“I always think, less is more, when it comes to writing about sex.” Says Christopher Castellani, when the subject of physical intimacy comes up. And, erotic descriptions of gay sex do come up, in Leading Men, Castellani’s sumptuous new novel. The author gently leads the reader through exquisitely realized scenarios that are full of passion; of lust; of yes – sex in a world of agreeable young gay men who appear to swan around languidly from one late night after another to nattering effortlessly as they lay photo-ready in the Mediterranean sun. Christopher paints his beautiful vistas of Portofino, or Rome or wherever he chooses so realistically, you have to remind yourself – often – that is a work of fiction. The clever title, Leading Men, perfectly announces the complexity and essence of this book – relationships. Christopher Castellani bases his gorgeous novel on the relationship between Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo, who were together from roughly 1947 to 1963, a stretch during which the playwright composed some of the American theater’s enduring classics, including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Suddenly Last Summer” and “The Rose Tattoo.” When they met, Tennessee Williams was already flush from the success of “A Streetcar Named Desire” From the first sentence, Castellani wows the reader with an almost unnoticed assertiveness, “Truman was throwing a party in Portofino, and Frank wanted to go.” No last name is given and just like his scenes of intimacy, Christopher allows us, the reader to fill in the unspoken words. It is this brilliant writing-gift that makes Leading Men so wonderful. Castellani conjures up a beautiful, haunting story. He introduces characters who are not only believable, you’ll be thumbing through John Lahr’s biography of Williams to find out how you could have missed them. In Leading Men, the author questions our idea, if not our ideal of what a relationship is – or could be. Make sure you don’t miss Christopher Castellani’s spirited conversation about his book in the next edition of Life Elsewhere.
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