Review by Grady Harp
Rick Bettencourt steps into an enlarging spotlight of fellow LGBT writers – a circle stage front that includes such names as David Sedaris, Edmund White, Felice Picano, Robert Rodi, Michael Cunningham, David Leavitt, Alan Hollinghurst, Colm Tóibín, et al – and comes on very strong with this new book TIM ON BRADWAY: SEASON ONE. Though there is much talk about this master of the social media and though he has enjoyed success with his earlier works PAINTING WITH WINE and the collection of stories in NOT SURE BOYS, this novel – the culmination of a series f short episodes he published as teasers – places him solidly in the company of the specially gifted young writers of gay fiction.
Bettencourt understands character creation and in this book he has given us at least two characters in Timothy Benton and Javier Rodriquez who are so memorable that they will likely achieve ‘Holden Caulfield’ status. The book is both hilarious funny, gently touching, and very perceptive in the way the author examines personality development and evolvement. But enough of analysis.
The story revolves around a twenty-something overweight virgin who has problems with job retention and with life in general due to the loss of his loving mother in a car accident for which he holds himself responsible, and the fact that he is a virgin – a gay man who has had only one physical encounter and that involved money. His escape: theater, Broadway musicals, donuts, AGD (America’s Got Divas), and a passion for the famous Divas of the day and the past – with especial emphasis on one Carolyn Sohier, ‘the Greta Garbo of divas’. Tim has friends with whom he commiserates and finally encounters a Venezuelan box boy Javier Rodriguez, a straight hunk with whom he makes friends and gradually and very eventfully comes into a relationship. Javier has financial problems not only due to his family but also toward financing a termination of a pregnancy he caused, borrows money from Tim – a transaction that leads to his moving in and changing Tim’s life. So much of the story is bonded to a Bar Harbor, Maine appearance that Carolyn Sohier comes out of retirement to give and how Javier manages tickets, drives the automobile-phobic Tim to see Tim’s goddess, and how in the process of all that Tim alters his appearance at the gym and falls in love with Javier who likewise opens his mind and heart to love Tim.
Bettencourt peppers this delightfully entertaining novel with references to inappropriate flatulence (is it ever appropriate?), manscaping, words to the big songs from the big Broadway shows, Tim’s self perception as a fat man who no one could possibly find attractive, and other diversions that singalong with the chorus of women friends and employers. But in the core of this comedy is the tenderness of Bettencourt’s ‘passion about humanity and one’s desire to make significant change in their lives – how you realize you are and become what you think of yourself.’ Or as Bettencourt places this philosophy in the mouth of his created diva Carolyn, consoling Tim about feeling unlovable, ‘If the problem’s with you, then you have the power to change it.’
Yes, this novel has gay characters in it, but it is not a gay novel – no frank physical encounters, a mixed cast of characters, some time spent with sports, etc – it is instead a tale of how we come to perceive ourselves and the power we all have to evolve and change what we don’t like into someone we love. This is an exceptionally fine novel by a very gifted young writer!
TITLE: TIM ON BROADWAY
AUTHOR: RICK BETTENCOURT
PUBLISHER: BEATEN TRACK