Cover image for The coming of the night
The coming of the night
Rechy, John.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
244 pages ; 22 cm
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John Rechy's new novel is a return to the themes and scenes of his classic, best-selling City of Night and a bittersweet memorial to a lost world -- gay Los Angeles in the moment before AIDS. It is 1981, a summer night, and an unscripted ritual is about to take place. Young, beautiful Jesse is celebrating one year on the dazzling gay scene and plans to lose himself completely in its transient pleasures. He is joined by Dave, a leatherman bent on testing limits. A young hustler, an opera lover lost in fantasies of youth, a gang of teenagers looking for trouble -- as the Sant'Ana winds breathe fire down the hills of Los Angeles, stirring up desires and violence, these men circle ever closer to a confrontation as devastating as it is inevitable. Lyrical, humorous, and compassionate, The Coming of the Night proves again that as a novelist and chronicler of gay life John Rechy has no equal.

Author Notes

Rechy is an important gay writer also linked to the Beat Movement, whose work has been recognized by a number of prestigious grant nominations or awards, including one from the National Endowment for the Arts. He grew up in El Paso, Texas, in a poor, Mexican American family. Because of his poverty and his ethnic heritage, he learned very early in life to feel himself an outsider, which was intensified by his later experiences as a gay hustler traveling America in search of his social and sexual identity. He came to popular and critical attention with his first published novel, City of Night (1963), which was a bestseller and was nominated for the International Prix Formentor. A fictionalized account of his travels, the novel focuses on the people whom the unnamed narrator encounters on the hustling scene in a number of cities, including New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Together, these cities make up the titular "city of night," or, as Rechy writes, "the city of night of the soul." A state of mind rather than a particular place, this "city"---modern America---is where hypocrisy and homophobia are reconciled with the fact of homosexuality in various forms, and poverty may be more spiritual than material. The book owes something to two classics: Jack Kerouac's Beat novel, On the Road, which celebrates countercultural alternatives to middle-class culture and lifestyles, including bourgeois marriage and family life, and Djuna Barnes's modernist novel Nightwood, which explores a tragic gay "nightworld" as a symbol of the modern urban wasteland. Rechy addresses similar themes in a later work that is equally well known, The Sexual Outlaw (1977), which he has described as an experiment with the novel form. Ostensibly a documentary of the life of a gay man, the book is also a critique of American values and morality. Commentaries throughout the text are really journalistic essays that expose the double standards and double binds of a "closeted" culture, in which many fear to be openly gay because of homophobic reprisals. Rechy has suggested that all of his work (which includes plays, essays, and reviews, as well as novels) articulates the need to preserve gay "difference," which he associates with "abundant sexuality," in the face of increasing "heterofascism." (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a return to some of the themes of his first novel, the gay classic City of Night (1963), Rechy follows an ensemble cast of mainly gay characters over the course of one day in 1981 Los Angeles, just before the AIDS crisis hits. As the Santa Ana winds, said to provoke violence and desire, blow fire toward the city, the characters are introduced in short, interlaced sections. Beautiful Jesse, celebrating a year on the gay scene, plans to abandon himself to unlimited desire; Clint has fled troubling experiences in New York, where the first rumors of AIDS are surfacing; Dave, into leather and s&m, is looking for new and dangerous pleasures; Father Norris, a troubled priest, searches gay haunts for a young hustler named Angel, who supposedly has a tattoo of a naked Jesus on his back. Meanwhile, a trio of armed thugs is intent on gay bashing, and everyone moves inevitably toward a West Hollywood park, and tragedy. The gay characters are obsessed with sex, hustling, body building and cruising; sex scenes are plentiful, graphic in the extreme and certainly not for the squeamish. At the same time, Rechy doesn't skimp on plot, character or action, and the ingenious ending takes an unanticipated but thoroughly logical turn. In its gritty evocation of time and place, the novel goes beyond its narrow subject matter, reaching for a broader and deeper understanding of an era. (Aug.) FYI: Rechy recently received the William Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 10th annual Publishing Triangle Awards for gay literature. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Rechy's landmark 1963 novel, City of Night, broke new ground through its open portrayal of a sexually active homosexual underworld. His newest novel continues to document that life. Set in Los Angeles in 1981, The Coming of the Night follows a cast of colorful characters as they confront the dangers of being gay and passionate. Police harassment, gay-bashing, and public scorn and humiliation are ever-present dangers. And AIDS looms on the horizon, blowing into the lives of Rechy's characters like the Santa Ana winds that also figure into the narrative. Throughout, Rechy creates a stark, stinging, and anxious atmosphere in which desire makes people do awful things and lust commingles with promiscuity, obsession, self-hatred, depression, and narcissism. It's pretty raw stuff but a good read. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/99.]ÄRoger Durbin, Univ. of Akron (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.