The Handsomest Man in the World

by David Leddick | Gay & Lesbian |
ISBN: 156023458X Global Overview for this book
Registered by pam99 of Ochiltree, Scotland United Kingdom on 6/4/2013
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
8 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by pam99 from Ochiltree, Scotland United Kingdom on Tuesday, June 04, 2013
really interesting book which starts off in the Marshall Islands (Bikini Atoll) at the time of the nuclear tests and then moves to the US. The story is told from the perspective of an older gay man looking back at his first love, an enlisted man in the US Navy when he was serving as an officer. Fascinating insight into gay male life pre-Stonewall; what I found particularly moving was the resonance with the lives of some of my gay male friends in rural parts of Scotland, where "don't ask, don't tell" seems to be alive and well even if society has moved on hugely from the 1950s. Also really interesting insights into 1950s social norms in general, e.g. it being socially acceptable for two (heterosexual) male friends to share a double bed on an overnight stay, but not for an unmarried heterosexual couple.

Bookring list:

1. elstaplador (UK)
2. violoncellix (Netherlands)
3. Tsjara (Netherlands)
4. Andrasthe (Austria) > book is here
5. Okyrhoe (Greece, int'l)
6. billbooks (Australia, int'l)


back to pam99 (Scotland)

Journal Entry 2 by pam99 at Troon, Scotland United Kingdom on Tuesday, June 04, 2013
offering this one as an international bookring - 203 pages, 350g. Details to follow!

Journal Entry 3 by elstaplador at Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Saturday, June 15, 2013
Bookring received - thank you! Looks interesting...

(this will be Team Ruritania's entry in the Boxing event in the BookCrossing Olympics -

Journal Entry 4 by elstaplador at Woking, Surrey United Kingdom on Monday, July 01, 2013
I really enjoyed this book, as much for the atmosphere as for the story. The autobiographical/oral history style worked very well; one got a real sense of what it was like to be around, to be gay, to be falling in love in the 1950s. The narrator is an engaging character; his story unfolds with a melancholy inevitability. I particularly enjoyed the way he includes poems and stories within the narrative, like a sort of verbal scrapbook - a really effective trick.

Journal Entry 5 by elstaplador at Sent to a fellow BookCrosser, Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Monday, July 01, 2013

Released 6 yrs ago (7/1/2013 UTC) at Sent to a fellow BookCrosser, Bookring -- Controlled Releases


Sending on to violoncellix. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 6 by wingvioloncellixwing at on Sunday, July 07, 2013
Many thanks, pam99, for starting this ring, and elstaplador for sending it on to me. Looking forward to reading this book!

Journal Entry 7 by wingvioloncellixwing at on Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Many thanks to pam99 for sharing this very interesting book with other 666-challenged BookCrossers! Indeed the book starts out on the Marshall Islands and the waters around, on a marine ship, where the protagonist, then a young US navy officer in the 1950s, is bored waiting for the US atomic bomb tests that are postponed many times.

In the beginning, I found it hard to get a sense of who the protagonist was, and often found it difficult to reconcile the descriptions of what happened in the early 1950s with the way these happenings were interpreted by the "I" from the perspective of the present. It is clear that the protagonist was not much given to self-reflection, but that doesn't mean that the events themselves are not fascinating!

Indeed, similarly to pam99 for Scotland, I was reminded of stories of older gay men that I know, who have grown up in smaller rural communities in The Netherlands, and for whom "Don't ask, don't tell" has also been the important rule of survival.

Here is a quote from the book:

I want to tell you about love in the 1950s. It was different We hadn't had the 1960s yet. We didn't have rock and roll. We were brought up on songs that suggested that the best part of love was loss (...) Love was usually for someone impossible who would never return your love. Or who had once loved you and now had left you behind. Forever.

This was probably a residue of World War II, when men and women were separated and love was very much of the moment. During that time love and sex didn't inevitably lead to marriage and that was probably the wedge that led us to believe and accept that love was temporary, and that led us even to enjoy the pang caused by that temporariness.

At any rate, I always felt that my love for Fred was fragile. His arms around me, his lips on my face, the warmth of his body in bed, of all these things I always felt keenly aware.

Journal Entry 8 by Tsjara at Assendelft, Noord-Holland Netherlands on Thursday, January 09, 2014
The book arrived here safe and sound. Thanks a lot violoncellix and for your lovely card too! This sounds very interesting and I look forward to reading it. :)
Thanks pam99 for organising the bookring!

Journal Entry 9 by Tsjara at Assendelft, Noord-Holland Netherlands on Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Released 6 yrs ago (2/10/2014 UTC) at Assendelft, Noord-Holland Netherlands


This was an interesting read on a subject I don't know much about (love and life (for gay men) in the 1950s in the USA, and also life in the navy. Though it quite annoyed me to think they ruined the environment around the Bikini Atoll with their nuclear bomb tests).
I liked the somewhat autobiographical feel of the book. It seems to capture the atmosphere of the 1950s quite well, which felt more carefree to me than I would have guessed (or maybe this is because of the narrator). Sad how the relationship between the protagonist and Fred was doomed from the beginning.
Also found it interesting that even in same sex couples there still seems to be one who is the woman and the other the man?

The book is now travelling to Andrasthe in Austria.
Happy reading!

Journal Entry 10 by Andrasthe at Klagenfurt, Kärnten Austria on Monday, February 17, 2014
got it

This book feels very much as if the protagonist would tell his story directly to you - maybe in a little French bistro or even in a hip New York Sandwich shop. The narrator recounts his first and only "true" love, another sailor he met during tests at the Bikini Atoll. He is very sweet and romantic, not quite innocent, but certainly not experienced and meets Fred, a very provincial young enlisted man, who falls in love with him. They stay together for certain periods of time and after they get out of the navy, they live together for a short while.

Bill, the narrator, is very much in love and adores Fred. Unfortunately, Fred has something of an identity crisis and is likewise ashamed and happy, dismissive of and curious about his lover. Their love in the 50s couldn't have been an easy one, but there are no external factors in the book. All the conflict comes from within. Nevertheless, the tone of the narrator - who (as if it was an oral account) breaks his story into different parts and uses flashbacks and flash-forwards, foreshadowing and quite some omission - always keeps light and easy going. Some parts of the story might be very serious - but Will's demeanor never deteriorates.

I did like parts of the book, the descriptions about New York and the people, the housing and so on, but I did not entirely enjoy the book. I was sometimes a bit thrown by the light tone of narration, by the lack of emotional exploration - apart from the undying teenage love of the protagonist, of course - and by the sombre ending. Should this be all? I realise that it is about men in the 1950s and that restraint and decorum were ever present - but Bill puts up with Fred's transferred guilt without putting up a bit of a fight? Nothing? Maybe I'm just too young to relate ;) who knows.

Journal Entry 11 by okyrhoe at Athens - Αθήνα, Attica Greece on Thursday, April 10, 2014
Arrived in rainy Athens.

Thanks pam99 for including me in the ring, and Andrasthe for posting the book to me!

Journal Entry 12 by Billbooks at Malvern East, Victoria Australia on Sunday, August 03, 2014
Book has safely arrived in Australia. I'm at the beginning of our Film Festival so reading is on the backburner at the moment. Lucky I was last! Will get back to serious reading in a week or so = many tyhanks pam

Journal Entry 13 by Billbooks at Malvern East, Victoria Australia on Thursday, September 04, 2014
Great read. Many gay novels get published just to fill a niche they are not that well written. This is a timely well written novel about life as gay men in the 1950's. The conflicts and norms of the time one gay who was happily homosexual they other always guilty of his desires. Two thumbs up novel. Will pass this onto GreggieH before returning to Pam99.

Journal Entry 14 by GreggieH at Malvern East, Victoria Australia on Sunday, October 19, 2014
handed personally by billbooks

Journal Entry 15 by GreggieH at Malvern East, Victoria Australia on Monday, October 27, 2014

While the title of this book leans to a superficial idea of physical attraction, it does not reveal the depth of connectedness which grows between two young men within a backdrop of the atomic testing in the Pacific post World War Two. The longer range perspective over their lifetimes is well nuanced and hints at learning about losses and gains with increased maturity. A very worthwhile read.

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