Three gay men walk into a bar. One is 57, one is 37, and one is 17. The 57 year-old is a survivor of the AIDS era, a gay man who fought for his rights and watched many of his friends suffer and die. The 37 year-old just wants to settle down, find a man, get married, and paint the white picket fence. The 17 year-old is confident, sexually fluid, and lives openly. The 37 year-old envies the 17 year-old, whose own sexuality was hidden in fear and shame. The 57 year-old does not understand the 37 year-old. His generation fought for the right to be different, not want the same things as a heterosexual couple.
This isn’t a set up for a joke. It’s what Zak Salih is writing about in his debut Let’s Get Back to the Party. In such lively prose, Zak examines something that is one of the more interesting topics for me as a gay man in America today, “the paradoxes of queer life in contemporary America.” He does so with characters that feel so real off the page and with themes that you could discuss for hours. Zak doesn’t tell, he shows, and the result is a truly gorgeous, one-of-a-kind portrait of queer friendship, love, and a textbook for what it means to be a gay man in America over the last 50 years.
It is one of those books that I wish everyone would decide to read, not just gay men. I have always loved the quote by Herbert Spencer, “reading is seeing by proxy.” It basically means that reading allows you to see the world through another’s eyes. Let’s Get Back to the Party does this in spades, plus it’s just an entertaining read.
This book is one to party over! Now, let’s get back to reading it.