Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
Breath & Shadow
Summer 2012Volume 9 Issue 3
Sometimes Love Is Enough
By Erika Jahneke
Everett and Reid are young-adult men finding love in the late ‘70s. In addition to the
drama surrounding coming out for the first time, the thrill of first sex is rendered in
sometimes exquisite, and always explicit detail. (Readers of delicate sensibilities should
be prepared, even though it never strikes me as exploitative or gratuitous). There is a
class divide between Reid the scholarship student and Everett the casual preppie.
There are many books that cover similar ground, such as Armistead Maupin’s Tales
of The City series, although Maupin’s work has more wackiness woven throughout.
This book is more touching and heartfelt, though the guys’ taste for getting caught
having sex is often used for comic effect. Jim Provenzano’s “Every Time I Think Of You”
diverges from that sort of book in about the last third, when Everett becomes paralyzed
following injuries sustained in a”freak accident” during a lacrosse tournament.
In some ways, this presents a challenge to the disability-rights savvy reviewer. Namely,
is it enough, especially for a book written by an able-bodied writer, to feature a
consistent disabled character, or does every good piece of writing on the subject have
to make some kind of profound, empowered, statement?
As a disability-rights manifesto, this book could be graded as a failure. Some people
would immediately pounce on the fact that the disabled person is not the narrator: the “I”
in the story is the able-bodied boyfriend who spends the first weeks after the accident
wondering if continuing to love Everett means giving up the full range of physical
pleasures he’d just discovered. He finds out later in the book that he’s not terribly
interested in sex without love and connection, so even that anxiety is not the rejection it
seems at first blush.
However, I think this criticism would be ultimately unfair and should be rejected if we
ever expect depictions of disabled people in fiction. Having all disabled characters free
from insecurity and doubt would probably create a stereotype as impossible to live up to
as the beatific Tiny Tim poster-child type. None of us are role models all the time, and
I think Everett’s struggles seem real, considering he goes, in an instant, from someone
to whom much of life comes easily(with the possible exception of being used as a pawn
by his divorced parents,) to someone who has to struggle a lot just to get through every
day. Initially, he can’t cope, and pushes Reid and everyone else away to focus on the
possibility of regaining his lost abilities in rehab, but when the possibility of miracle cure
is denied him, he is finally able to tell the narrator Reid how much he loves and needs
him. Reid, who has developed self-confidence during a summer on his own as a park
ranger and early studies in botany at college, provides a catalyst for Everett to explore
independence, rather than be hovered over by his guilt-stricken mother and family
Admittedly, the section at the end where the guys work out their living arrangements
works out a little too neatly, without tears and paperwork and Everett stranded on his
speakerphone held captive by bad Muzak, but I think that happens for the same reason
that readers followed Scarlett O’ Hara in the curtain dress rather than actually into the
assessor’s office to pay the taxes on Tara.
Those of us who have had these experiences, know there are details involved, but they
don’t really enhance the story and might actually take away from the sense of youthful,
romantic optimism that permeates the novel as a whole. “Every Time I Think Of You” is
fundamentally a romance, and romances, whether gay or straight, are designed to fade
to black after the first kiss following that last misunderstanding. I, personally, wouldn’t
have this book any other way, even though we never learn if Reid or Everett embrace
disability history beyond learning that songwriter Cole Porter was paralyzed, or if they
stay together once they make it to the dorms that following fall.
They make the decision to work on it. Sometimes, that’s enough.
“Every Time I Think of You”, CreateSpace/Myrmidude Press
$14.95 US 160 pages, copyright 2011
Ever since being born in Riverside, CA (her mother calls it "California's weirdest
town,"even before that), in the early seventies, Erika Jahneke has done her best
to chronicle the weird and wonderful about life as she sees it. Writer and blogger
of both fiction and journalism(at least until that consultant slot at Leverage and
Associates opens up), Erika writes about politics, pop culture, and why good people
occasionally do bad things and sometimes get away with it. She lives in Phoenix,
obsesses about Baltimore, and dreams of San Francisco. She is moderately hard
at work on researching her first novel. For the third time. She is also attempting to
master screenwriting software. Flames, love letters, and booking requests can be sent
to email@example.com, where they will be screened by her security Jack Russell.