Reading Log: Boy Friends by Michael Pedersen
I have a bit of a masculine allergy to sentimentality. It’s a bit shameful. But luckily the current trend in the contemporary fiction I find myself reading leans towards cold characters, repressed emotions and flat prose. That’s not to say it isn’t emotional or reflective, but in tone it lets me avoid sentimentality in almost all my reading.
Michael Pedersen has no intention of writing in that style. This is a very sentimental book. It’s about friendship, and about loss. Specifically about Michael Pedersen’s friendship with Scott Hutchison, and the loss felt after his suicide.
About three quarters of the way through I realised that I didn’t like it. For a long time I was looking to like it, because it’s about a topic I’m also trying and struggling to write about and it’s strengths are my weaknesses in writing. I’m currently trying to write a project which is about male friendship and friendship intimacy, and even a bit of sentimentality.
Michael Pedersen’s voice is so strong I came through it not really having any idea about the personalities of any of the men he talks about. Their voices are completely lost. I know what him and Scott did together, I know how Scott made him feel, I know how much he misses him and what reminds him of him. But I don’t know who he was at all.
And by doing this it weakens the purpose of writing about friendship. Michael Pedersen’s friends never became fully realised characters themselves. They were essentially objects that caused feeling in Michael Pedersen
There’s a certain bravado about how comfortable Michael Pedersen is with intimacy. Talking about how his friendships always include crying and being naked around one another and hugging and telling each other how much they care. A sort of blurred line between romantic and platonic, that is rare between male friends.
And the biggest problem is, they just didn’t seem fun. I’m sure they were but that didn’t come across at all in the book. Even the things that were joyful; sharing wine, going on holiday, performing together, only ever felt beautiful, never enjoyable.
It seems unfair to be so critical of a book about grief written in the first year of grieving. This book doesn’t try to be about Scott Hutchison as a person, and it would be a massive and unfair ask for a best friend to write that the year after his death, but I currently have no more clues to his personality as I did when I started and after 200 pages I feel like I should.
The best bit of this book was him talking about a childhood pen pal, who he met through a football fan group, who broke up with him because he never talked about football. That was quite funny.
The book is full of beautiful, sentimental, romantic sentences, which I’m sure reflect moments and relationships that were incredible to live through, but gave me nothing to read.