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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Basketball Jones- A DL Love Story Or A Slap In the DL Face?

Okay, so it's been a minute since I have done a Book of the Moment review. I started one, for Eric Jerome Dickey's Pleasure, but never finished the post. I have still been posting what my heavy hitter book is of the moment, for the past few months, on the right side of my blog, but just haven't felt like writing about them. It kinda started to feel a bit school book report-ish. However I was recently compelled to write about my latest Book of the Moment, Basketball Jones.

I just finished reading, Basketball Jones, and I felt the need to write about it. It was a quick read, actually. I mean compared to some of the other books I've read recently. Compared to Dickey's more recent books, which have been close to 500 pages, E. Lynn Harris' 250 pages seems like a good weekend book, plus it's smaller page sizes. I was excited, when going into this book. E. Lynn being one of my favorite authors and all. His earlier work, was some of the first glimpse for me, in the Down Low lifestyle, before it became a mainstream reference. I felt a connection, in his work. I was excited that he had return to one, of the subjects, that put his books on the map, the DL life, and it being in sports. However I was so unbelievably ANNOYED by this book, that I felt the need to write about this weak piece of writing.

I really don't know where to began. Let me give you a quick synopsis. The story is about AJ Richardson, who is in a secret relationship with NBA star Drayton Jones. Their 7 or so year relationship started back in college, when AJ was tutoring Dray, so that he could stay on the basketball team. Dray got an A or something, they were celebrating one night, and one thing led to another, years later, they are still knocking boots and calling it a relationship. Everything is all good, with their secret relationship, until Dray feels the pressure or need, to find a woman, because of one comment a teammate makes about AJ. The teammate feels that AJ is more than Drays Interior Decorator/Stylist, but goes to every home game the Atlanta Hawks have and most away games. To me a obvious fix, would be to call AJ, Dray's best friend from college and call it a day. However Dray decides to then, marry some white blond heiress, who wants him for his money; and yet that's still not where the story or the DL relationship with AJ goes a rye. No, things don't get bad until a blackmail scheme against Dray and AJ occurs. The blackmailer threatens to tell Drays father about his secret relationship. Okay, this story, for me, made no sense! Literally I kept saying to myself, "What the Hell?" However, I will get to that later.

For me it's not rare that, I don't find a connection, with a character. I mean I don't think you are going to understand every characters motives and actions, but it is rare, that I not find likability in one character, in a book. In this book I can honestly say, I didn't like not the first character in this book. Character dynamic means a lot to me, I like them to be round and multi dimensional. I just didn't like or understand anyone in this book. I didn't like how the DL man, Dray, was depicted in this story. First of all, you would think I understand Drayton, a DL man, who feels the need to hide his sexual attraction, because of this family. Believe it or not, he says it has nothing to do with the career, but because of his southern parents, and the fear of being disown. Okay, maybe there was that I did understand, but that's where my connection ends. First of all Dray is a selfish Asshole, and not a likable Asshole at that. And Yes, you can be a likable Asshole, example E.Lynn Harris' most famous DL character, Basil Henderson. I get it he is suppose to be this lovable Man-Child, but it really didn't come through, like I think it was suppose to. Dray controls the man he supposedly loves AJ, why?...because he can and because AJ allows him. AJ, the main character gives up his life, to be Drays kept man. Although AJ has multiple degrees, his life consist of a little charity work, decorating his homes, and Dray houses, and shopping for cloths, for Dray. Fear of being exposed, AJ isn't really allowed to have any friends, for fear of being found out about being gay. What does AJ do about this?...He finds the biggest Queen in Atlanta to be his best friend, Maurice. A man whose only goal in life is to dethrone the reigning Queens and Kings of Atlanta Black Gay Society. Another thing that just didn't make any sense. I get that AJ isn't DL, he is what you call, discreet. He goes to gay clubs and events, if you ask him he will tell you he is gay, but he doesn't bring it up, and he has never told his mother, even though he knows, that she knows about his sexuality. Personally I would think that, if you are in a DL relationship, with someone who is very concern about who your friends are and who becomes close to you, why become best friends with a flamboyant, catty, revengeful, in your face queen. This was not the first thing that didn't make sense to me, in the story though.

Okay believe it or not, but in the first chapter or two, I knew how this story was going to go down. From the part where AJ talks about his journals, the only thing that he has expressed in detail about his relationship with Dray. How when Dray uprooted AJ one day from Atlanta to New Orleans, because he got traded teams, and how he didn't feel safe with those journals being on the moving truck and being around the moving men. What does he do, leaves them in the hands on his society climbing best friend to mail to him, in New Orleans. Right after that, it was a wrap for me, on how this plot was going to go. I don't care about other people they wanted you to suspect. I knew what it was going to be all about. It felt so predictable. In fact, this story line felt so done already, and especially by E.Lynn. Now I'm not positive, it's been a while since I read his book before last, Say a little Prayer, but I felt like it was almost the same plot. I can't remember, but I'm sure it was a blackmail scheme, about sexuality, in that book too. I'll have to double check that later. That wasn't the big problem for me, nor the dumb characters and their actions. It was the DL relationship, that bothered me the most.

During this whole book I kept trying to understand if this was about love or about two men screwing. I understand a married man having sex with another man on the Down Low. It is usually about the physical and about the sex. However I can understand the Down Low life being more than just the sex, but love between two men, that somewhat seems forbidden. I haven't experiences that yet, myself; but I'm open to the possibilities down the road, of something more than just sex. I think we were suppose to think this was a love story, but I didn't get that. Maybe if E. Lynn wrote this book, where you looked at the story through the eyes of a different character, in alternating chapters, like he use to in his earlier books, I could see where Drayton was coming from. Now I understand that Dray kept AJ, in the finest of everything. He bought him townhouses, then mansions, luxury cars, credit cars, first class vacations, AJ's family was taken care of, however AJ just seemed to be at Dray beck in call for sex. I mean there would be times that AJ didn't here from Dray at days and all week long, then Dray would show up, they would have sex, and everything would be fine and dandy. Was that suppose to be love...I mean I understand that it was more than sex, because it lasted for as many years as it did, and even after Dray blew up as a professional basketball star, he stayed with AJ. However if this was a relationship, when Dray got married, and that wasn't the strange part for me, but why did AJ stay? I mean the first thought was...Why did Dray get married, if he loved AJ?...but then that question was replaced with...Why did AJ stay?

I can understand if Drayton, had a bunch of girlfriends to hide the fact that he is in love with a man, but to go as far as to get get married, didn't make sense. I know DL men get married all the time, but usually being with men is just about the sex. They are Bisexual or in a relationship with another Bisexual man, or they are trying to suppress their sexual desires, and trying to give up on men, or they just are Bi-curious and decided not to go down that road. They're many reasons, but they don't usually get married, and stay in a long term relationship with a Gay man, that started years prior, to him marrying. I didn't understand the choice either, a white blond woman, I mean talk about not having a specific type. However AJ was the real person I didn't understand. Through all of that. He stayed committed and monogamous to Drayton. He stayed faithful to Drayton, and refused to cheat on him, even though Drayton got married and was having sex with his wife! The whole book I kept thinking to myself...Get a backbone nigga! Through it all, the Dray getting married, Dray's wife getting pregnant and Dray not telling him, through some mishap at a hotel and AJ being pretty much kicked out of the room he shared with Dray and sent packing on a plane, through the blackmail, he stayed loyal to Drayton, because of their supposed great "Love". He drops whatever he is doing to be with Dray whenever, he calls.

The biggest thing I didn't understand was the ending. I knew it was going to be an all's well that ends well ending, when it came to the blackmail part. What I didn't get was the conclusion on the alleged relationship between Drayton and AJ. Why did AJ stay though all of that BS, through the whole book, without standing up for himself, and taking some reins in the relationship, but when him an Drayton finally have the chance to be together again, and it for the relationship, to be like it was before he got married, just the two of them...Why then does he break it off? Now AJ says its because he is tired of sharing Drayton with his wife, but that's really not a problem in the end. Why did this supposedly great love end, and why didn't Dray fight for him?

Now this book left me annoyed and pissed off. I had another author tell me once, "That, a sign of a good book, is when it leaves you in some sort of emotion...whether it is happy, content, sad, or angry." I think that was Bull then and I think it's Bull now. She only said that, because I didn't like her book, and I emailed her about it. Back in my late middle school/early high school years I would email an author in a second, if I found problems in their story. Some corresponded back, some didn't. Anyway, I just felt like Basketball Jones, was unjust for some reason.

This did leave me with things I wanted to talk about in later post, for another day. I felt this book had the Open/Discreet guy as the hero, and the DL man as the sad circumstance. All in all I felt like this book, was trying to teach people, that if you go down the road, of having a DL relationship, then their is no happy ending for you. In the end that message leaves me, Aggravated and Annoyed!!


Anonymous said...

i understand your point about the book but you know what; the truth is stranger than fiction and i am sure they are similar situations around and even stranger ones. why does a man/woman stay with their partner who beats them. i know women who like to get beat - no i am not joking. anyways you should remember that some people become comfortable in situations when they have been in them for a period of time and as such what maybe be abnormal for you is normal for them and because they accept it doesnt mean its the way which is why you should always guard against becoming comfortable in relationships.
and yes some of the things make absolutely no logical sense what-so-ever but maybe that is because we have never been afflicted by the 'l-word'. but the characters as you described them didnt seem too quick on the uptake! and obviously AJ was trying to rebel and hence his choice of friends but thanks for reaffirming my belief about reading 'l-word' stories.

Anonymous said...

I've read all of E Lynn Harris' books and think this one was the worse. This is the only book I can say I really didn't like. I was taken back too when he married the white woman. Da hell?!

Couple days after reading this book, E Lynn was on a local program talking this book and some other stuff. I wanted to go down to the station and throw the book at him.

Anonymous said...

the ending clearly sets up a sequel or part two..... your hint was Basil Henderson at the door as the agent..

Chet said...

For some odd reason, I enjoyed this book and I own a copy of every book he has written. I think that the characters were a bit much, but that was what made it interesting and a fun read. We all know that it doesn't go down like this when we date pro ball players we are very often ousted out of their lives, but in this book the brotha took care of his and then some. I am going to find out just who these people are he's writing about. LMAO!

Q said...

Why did the woman have to be white...I'm just sayin"...

FlyyGurl said...

well it sounds interesting as hell...but for some reason E.Lynn Harris does not grab me much!!! I read every which way the wind blows, (i think thats what its called) and I was like...................but I might cop this, especially since on the straighter side of the spectrum, Ive just read Faith Evan's book and it was a HOT mess.

btw, thanks for pushing the shit out of me on aim and forcing me to blog again!!! Im taking babysteps! lol

Ladynay said...

I can't get with Mr. Harris but thanks for the breakdown anyways :-)

One Man’s Opinion said...

Sounds to me like he was trying to write his DL version of Brokeback Mountain.
Let me just say it...I don't like E. Lynn Harris. Seriously, I stopped reading his books when I went to a book signing he had. I asked him a question and his answer was so full of conceit that it turned my story.
I will admit that even before his book signing I started to find his writing to be elementary. It was like he was writing from a pattern, which is kind of the way you make this book sound. I honestly think that every book he has written, since his first two, have been with the idea of having them made into movies.
Let's just put it out there. Harris' book are basic, with the same plot, different characters.

I'm not going to take anything away from Invisible Life, which put him on the map, but that's about it. Now I believe people just read him because they know the name and they feel like they can get an okay, trash novel out of the deal.

I enjoyed reading your book review, because Mr. Harris will never see a drop of my hard earn money.

RocaFella07 said...

I love You and your Blog. I had such a ridgid opinion on "DL" guys, but, I'm starting to understand that not everything is blk & wht when it comes to the "DownLow"...Thanks to you.

I think that the "DL" men portrayed in documenteries/specials DONT do a good job of showing ALL sides of the "DL". It seems they only choose to show the cheaters, with wives/girlfriends, who sneak around with other men...The SHADY shit! But, there are stories of "DL" guys out there who DONT live their lives in that fashion.

Lemme stop before I go on a tangent! LOL!

We need to talk.


ToddyEnglish said...

I loved his first book, "The Invisible Life." It seemed so authentic and the characters, for me, were real flesh and blood people with problems.
However, with each subsequent book E. Lynn Harris moved closer and closer to Tyler Perry territory (subpar writing meant only to appeal to a black female audience). All of his books after Invisible Life, in my opinion, are badly written fluff.
The characters are all so cliche'. His books read like badly written soap operas.
The only reason I read was for the occasional appearance of Basil Henderson. Oh...My...God...I love him, seriously. The Basil sex scenes were the only redemptive qualities.
Otherwise, they read like bad movie scripts. E. Lynn believes his own hype. Unfortunately, there is no...So it makes him a delusional bad writer.
After the fiasco that was, "I say a little prayer" I'll never pick up an E. Lynn book EVER again.
On that note great review! You saved me a trip to the library!

Opinionated Diva said...

I read most of the review and then I just couldn't anymore. THIS is precisely why I stopped reading E. Lynne years ago...wack story lines!

He used to be a favorite. He had WELL developed interesting story line...just real stories that really sucked you in. Now it's all B.S. and it leaves you frustrated. He wont get anymore of my money.

Gold star to you for finishing the book.

fuzzy said...

are you really gonna mess around and make me go buy this book?

K.C. said...

I'm annoyed and aggravated that you beat me to the punch and reviewed this book! nah, just kiddin' man!

Seriously though, I agree with everything you've said! My boyfriend and I are heavy readers and having collected all of E. Lynn's work (even his autobio), I was expecting great things. However, I think he peaked somewhere back around A Love Of My Own (I won't even mention that mess that was Just Too Good To Be True).

I wanted to smack AJ (reminded me of JJ from In Love With A Thug) from the moment I met him and was equally bothered by his queenie friend. And what was the point of Jade and Cisco? It was almost as though E. Lynn just cranked this book out to satisfy his publishers or his contract; he's forgotten his roots and his fans.

E. Lynn was my first SGL read but I think L.M. Ross will soon become my new favorite if E. Lynn doesn't step his game up fast!

It's time to give us a new Raymond and Basil ...

That Dude Right There said...

"The whole book I kept thinking to myself...Get a backbone nigga!"

That's what I kept saying!!!!!!

Normally, I read a book a second time to get a better understanding, but this one has been sitting on the shelf since I finished it.

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