Literary Gaydar


I can’t help but whip out my gaydar when I read, scanning every interaction on the page for even a hint of homoerotic subtext. Many queer* people might know the feeling of reading something in which a character is obviously queer coded, and waiting with breathless excitement as tension in their relationship with another character mounts. They wonder, “Is the author going there? Is this what I think it is?” Too often, this is followed by crushing disappointment when they learn that, no, the two characters whom they wanted to kiss are not going to kiss. But sometimes, in all the twists and turns of a great story, two characters of the same gender kiss and it almost makes up for all the times when they didn’t.

Listening for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry, translated by Arielle Aaronson and Madeleine Stratford (published by QC Fiction, June 217), follows the crisscrossing lives of Hollywood, a graveyard groundskeeper who lives without a heart, and Xavier, a troubled pharmaceutical salesman; they live in different cities, but they meet in their dreams. Global weather patterns go haywire and Montreal melts while Europe swirls with snowstorms, and the two men grapple with relationships, their health and a series of confusing, complicated events that bring them together and apart.

Listening for Jupiter isn’t marketed as LGBT Fiction, which begs an inquiry into what’s being said when a work is categorized as LGBT Fiction. It’s often considered its own genre in some weird act of segregation, as if literary fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, poetry, comics and memoirs can’t deal with queer themes. If queer creative work needs to be labeled as such, then Hollywood blockbusters where the chemistry-void male and female lead end up together should feature a warning about compulsive heterosexuality. So Listening for Jupiter isn’t LGBT Fiction. It’s a concise, dreamy, breathtaking novel in which two men fall for one another; I won’t say which two men and spoil it for you more than I already have. Their attraction isn’t a main point in the narrative, nor is it an awkward footnote: it just happens, as naturally as it might happen in real life. For this relationship to exist organically in a novel full of magical realism is especially encouraging to see—dynamic non-heterosexual characters existing in a well-considered narrative isn’t half as common as you’d think.

You should read Listening for Jupiter for its beautiful language, engaging dialogue and genuinely unique story, or because it’s whimsical, funny, heartfelt and pleasantly absurd, but I wouldn’t blame you if you read it because you’re thirsty for queer representation. Of course, none of this is to say that novels with a dash of gayness are better than novels that centre themselves around gayness, but there’s something so exciting about being led shyly into queer written love, as thrilling and nerve-wracking as navigating the tumultuous queer dating scene in real life.

* When I use the word “queer,” I use it as a term to mean anyone who identifies as something non-heterosexual.

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