Length: 276 pages
Reviewed by: Timncalifornia
Harry Charity is a lover – a lover of words, books, and reading. The prose, poems, and lives of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and the early beat writers are the guides and signposts for Harry’s own approach to life. They are the idyll to which he aspires and while he’s not trying to re-create the early beat generation in mid ‘90s Manhattan, he certainly embraces the beatnik philosophy as a way- the way- to live.
When Jay Bishop joins the staff at the pop-culture magazine where Harry works, he discovers a fellow fan of the beats, a prolific (though unpublished) poet, and a fast friend. In other words, Harry’s ideal man is now working down the hall from him. The problem for Harry? Jay has a girlfriend. Harry is a year out from a hard break-up from a guy who didn’t love Harry as deeply as Harry had loved him. He has spent a year in solitude, nursing his self-esteem back to health, and he’s determined not repeat history with Jay.
I found myself strongly drawn to the character of Harry Charity and his gentle, meaningful, thoughtful engagement with life. It shows in all his interactions – with his boss, his co-workers, Jay’s girlfriend, even one-off encounters with merchants. Harry has an innocence that is inviolable and has nothing to do with naiveté or unworldliness. Jay is a decent, likeable person – entirely worthy of Harry – and sympathetic to our hero. Jay’s girlfriend is likewise kind and thoughtful. There’s no evil character to cast as an enemy in Beatitude.
In Harry Charity, Larry Closs has written a character who yearns not just for love but to understand love and the place it has in his life. This story is a romance and not a romance. Love, true and forever love, can take forms other than romantic. As the story progresses, the reader will be able to see Harry more clearly than Harry sees himself, will recognize his strengths sooner and will want to shake some sense into him for his blind spots.
The story is interlaced with references to the beatnik oeuvre but it’s not necessary to like or even be familiar with that literary school. I only have a passing familiarity with the beats and had a neutral reaction to that which I have read. However, I could relate to Harry’s and Jay’s passion for the beats because I’ve had my own fanboy experiences. I’ve envied and wondered at the tightknit, tumultuous friendships of bandmates and musicians, have thrilled to the lyrics of a song that put words to what I thought I, alone, felt. While I didn’t come away from Beatitude wanting to delve into beatnik literature, I did come away with a deeper appreciation for why others are drawn to it.
Five stars for this excellent, well-written story. Let’s all hope Closs has another book in the works.