vividly creating his novel. But the Topper-esque ghosts playfully assist him in coming to terms with his own self-pity and fear of dying.
It's a sweet, occasionally sexy, historical romance with a contemporary spiritual/philosophical message woven in--along with justs a touch of the Twilight Zone.
As Tom and Ben cuddled together sandwiched between the blankets, they stared up at the night sky. It was truly incredible. They were high in the mountains, as close as you could get on earth to the stars, and their light burned down in myriad points of brilliance. Tom noticed he could make out lights further down the road. A blazing fire in a hearth or perhaps the steady light of kerosene lamps suffused a warm glow through the windows of what appeared to be a long, low rambling house perched at the end of the valley right on the edge of the mountain ridge that comprised the town of Perspective, Colorado. "That must be our destination," he whispered to Ben. They both fell asleep imagining what they were going to find there.
When Ben thought about utopian colonies, as Tom had said Professor Hauptmann characterized the Clear Light Colony, because of his seminary background, he naturally thought of St. Ignatius Loyola and the early Jesuits. They had been Spanish soldiers and the paintings of them hanging on the walls of St. Athanasius' had shown them against the backdrop of old Spanish villages. Ben drifted off into a dream of buildings with red tile roofs and walls of white, faintly pink stucco.
"I think we shouldn't show up too early," Tom said in the morning, "give 'em time to wake up before visitors arrive."
"I agree," Ben answered, rolled over into Tom's arms, and closed his eyes ready to go back to sleep. The spot where they'd camped was shadowed by the mountain on the other side of the valley so sunrise came late. Though they'd placed their bedroll atop a mound of thick soft grasses, it had still made for uncomfortable sleeping. Neither was too anxious to wake fully.
After drifting in and out of lazy morning sleep, they cuddled again and made easy love, then bathed in the warm pool of the hot springs. Ben playfully pushed Tom off balance so he fell into the cold swift current of the waterfall. They laughed and laughed and Tom, in turn, coaxed Ben near enough the frigid pool so he could throw him in as well. By mid-morning the sun had risen above the facing peak and its piercing warm rays dried them.
"Let's go see who this Montgomery Hightower is," Tom announced.