Lee Houck
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Buy *Yield* by Lee Houck online

Lee Houck
352 pages
September 2010
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Yield always kept me absorbed despite the central protagonist of Houckís novel coming off as a bit self-obsessed and narcissistic in a community that sometimes places too much emphasis on sex and appearances. This tale is about the journey towards one man's emotional growth as Simon, a gay hustler, attempts to move forward into a new and passionate, more romantic stage of his life.

Most of the novel is set in Manhattan, the social milieu of the New York gay community. In this world of "neon glare and clipped conversations," sexual liaisons are the norm, Houck's characters exhibiting an exhausted world-weariness. Louis, Simonís best friend, is the latest victim of violent gay-bashing, his body unceremoniously shoved into the concrete pavement by a local gang. Thanks to the severity of his physical and emotional injuries, Louis is ensconced in Simonís apartment, his lucrative modeling career for Calvin Klein now a thing of the past.

Simon works as a file clerk by day, organizing medical records in the basement of a local hospital, enjoying the solitary hours as he stands guard over the anonymous numbers and patientsí forgotten histories. But, like blunt-force trauma, this peaceful bureaucracy is shattered by Houk's startling realistic writing as he details Simon's forays into the the seedy underbelly of gay Manhattan - the secret invisible transactions between strangers, the S&M parties, and the whispered, clandestine trysts in which the author's hero seems to vanish into a netherworld of transient and meaningless sex.

Meeting for kinky assignations with his older client, the enigmatic Mr. Bartlett (like ďa sagging version of himself, shrunken and almost captive insideĒ), Simon views these encounters through the prism of pain and pleasure, both delicately interchangeable and often indistinguishable. Sex for Simon is a way of escape, perhaps a way to compartmentalize his life. It isnít until he meets the handsome Aiden, his affable and kindly manner ďso soft, clean, and painless,Ē that Simon can perhaps finally yield from the madness that has plagued so much of his life as a hustler.

The novel is about Simonís aspirations, his dreams, and his friendships where love, sex and violence are fused in his psyche. A gray landscape spreads out below the crumbling edges of light. Sex is fluid, powerful, ethereal, yet also seamless, a literal neverending dreamscape of erotic desire which unlocks Simonís shattered, brittle memories of a mother who just wanted him to be happy and a father who wanted to think about his queer son as little as possible.

Simonís friends play an integral part in his journey: Farmer, a hoarder of books who aspires to be Simonís exclusive confidant; and Jaron, a self-mutilator, who regularly cuts himself and gravitates to Simon for help and advice. There are many quiet scenes with these boys living their lives, being themselves and loving each other as they cope with self-imposed isolation from the world. Even when it all seems hopeless, their struggles so insurmountable and their lives desensitized and frozen in time, Simon and his friends will always endure. Simon's story is our very own as he seeks freedom from the strictures of his past.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2010

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