Saturday Review: “Complicated Connections: Young Love In The 1970s South” a review by David Deutsch of Jim Grimsley’s The Dove in the Belly
A classic trope in literature, as in life, is how much a younger generation thinks they are the first ones to ever Do A Thing. Jim Grimsley’s latest novel explores the 1970’s gay community on a college campus, specifically at his own alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill. His protaganists, Ronny and Ben, navigate their gay relationship both out and in the closet.
Another trope is how there are moments in our present that we only realize the significance of through looking back over the lens of time. In Grimsley’s latest novel, surely that moment must be the “Carolina Gay Association’s sponsorship of the first Southeastern Gay Conference in April 1976. While Grimsley does not give specifics of the conference, likely because Ronny did not attend, we should consider what he wants us to read into its occurrence. The historical event offered speeches by Loretta Lotman from the National Gay Task Force, Perry Deane Young who wrote for North Carolina newspapers, and Frank Kameny who was well known for battling the US Civil Service Commission. Most importantly for Ben’s storyline, Dave Kopay, a former football player for the Washington NFL team who came out in 1975, suggests a possible path for Ben.”
Deutsch points out in his review how this novel explores many of the same themes as Grimsley’s earlier novels. “Grimsley’s allusions to multiple sorts of 1970s queerness evidence his continued interest in parallel times and in terms that evoke the slippery and shifting interpretations and possibilities in our world….” As we are once again (still) fighting for everyone’s right to love who we wish with consent, it’s both tiresome and yet energizing to reexamine how prior generations handled their own reality and growth.