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Subject: MacEmm

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Date Posted: Mon, Feb 26 2007, 23:25:24 GMT

Dear Jamie O'Neill and all,
I have just finished ASTB. I too was enthralled by the book, which a friend gave me last fall with an ironbound guarantee that I would adore it as he had. I too devoured the book, then stopped for what I feared (rightly) would be a tragedy at the end. Yet perhaps because I am 40, and have already known love and idealism, I find myself drawn more and more to MacEmm. He is, I think, the most complex character, and the one who changes most. He goes from bitterness and humiliation to a sense of purpose, and even to imagining a proud Gay identity. He is the man redeemed by love, an unselfish love for a man whom Cyrano-like, he wins for another. It is MacEmm who is rewarded, because with Doyler's fate, he is the one who gets to have his beloved, even if he knows he can never be the true love of Jim's life. I am put in mind of Mary Renault's THE CHARIOTEER, where Laurie Odell, a wounded soldier, is torn between an ideal, chaste love and a worldly one--and eventually takes the latter. But then, I would wonder whether Jim and Doyler, had he survived, would have been able to stay together.

One thing that does not satisfy me is that in all the references to Casement, including Evelina's praise of him as the only man she ever loved, there is no mention of his own Gay life, which would lead him to be renounced by the Irish for whom he gave his all. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop--perhaps by MacEmm, with his private information from his London days, deciding not to mention the rumors.

I hope you know, Jamie O'Neill, how much your work means to all us readers. I have one other point upon which I hope you can enlighten me.

I was touched by the scene of the man raising his hat as Jim and MacEmm and the other prisoners are being exposed to public abuse. Yes, MacEmm compares it to Wilde (where Robert Ross publicly defied the crowd by paying homage). Are we supposed to know who this is? Is it Mr. Mack?

I had to wonder, Jamie, if you had read Mary Renault's THE CHARIOTEER, in which Laurie Odell has to choose between an ideal and chaste love or a human one, and ultimately settles for the latter.

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[> Subject: Re: MacEmm

Greg (abashed)
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Date Posted: Tue, Feb 27 2007, 4:35:53 GMT

I realize that I neglected to state in my last post that I excused myself in advance for using your Christian name. I am not normally so presumptuous, but the etiquette of the forum seemed to impel it. I should also add that as an expatriate American now living in Montreal I was delighted to read your article on Canada but greatly disappointed in that I was not here for your Montreal appearance. I am sorry to have to break the news that Montreal now has a law banning smoking in bars and restaurants, but I hope that this factor will not keep you from returning to our bilingual hotspot.

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