Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall

W. B. Yeats said that nuns and mothers worship images of timeless perfection. So do gay men — at least those at the center of Neil Bartlett’s dreamy, perceptive new novel. Whatever else drives them, Bartlett’s characters are haunted by the kind of loss that Tennessee Williams rendered so poignantly, the gradual destruction of innocence and youth.

Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall describes a love affair between two men, habitués of the same gay bar in an unspecified city in an unspecified era. Boy is young and beautiful, without will or opinion. He has come to the bar as a tabula rasa, the perfect object of fantasy and desire. O, his lover, is older, more experienced. His emotions are as veiled as the longing that sets him apart. Boy stirs something in O and the other bar patrons, some image of lost perfection.

Bartlett captures the men’s coming together and the world that fosters it, and he also details the strange, beautiful rituals of the bar, which becomes the most vivid character in the novel. A-

Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall
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