Monday, 16 July 2012

The Epic Love Story of Doug and Stephen, Valerie Z Lewis


- Review by Kazza K

This is a quirky, random, funny book with rather endearing, if not offbeat characters. Therefore I enjoyed the writing immensely.

Doug is thicker than a 2 inch T-bone, he's pretty, models, and makes Derek Zoolander seem like Einstein in comparison (sorry Doug, much love to you though). In Doug’s defence, he does do justice to the axiom that thinking is overrated. He also sees the silver lining around things, sees the good in people, even ‘long-suffering Stephen.’ Oddly, he also listens, and at the most important moments does or says something profound, he doesn’t know it, it just happens. After hearing Stephen say how hurt he's been by being called "a friend" by his ex partner, Phil, to Phil's parents, Doug simply rang his mum, introduced Stephen as his boyfiriend and they had a nice converstation. It was rather beautiful. Stephen had an actual moment of rare and genuine affection and appreciation for Doug -

"Thank you," Stephen repeated. "For being proud of me."

To get full impact you need to read the book. It's like that, there are so many wonderful words and potential quotes, but they are long, and you just can't do them justice in a review.

Stephen is the king of ‘misery loves company.’ He’s convinced he has some depressive disorder, sees the worst case scenario in everything. Hates everyone, himself included. He threatens people dryly with muderer and punching. He is an assistant editor at a Gay magazine, The Flame, yet gets to write fluff about cats in orange swimsuits (I made that up, but that’s the gist of it). He feels the injustice of being a persecuted minority, Stephen's a none-to-happy gay. He loves to read books that pay homage to his suffering and justifies the worst in people and the world. But he’s been hurt, he’s a sensitive soul underneath all his bitter words and thoughts; so he takes absolutely everything to heart.

Doug decides he's going to be gay for Stephen, and boy does he follow through on it. No matter how much Stephen puts him down, snarks at him or carries on, Doug, God bless his innability to hear what's being said, just hangs on in there. I mean they share a deep love of Detective Logan from Law and Order. What more could one want? Oh yes, there's also an intrigue in the book, a corporate scam to investigate, but Doug,Stephen and other characters are really the heart of this book.

Both Doug and Stephen, in particular, are the primary medium for light yet sure social commentary. This is not to say the cast of secondary characters aren't, they most definitely are - inclduing homeless people, a drug dealer, drug buyers, corporate baddies, a photographer, family members and remembered friends.

I loved the observation about the corporate world - one guy is well educated, smart, works hard, but there’s no recognition. Another is pretty to look at, none too smart, incapable of putting more than “the top is itchy” into his, supposed, column that other people stretch out for him, and gets paid for it – welcome to the perplexing world of business.

While this is an extremes-in-character piece of writing, it’s a pretty good satire on life, work, a shitty healthcare system, the lemming mentality; and being middle class and smart doesn't often equate to being happy or right. All done in a humorous way.

My only criticisms would be that the book got a bit bogged down in New York at times, and the ending did the book no favours at all. It literally just stopped.

This is a hard book to classify. It's LGBT at heart, but it's not your stock standard romance, just for the record. What it is is a good piece of writing. Valerie Z Lewis should be proud of what she has achieved with The Epic Love Story of Doug and Stephen. Her observations of people and life are sharp, her general writing witty and clever. If you like quirky and unusual with interesting characters then I highly recommend Doug and Stephen.

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