cover image The Abomination

The Abomination

Paul Golding. Alfred A. Knopf, $26 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-375-41055-0

Already a hit among British literary critics, Golding's debut novel is a fluently written but ultimately hollow, pretentious tale of emotional isolation, disconnection and spiritual malaise. Its protagonist, Santiago Moore Zamora, is a witheringly caustic, tragically hip, cosmopolitan homosexual of mixed Spanish and English parentage, who can't seem to form a meaningful relationship with any of the (many) men that he meets. He endeavors, earnestly, to figure out how he's become such an angry, embittered soul, reflecting first upon a pampered but stultifying childhood in Spain, and then upon his horrendous formative years at an unnamed exclusive English boarding school. Never having received the kind of emotional support and sustenance that he desperately craved from his shallow, self-involved parents, the young Santiago goes groping blindly for love and friendship within his new environs, with eminently disturbing results. He loses his virginity--at the age of nine--to Mr. Wolfe, a schoolteacher who adamantly asserts that he's not gay, only bisexual, and who proves to be even more needy and clinging than Santiago himself. Much of the rest of the novel, which concerns Santiago's subsequent dalliance with his music teacher, Dr. Fox, and his eventual, agonizing betrayal by his best friend, Louis Clifford Cross, seems intent upon exploring the manner in which the arrogant benightedness of the ""straight"" world and the catty superficiality of chic gay society tend to make life hellish for sensitive, discerning homosexuals. Golding's themes may be intriguing, but his presentation is disjointed, lacking in psychological resonance and emotional clarity. Santiago Moore Zamora emerges as a tiresome, smugly unsympathetic figure, whose tragic alienation seems little more than his just desserts. Reader's Subscription, Insightout (Bookspan's new gay and lesbian book club) selections. (Oct.)