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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 11 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 28
Seattle Gay and Lesbian Book Club is discussing Young Torless this month with movie excerpt accompaniments; community members are invited to attend this and/or future discussions
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Seattle Gay and Lesbian Book Club is discussing Young Torless this month with movie excerpt accompaniments; community members are invited to attend this and/or future discussions

by Nick DiMartino - Special to the SGN

This month Seattle's oldest LGBT book club is exploring the secrets of an Austrian military boarding school at the turn of the century, and watching the movie adaptation at the same time. Robert Musil's daring 165-page novel, Young Torless, has stayed in print for over 100 years because no one who's read it can quite forget it. To tease and torture book club members through the sometimes dense prose, the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Book Club has been and will be showing the prize-winning German film Young Torless in cliffhanger chunks over the five Wednesdays in July at their weekly meetings at Seattle Area Support Groups (SASG) (303 E. Thomas St.) at 6 p.m.

The short novel is a one-of-a-kind literary classic from 1906, an intellectually disturbing study of a boys' school where private games get dark and go a little too far - think A Separate Peace meets Lord of the Flies. It's a strangely modern examination of the confusions of youth (the real title is The Confusions of Young Torless) by a genius author all tightly controlled, deeply thoughtful and quietly scary in its depiction of the human capacity for evil.

Though the words 'Gay' or even 'homosexual' never occur, there are plenty of boys undressing and slipping into each other's beds, some by force. Author Musil based the novel on his own experiences and is often compared to Proust for his analytical description of the way this basically good-natured boy thinks. Written six years before Death in Venice, it's that same kind of German novella - a tight, distilled, multifaceted tale in luscious prose that dissects a boy and a society at the same time.

Do not read an introduction. You don't want any clues or spoilers. The last seventy pages are a sequence of climaxes that keep topping each other, building into excruciating suspense. You may think you know how it's going to end. You don't. This is my third time reading this little jewel, and it's dazzled me more every time.

Because the first half of the novel is sometimes dense going, we hope to lure readers along with movie installments from Volker Schlondorff's 1966 black-and-white German film adaptation, featuring 'utterly jaw-droppingly gorgeous boys in equally gorgeous cinematography' in the first film by the man who almost single-handedly launched the German New Wave and later directed the film of Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum.

The remaining installments of Young Torless will be shown on July 16, 23 and 30.



The Seattle Gay and Lesbian Book Club reads a different book each month, with multiple discussions of that book every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at SASG. Past authors have included Gore Vidal, Christopher Isherwood, Alison Bechdel, Andre Gide, Iris Murdoch, Mary Renault, E. M. Forster, Alan Hollinghurst, Mark Doty, Edmund White, Oscar Wilde and Larry Kramer.

Host DiMartino is a local bookseller of 44 years, book reviewer, playwright and novelist, author of several books that have been club selections, including Changes, a short story sequence taking place in the real-life Wallingford Gay bar, and The Devil in Love, the first volume of an eight-book Gay Italian fairytale epic.

It's a FREE public conversation about Gay literature: the classics, the living giants, and how the image of Gay people in fiction is changing as it enters the mainstream. Meetings are open to all; conversation limited to those who've read the book. Members are of all ages and reading experiences are welcome.

For more information, visit http://faculty.washington.edu/swittet/SGLBookClub/

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Seattle Gay and Lesbian Book Club is discussing Young Torless this month with movie excerpt accompaniments; community members are invited to attend this and/or future discussions
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