This week’s TowleREAD comes from author Christopher Bollen from his new novel Orient. Towleroad’s book critic Garth Greenwell raved about Orient last week so we thought we would ask Bollen if he could do a reading for us.
This section takes place toward the end of the book—and for those who are reading for the murder-mystery element, it might be best not to listen because a few plot twists are revealed along the way. This is a scene between Mills and Paul. Mills is one of the two protagonists of the novel, a 19-year-old orphan type from the West who came to New York City for a new start but quickly spiraled into drugs. While in New York, he happened to meet Paul, an older architect who is an Orient, Long Island native and recently took over his parents’ crumbling house. Paul invites Mills to Orient to escape the city for a while and to help fix up the house. Of course, not long after Mills’ arrival in the tiny seaside village of Orient, a series of strange deaths begin. Suspicion naturally shifts toward Mills, the newcomer, and Paul tries as best he can to protect him.
I chose to read this scene, because it typifies the relationship between these two very different men. Mills is searching for a family, and Paul, who had lost his own family, is searching for one too. Their connection builds throughout the novel, as if testing each other as a potential surrogate family—son to father, or younger brother to older brother. Mills is gay, and he’s never quite sure if Paul is or isn’t gay; Paul’s constant attempts to please his parents might have kept him closeted his entire life. In some loose way, it demonstrates the gulf in acceptance, even self-acceptance, between gay men of two different generations. In this scene, Mills has finished cleaning up the house and packing the bric-a-brac into boxes, and he’s still unsure if he’s being invited to stay on with Paul in Orient or if he’ll simply be driven back to New York. A new suspect emerges in the murders, so Mills has been temporarily cleared as the village bête noir. As night sets in, and as his purpose for coming to Orient has concluded, Mills is left to try to reach out to Paul, to understand him, to love him, to find in him some sort of home. Easier said than done. Thank you for listening.
As part of its sponsorship of TowleREAD, Audible is offering a free download of Christopher Bollen’s novel ‘Orient’ at Audible.com with a 30-Day Trial membership for Towleroad readers.
Bollen lives in New York City. He regularly writes about art, literature, and culture. His first novel, Lightning People, was published in 2011. He is currently the Editor at Large at Interview Magazine.
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