Tuesday, April 6, 2010


By Christine Wunnicke (Translated by David Miller)
ISBN No. 978-1-55152-344-6

First things first, this is not a sequel to “Brokeback Mountain.” An homage maybe, but not a sequel. There are similarities, of course. Both books are slender, written by women, take the name of a place for their title, and are about gay cowboys in the American Midwest. After that, they’re completely and totally different books. Sort of.
Whereas “Brokeback Mountain” was set in the 1960s, “Missouri” takes place in the wild west of the 19th century. And whereas ‘Brokeback’ began with a sad memory, “Missouri” begins with a makeover. Yes, a makeover. Here, Douglas, a poet and intellectual sodomite of Oscar Wilde dimensions has come to cool his heels and change his hair colour after a nasty bit of scandal has driven him from England. Things look bleak in this drab little town of landmarks with hee-hee names like Bone Bank and Wabash River and New Harmony. That is, until Douglas fulfills every sex tourist’s dream by being both robbed and taken hostage by a scruffy, young outlaw by the name of Joshua. I’m not giving anything away when I say that the two men click because that’s what it says they do on the book’s back jacket (well, actually a bit more poetically: “a remarkable secret is revealed, these two very different men grow closer”) or that their relationship is threatened when Douglas’s brother tries to save him from his uncivilized surroundings (or as the book jacket says: ”Douglas’s brother tries to ‘save’ him from his uncivilized surroundings”). In-between all that is a love story of surprising delicacy. Still, I guess the biggest curiosity of “Missouri” is just how far the sex scenes go (one thing I won’t be giving away) which is a pity because while “Brokeback Mountain” re-wrote the Marlboro Man mythology of the old west, “Missouri” means to re-write the pop cultural mythology of “Brokeback Mountain.” Sad ending or not (and I’m not saying it is or isn’t) the characters in “Missouri” learned a lesson from ‘Brokeback.’ The result is that they all seem to know how short a life can be and that every second – especially in a book this thin – counts.