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Secret summer love: Michael Lowenthal says his new book, Avoidance, about a summer-camp crush, is a nod to classic" homosexual novels" of forbidden love.

With his new novel, Michael Lowenthal is shaking off the confines of contemporary gay fiction. Although Avoidance (Graywolf Press, $16) concerns a camp counselor who's smitten with one of his young male charges, "it doesn't have a single gay word in it," according to the author. "The narrator would never say he's gay; he's never been to a gay club or dated a man or even read a gay magazine."

Lowenthal likes to think of Avoidance as an old-school "homosexual novel," the sort of literary fiction popular during a time when gay love was written mostly between the lines. "When the rules of repression were stricter, gay writers had to come up with more creative ways to write about romantic attachment between same-gendered people," Lowenthal says. "Their writing was more powerful as a result. I tried to re-create that tension for myself while I was writing this book."

The author is bracing himself for questions about whether Avoidance, part of which is set in an Amish enclave, is autobiographical. "Yeah, I have had experience with summer camps, and, yeah, I know some Amish people," he Concedes. "But this is not my story."

Lowenthal did endow the novel's narrator, Jeremy, with the same physical scar--a mangled finger--as his creator. "I did that deliberately," he says, "because I want to force people to think about who they think pedophiles really are. I'm a clean-cut guy who went to an Ivy League college, and if they're wondering if I'm the man in the story, then maybe they'll let go of the idea that pedophiles are all scruffy-looking guys wearing trench coats and passing out candy on playgrounds."

Pela is the author of Filthy: The Weird World of John Waters (Alyson Books).
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Author:Pela, Robrt L.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Dec 10, 2002
Words:288
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