I loved you more, p.1
I Loved You More,
I Loved You More
A great read, I Loved You More is a brutal and beautiful book of love, sex, and friendship that begins in the impossible but totally mesmerizing decade of the 1980s and spans the next twenty years.
SAM ADAMS, Former Mayor of Portland, Oregon
A masterful novel of what becomes of us long after we’ve “come of age” and done all the brave things we thought would save us. Tom Spanbauer’s pages pulse with life in all its messy beauty.
ARIEL GORE, Publisher of Hip Mama magazine and author of The End of Eve
Intelligence, wit, generosity, love, wisdom, insight, humility, guts, heart-crushing truth and spirit-lifting grace – it’s all there in I Loved You More. This is Tom Spanbauer’s wrenching and beautiful masterpiece.
CHERYL STRAYED, Author of Wild
Tom Spanbauer’s I Loved You More is the most important book on sexuality, love, and the lowdown of relationships that I have ever read. The brilliant language is an epic ballad so deeply rendered it killed me and resurrected me a page at a time. This book is not a love story. It guts the heart of the cliché love story and hands it back to you, beating. Love is the endless falling.
LIDIA YUKNAVITCH, Author of Dora: A Headcase
The thing about Tom Spanbauer is – he is the real deal. [Faraway Places] is masterly – a near perfect book. The story is hypnotic, mesmerizing, delicately brilliant – and so well made. While you are lulled by the language and the characters, the storyline builds and then like a well-timed firework explodes – surprising, enthralling, captivating.
A.M. HOMES, Author of May We Be Forgiven
A taut, brutal narrative … that comes to hypnotize, shimmering like the brilliant sun on the alfalfa fields.
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Forceful and moving … Spanbauer tells his short, brutal story with delicacy and deep respect for place and character.
The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon
The miracle of this novel it that it obliges us to rethink our whole idea of narration and history and myth. Tom Spanbauer’s wild West is the hurly-burly of the mind. He takes us into territories where few of us would ever dare to go.
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Haunting and earthy, this deeply felt tale of love and loss … Spanbauer fuses raunchy dialogue, pathos, local color, heartbreak and a serious investigation of racism in this stunning narrative.
Gender and racial lines are bent out of shape in this tale of turn-of-the-century Idaho spun by a youth who is part Indian, not quite wholly homosexual, and in the grip of a powerful imagination. Spanbauer creates a pansexual West that John Wayne wouldn’t have recognized.
A visceral, sprawling tragic-comedy … The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon is equal parts bizarre Bildungsroman, raucous picaresque, and hard-driving wild-West yarn.
NEW YORK MAGAZINE
A masterful plot … Delightfully unpredictable and compelling.
In The City of Shy Hunters
An expertly drawn, starkly authentic, early-1980s Manhattan provides the setting for this sprawling novel by Spanbauer. Spanbauer’s rapid-fire narration and clipped sentences generate a surprising amount of tension and gritty emotion, as does his vibrant, dead-on dialogue and keen sense of place. This is a big, brazen, histrionic work of fiction, one that pays respectable, if unsentimental, homage to a devastating period in gay history.
Unlike other “early AIDS” novels, this one acknowledges that AIDS touches all classes, races, religions, and sexual orientations. Excellent characters (real New Yorkers), great writing, and a new twist on an over-used plot recommend this book for most libraries, though some readers might want a more conventional ending.
A master narrator and stylist… In the City of Shy Hunters is so finely crafted, Spanbauer’s characters so true to life, the New York City he remembers from the early days of the plague so exactly captures in its “unrelenting” mess and glory, you’ll think you’ve been reading a modernist classic.
PETER KURTH, Salon.com
Spanbauer’s genius resides even in the asides … teas[ing] out the genuine complexity of human love.
THOMAS MCGONIGLE, The Washington Post
In the City of Shy Hunters has the earmarks of a literary landmark … Its importance and originality are unmistakable.
LAURA DEMANSKI, The Baltimore Sun
Ambitious and compelling … a mixture of the ghastly, the hilariousism and the curiously touching.
JOHN HARTL, The Seattle Times
In the City of Shy Hunters is a chronicle of deaths foretold, a journal of the plague years when AIDS swept through the city and destroyed a culture that had barely taken hold.
JEFF BAKER, The Oregonian
A big ambitious stylefest of a novel, in the mode of … Edmund White’s The Farewell Symphony, Allan Gurganus’s Plays Well with Others, and Dale Peak’s Now It’s Time to Say Goodbye … What distinguishes Spanbauer’s novel from the rest of the pack is his hellish, distinctive voice. Longtime fans will recognize its unusual sentences, at once choppy and strangely elegant, overtly informative but weirdly surreal, tender of phrase yet cleansed of overt emotion.
DENNIS COOPER, The Village Voice
Tom Spanbauer breaks all the rules in his new novel In the City of Shy Hunters – rules of grammar, rules of social propriety, rules of sanctioned sexuality, rules that keep a novelist at a desk, on a page, in the real world.
M. L. LYKE, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Mesmerizing dialogue and gritty characters immediately startle you … The book may consist of letters typed upon a page, but those words transcend mere storytelling by nearly leaping forth and materializing into a stunning theatrical presentation. This writing as performance art… Our beloved Spanbauer has retaken center stage. He has surpassed the art of writing dangerously to create the theater of writing dramatically.
SUSAN WICKSTORM, Willamette Week
In the City of Shy Hunters is near-epic in its emotional scope, a sprawling story that recalls at once the freewheeling black comedy of Ken Kesey’s work, the spiritual quest at the heart of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and some of the precise diction of Gertrude Stein. …There is such a myriad of small truths here that the cumulative effect is overwhelming …Fascinating and compelling.
KEN FURTADO, Lambda Book Report
Now Is the Hour
Publishers Weekly choice for one of the best 100 books of 2006
This author can write. You feel pulled in immediately just by the rhythms of his language. Then by his great humor, his vast heart. There is no one like Tom Spanbauer writing in America. What a terrific novel! What a huge talent.
NATALIE GOLDBERG, Author of Writing Down the Bones
In Tom Spanbauer’s Now Is the Hour, white small-town America gets its cherry busted in an orgy of cigarette smoke and racism.
CHUCK PALAHNIUK, author of Fight Club
Copyright ©2013 Tom Spanbauer
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage-and-retrieval systems, without prior permission in writing from the Publisher, except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
I loved you more : a novel / By Tom Spanbauer.
813'.54 – DC23
Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts
2201 Northeast 23rd Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97212
Adam McIsaac/Sibley House
Set in Paperback
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ALSO BY TOM SPANBAUER
The Man Who Fell In Love With the Moon
In the City of Shy Hunters
Now Is the Hour
BOOK ONE: HANK & BEN
Part one: Got to Go Pal
4.The West Side Y
Part two: Idaho
8.The most miserable of all
11.No hay palabras
BOOK TWO: BEN & RUTH
12.The real world
17.The way it is
BOOK THREE: HANK & RUTH
21.The end, my friend
22.The more loving one
I LOVED YOU MORE
Hank & Ben
PART ONE | Got to Go Pal
GOT TO GO PAL WERE THE LAST WORDS ON THE PAGE OF the last letter I wrote Hank Christian. Soon as I wrote them down I knew they were the words that hurt. The words that could turn his heart against me. All those years, twenty-three of them, how Hank and I joked back and forth, got to go pal now were the words lying on the page. That old litany in this strange new place, how it made my heart stop.
October 1, 2000. All day I sat with that letter. Wondering if I should make it sound so final and forever, or fuck it, just take the risk and say something more, something ridiculous at such a ridiculous time to say it: if I should tell Hank to stop using that Just For Men hair color because the light through his hair made his thin hair look purple. When you say goodbye to someone you love, maybe if you say something crazy, something true, maybe he won’t stop loving you.
I ended up not giving Hank the hair tip. So many times I’ve regretted it, thought I should’ve said the hair thing right after got to go pal. Maybe it would’ve changed the way things turned out. If nothing else, it would have made him laugh. Hank’s laugh. That big burst from down deep coming on fast shaking him around. But I didn’t.
It wasn’t long after the letter he married Ruth. In Florida, three thousand miles away he lived, and he goes and has his wedding three blocks from my house in Portland, Oregon. Still don’t know who his best man was.
LIKE MOST LOVE affairs, Hank and I didn’t start off so good. In fact I hated his guts. Every time Jeske called on him, which was every week, Hank read his sentences out loud to the class and it never failed, Jeske always praised him as if Hank was the next Nadine Gordimer, or Louise Glück, or Harold Brodkey. Jeske even had a special name for Hank. Maroni. That’s what he called Hank. You’ve really knocked the ball out of the park this time, Maroni! You really nailed it on the head, pal! Just take a look at that, would you!
Columbia University, winter quarter, 1985. Twelve weeks of a three-hour-long night class in a hot big bright amphitheater room. Jeske down in front of us, trim, natty, silver hair, in some kind of military hat. Skin that was flushed from too many cigarettes. Something classy about him, one of those New England guys who just stepped off his sailboat. Our eyes on him. Our eyes never left him. You never knew what he was going to do next. Every class he bragged how he went three hours without pishing. Wednesdays six to nine. Thirty-six fucking hours and Jeske never called on me. Not one time. Forty people in that class and everybody got at least one chance, but not me. A couple others in class Jeske liked besides Hank, but to my ears it was all Maroni! Maroni! Maroni!
Then came that class. The last class of the semester. The last part of the last hour. The last reader. Finally Thomas Jeske, Commodore Fiction himself, called on me. Fuck. My body did that separating thing where all of a sudden I’m way out there somewhere looking down at me sitting in a bright room in an amphitheater chair, the fake wood desk top flap out flat, my faraway hands trying to hold my pages still. I’m trying to find my breath, keep my asshole tight, trying to keep my chin from turning into rubber bands. All the rules I didn’t know how to get right: Never go beneath the surface. Speak with a burnt tongue. It’s not writing, it’s making. Take the approach that rebukes your own nature. Never explain. Never complain. Latinate Latinate Latinate.
I took the knife, put it to my chest, punched hard in, cut down and around, pulled my throbbing heart out and laid it down on the page. But I wasn’t bleeding enough. The words sounded stupid. My voice in the fluorescent amphitheater did not project, was too high, cracking like an adolescent whose balls had just dropped. Fuck. There was no getting away from it. I sounded the way I always sounded: a Catholic boy with a big apology. Then the long pause. The long piece of silence after where all there was, was my breath. A drop of sweat rolled down the inside of my arm. Everything gets bright and hot and full.
The eleventh hour! Jeske cries out, Way to go, pal! Grunewald’s pulled it out of his ass on the eleventh hour!
Looking back on that day now, I wonder. Maybe that was the first time for Hank. That he really looked at me.
THE FIRST TIME I really looked at Hank, really stopped and looked, was during one of Jeske’s classes. By then I knew who Hank was, of course. How could you not know The Maroni? But this one particular class I’m talking about, there was a moment that everything went away and my eyes filled up with nothing but Hank Christian.
In the middle of one of Jeske’s lectures, there was a loud crash in the hall. You might think so what, a loud crash in the hall – on most college campuses that doesn’t mean much. But when it’s night and it’s Columbia University, the hallway outside your classroom door is really a New York street. After the crash, Jeske quit talking and we in the class all looked around at each other. There was a way you could tell Jeske wanted to go to the open door and check out the situation, but he hesitated. I saw him do it. Hesitate. Something you don’t figure Commodore Fiction to do. His thin body did a quick lean toward the door for a second, then stopped because he thought better. Hank saw it too. Oh! Commodore! My! Commodore! Hank saw the Commodore of the mighty ship stall. He was up and out of his seat just like that.
Hank’s a big guy. Big arms, big chest. Twenty-seven to my thirty-seven years.
Thirty-seven years old. Columbia University. I’ve always been a late bloomer.
That day, as Hank made his way through the seats and down to the doorway, Hank was holding his body that way he does. He pushes out and raises up his chest, pulls his chin down, his shoulders down, and flexes his biceps. I’ve seen Hank do that a lot. Usually he does that when he’s trying to express something inside him that’s big – as if his body is literally trying to push the thought or the feeling that’s inside him out, but that day in class Hank was puffing up for another reason. He was on a mission.
I’ve never seen Hank do anything so perfect, so true to who he was. Hank stood himself in the doorway, at the portal, at attention, elbows out touching each side of the door. Our linebacker, our protector, our bodyguard, our hero.
Immediately I was embarrassed for him. Such an obvious show of macho. I mean, what was Maroni trying to prove? That he could save our sinking ship from the big, bad pirates in the hallway? Yet maybe there were pirates in the hallway! Maybe the loud crash was a street gang, or some crazy motherfucker. Maybe with a gun. Then what was Maroni going to do? Stop the bullet?
Sure made Jeske proud. Pretty soon, a bunch of other guys, but not me, were up at the door standing with Hank.
SOME MONTHS LATER, when I didn’t hate Hank anymore, when I was getting to know Hank, I asked Hank what Maroni meant. He said something about how Maroni was Italian for how guys talk to one another. Like dude maybe, or buddy, or pal. I never did get it exactly what Maroni meant. But that was just Hank. He always played his cards close to his chest, especially at the beginning. It wasn’t that he had something to conceal. Hank liked to say he was a ghost. A warrior ghost. He touched the world and when he was done he left no trace. What was left of him was his sentences on the page.
No wonder I fell in love with him. Seduce the laconic straight guy. Not necessarily to fuck him, but to bring him out. And not out like coming out, but out in the sense of inner workings revealed. If I could understand my father, if my father could actually be someone I could know, by knowing him, I could gauge myself against him, and discover how I was and how I was not like him.
Those first four or five weeks, though, Hank was fucking Maroni, Jeske’s private ass kisser. Then it was Saint Hank Christian Guardian of the Doorway, but when it really happened big time was the night at Ursula Crohn’s apartment. The first time Hank actually put his body next to me. As soon as he spoke, out of Hank’s sweet lips the blow, some kind of frenzy in my heart.
Somebody who does that. Reveals you to yourself. You can’t help but love.
SOMETHING I’D LIKE to say. All this I’m recalling here is not actually what happened but me remembering it. It’s only now, after all the years, after all the death, after years and years of running it through running it through, there’s a way that a sixty-year-old me can look at the same situation the forty-year-old looked at and see another story altogether.