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-Zook Of Harold, wen 4Orton THE BOOK OF HAROLD, THE ILLEGITIMATE SON OF GO By Owen Egerton DALTON PUBLISHING 240 PAGES, $18.95 lesbians resemble straight men’s, as does their “eye-blink auditory startle response” \(a hideous phrase referring men have bigger penises than their straight brethren. Now, let me first say that LeVay and the researchers he quotes seem to be worthy, sincere, ethical scientists, in passionate pursuit of empirical knowledge. LeVay does a remarkable job of synthesizing complex information and theories into palatable language. As a writer and thinker, he’s compassionate, cautious and convincing on a hot-potato topicand anyone interested in the science of sexuality would profit from reading his book. But I just can’t help finding the whole thing so frigging depressing. I mean, how reductive to consider something as ineffable as human sexuality from a purely biological perspective, as though we’re just so many cattle in the pasture. Where’s the stardust? Where’s the moon-glow? The whole time I was reading LeVay’s book, I found myself longing for that well-known sage of the mysteries of sexuality, Miss Tallulah Bankhead, who once described the sweet longings of her own heart thusly: “It isn’t the cock, and it isn’t the twat. It’s a look in the eye, and the faint whiff of lilac.” And if that isn’t a better explanation than the relative finger-lengths of the second and fourth digits, I’ll eat my hat. BOOK REVIEW Harolding the Times by Spike Gillespie OWARD THE MIDDLE OF OWEN EGERTON’S wonderful new novel, The Book of Harold, The Illegitimate Son of God, a single sentence simultaneously describes the character, Harold, and the thing that makes Egerton’s writing sing: Life shimmered around him because someone was finally paying attention, someone was getting it. The story, a parable, is told in the voice of Blake, a one-time disciple of Harold, who may or may not have been some new Messiah. Blake comes to know Harold as a co-worker in a mind-numbing, soul-sucking corporate gig, a road to hell without even the benefit of well-intentioned paving. Blake is no fan of Harold, at least not initially. When it falls to him to fire Harold, the event serves as a catalyst for mayhem. The Book of Harold opens decades after the firing, beginning with a literal jumping-off point as Blake, tired of living on the lam for decades, leaps from a cliff hoping for a swift end. Instead, he is captured and spirited away to a subterranean cell, supplied with little beyond three hots and a cot, paper and pens, and a I got a deeper look at how one person could be selected as a religious centerpiece, be it Buddha, Mohammad or Jesus. collection of books, most on Haroldism. He spends his days writing journal entries that detail his situation and his historyhow he fell into the role of Harold disciple, surrounded by polar groups of equally rabid Harold followers and detractors. Blake paints intimate portraits of the former group, their strengths and failings, and a faith that traverses the spectrum from his own Doubting Thomas moments to the unshakeable confidence of Harold’s devout peers. What is Haroldism? Perhaps a better question is why Haroldism? Jesus Christ, believed by untold millions to have been the original Messiah, once was just a man. Or so it seemed. According to the New Testament, another truth surfaced, all that Sonof-God stuff, and things reached, as it were, critical mass. Haroldism follows a similar trajectory, and Egerton explores the reasons behind this similarity. The narrative, presented in vignettes, weaves a rich, taut tapestry. Blake jumps from real-time basement contemplations to reflections on days spent with Harold, to components of the new religion sonal state when Haroldism gained purchase on the collective mind. Multiple storylines dovetail by the book’s conclusion, which, bully for Egerton, involves a twist I didn’t see coming, one that throws both reader and characters for a major loop. I came to the Book of Harold as a disgruntled, disillusioned ex-Catholic with more than a few bones to pick with the church. Given this background, I could easily see intentional parallels between The Big H and The Big JC. You might surmise that my bias against the church would gain strengththat I might hold up The Book ofHarold as proof of the lunacy of organized religion. Instead, I found myself fascinated as I got a deeper look at how one person could be selected as a religious centerpiece, be it Buddha, Mohammad, Jesus orhellsome reality-show star riding our sheepish devotion to awful TV. The Book of Harold easily could have gone in another direction. Some other writer might have chosen a snarkier path, or lampooned organized religion. Instead, Egertonlike Haroldpays attention and gets it as he dissects life’s grueling details, the complex and mixed emotions we humans feel in our day-today existence, and the way many of us grasp for religious explanations. His writing lends sensitivity and contemplation to the reasons we seek hope and sink into despair, sometimes in the same moment, often looking for some Other to offer us salvation. I am a big-time practitioner of dog-earing, forever bending page corners to remind myself of passages worth revisiting. My copy of The Book of Harold is, like some well-worn Bible, a collection of bent pages, each marking characters, religion, emotions, even the weatherto which I have vowed, like a devotee, to soon return. CO Spike Gillespie is a writer who lives in Austin and blogs at spikeg. corn. WATCH Owen Egerton read his story “Nativity” at SEPTEMBER 17, 2010 THE TEXAS OBSERVER ;