By Michael T. Luongo
Alyson Books, 308 pages
Reviewed by Steven LaVigne
Any book that begins with its leading character fighting off an attacker with a wooden dildo deserves attention. That book is Michael T. Luongo’s deliciously entertaining novel, The Voyeur. Write what you know, and always have an opening that will grab the reader are valuable pieces of advice for all writers, and Luongo’s novel definitely fits the bill. Inspired by Rudy Guiliani’s moralist campaign to clean up Manhattan, it’s the story of Jason Green whose job as a sex researcher will earn him a Ph.D. When a reporter misconstrues the facts, it sets the comic tone for the upheaval of Jason’s life.
Following the press coverage, Shelley, his boss, who’s always looking for methods of raising funds for her projects, She puts Jason in charge of an NIH study on HIV+ Gay men, that will take him into sex clubs, the baths and other dark Gay locales. Due to his upbringing, Jason’s a little like a fish out of water here, but he’s got the support of his office staff, including David, whose stiff and formal demeanor hide an interesting secret; Alicia, Jason’s close friend, who sometimes camps out in the office overnight rather than going home to her husband and family, and Ricky, hip, handsome and horny, whose attitude often forces Jason to question the realities of his life.
Because he’s so involved in his work, Jason has been ignoring his boyfriend, Mark to the point that their sex life is nonexistent. Convinced by Ricky that he needs to peruse the internet, Jason discovers that not only is Mark cheating on him, but the cheating has changed his health status, and that he’s now a likely candidate for Jason’s research. The Voyeur, then, becomes Jason’s personal journey toward self-discovery. Luongo adds a cliché character by drawing his mother as a bossy, but loving 1960s housewife, whom Jason loves teasing. The conclusion even pays homage to the cinematic version of Valley of the Dolls, and the reader understands how Jason will be able to face his future, with or without Mark.
Anyone who’s ended a relationship can appreciate how much Luongo’s writing captures the situations and can take comfort in the manner that Jason endures and articulates his feelings. The Voyeur is an enlightening and enjoyable read.
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Aside from his role as a regular contributor and reviewer for White Crane, Steven LaVigne is also a teacher, playwright, reviewer and director who lives in the Twin Cities. His work appears regularly online and he frequently adapts literature for children’s theatre. His most recent play, based on the Arabian Nights, was presented this past summer. He’s presently doing research for a new project.