Geography Club

By Brent Hartinger
ISBN-13: 9780060012236

Publication Year: 2003

Tags: Gay, Gay Youth, Coming Out, Avoid-At-All-Cost

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

From the back cover of the book: Russel Middlebrook is convinced he’s the only gay kid at Goodkind High School. Then his online gay chat buddy turns out to be none other than Kevin, the popular but closeted star of the school’s baseball team. Soon Russel meets other gay students, too. There’s his best friend Min, who reveals that she is bisexual, and her soccer–playing girlfriend Terese. Then there’s Terese’s politically active friend, Ike. But how can kids this diverse get together without drawing attention to themselves? “We just choose a club that’s so boring, nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it. We could call it Geography Club!”

On his 1965 album That Was The Year That Was, the hilarious songsmith Tom Lehrer made this observation: “Speaking of love, one problem that recurs more and more frequently these days, in books and plays and movies, is the inability of people to communicate with the people they love — husbands and wives who can’t communicate, children who can’t communicate with their parents, and so on. And the characters in these books and plays and so on — and in real life, I might add — spend hours bemoaning the fact that they can’t communicate. I feel that if a person can’t communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up.”

I fear that, IMNSHO, Mr. Hartinger, or at least his characters, would do us a favor by following that advice. I have every sympathy, nay empathy, for those who are struggling with coming out of the closet; I had to do it in Texas in the late 1970s, and I’ve got the scars (emotional and physical) to prove it. Even so, when an entire book is dedicated not to experiencing it but whining about it, I find it something of a waste of time. Not one of these characters is someone I can feel empathy for. My initial response, in fact, is to take them into a private homeschooling situation rather like Robert H Rimmer’s Premar Experiments, except for gay folk. At least then, they’d learn about who they are, what they want, and how to make it happen.

In short, no one in the Geography Club knows where he is, topographically or otherwise, and neither do they seem interested or interesting enough to send out a search party. To make matters worse, this appears to be the first in a series of five “young adult” books and (to date) three “adult” books following the vacuous Russell Middlebrook. It is continuing proof that mainstream publishing is not merely rife with garbage masquerading as fiction, but that it indeed is insisting that it’s worthwhile for us not merely to follow but actually spend money on.

Worse still, Hollywood proves itself to be on the same buggardly bandwagon (to no one’s surprise). I’m horrified to report that this travesty of writing was turned into a no-star film (with the exception of Scott Bakula, who deserves better) in 2013. Garnering only 11 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, it received a score of 5.2/10, and Metacritic gave it an aggregate of 57/100 based on five reviews. It is largely praised for its desire to see the “normalization” of homosexuality, a world where being gay is no big deal. Until that day, weak films like this one, and the vapid books they are based upon, will continue to be championed by those few for whom being gay is way too much of a deal. Let’s focus on creating some meaningful work instead of churning and re-churning the same old whining. I say this as an old gay wolf who is really ready to stand up on his hindpaws and be who he is, rather than whimpering.

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