cover image Nightswimmer


Joseph Olshan. Simon & Schuster, $19.5 (252pp) ISBN 978-0-671-88580-9

Intensely personal and infused with a rare degree of immediacy, Olshan's ( Clara's Heart ) first venture into gay-themed fiction succeeds on several levels. A dramatic death brings Sean Paris into the life of narrator Will Kaplan, who is still haunted by the disappearance 10 years earlier of his lover. Was Chad struck down by a ship during one of the duo's frequent nocturnal swims off the California coast, or did he purposefully vanish from Will's existence? Hampered by Will's obsession with Chad (and lingering attachment to ex-lover Greg) and by Sean's harmful concealment of parts of his own past, the two can only skirt the edges of involvement. What might initially appear a protracted game of musical beds, however, has deeper undercurrents, as the novel's beautifully etched characters explore the themes of longing and loss. With the constant fear of AIDS looming over its vivid Manhattan setting, Olshan's story spins out through flashbacks within flashbacks--indeed, nearly all of the novel is one long remembrance . In consequence, the plot occasionally becomes difficult to follow, but readers who navigate these waters will be richly rewarded. (Sept.)