Based on a True Story
by Jameson Currier
Chelsea Station Editions
Reviewed by T.J. Banks
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he phrase “loving someone to death” is an inherently disturbing one. There’s something almost oxymoronic about it: After all, shouldn’t we be loving that person to life, not to death? It evokes images of violent crime, not of great love.
Which brings us to Jameson Currier’s Based on a True Story, a novel about both. Tom, the narrator, is “an accidental writer” who has published a book of “short, episodic stories of my ex-boyfriends and ex-lovers—optimistic and dauntless young men like myself who had come to the city and been caught up in the unfortunate AIDS epidemic.” He and his partner, Harley, have invited Scott and his younger lover, Aidan, to stay at their place in the country.
Initially, Tom’s not all that comfortable with Aidan, who strikes him as being pretentious and too young—“almost a member of another generation”—to “have personally experienced the changes that the AIDS epidemic had so tragically and unexpectedly wrenched upon myself and Scott.” He can’t possibly have that sense that they do of “carry[ing] ghostly baggage strapped to our backs.”
But Aidan has some ghostly baggage of his own, as it turns out. During the course of the visit, the couples begin talking about Perry, Aidan’s nephew, and his older obsessive partner, Neil. Tom, who knew Neil many years earlier, is trying to connect the dots between the “non-descript” guy he once knew and the one all too willing to harm his lover.
The story-within-a-story device is probably one of the oldest ones ever known. Currier handles it well, using the inner story to subtly bring buried emotions and fresh insights to the surface in the outer one. In trying to make sense of the tragedy, Tom comes to understand his own story—which is not one about “loving someone to death” but about love.
T. J. Banks is the author of Sketch People, A Time for Shadows, Catsong, Houdini, and other books. Catsong was the winner of the 2007 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award.