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on 1 June 2009
This book was published in 1945, so it's particularly "coded" in such a way that it can be read without some people noticing the homosexual sub-text. I think perhaps that if the ending had been more upbeat in the way The Charioteer had been written then it would be as popular as that book because it's certainly written as beautifully and to read it is to truly immerse yourself in the high school and university life of 1920's America with the coon skin coats, letterman sweaters and the heady importance of who you knew against what you knew.

I think I'd have to disagree with the blurb, though. I didn't see any indication that Lymie was attracted to Sally at any point. They liked each other extremely well, but it is Spud's misinterpretation of Lymie's friendship with her that causes the conflict, not any realistic attraction at all.

Are Lymie and Spud homosexual? I think possibly, yes. I would say that Spud shows bisexual tendencies and Lymie homosexual. In today's frat houses I think that they would--as they are sleeping together in The Folded Leaf, and always sleep touching in a sweet innocent fashion--take their relationship to another level. I got the impression from the story that neither boy ever had any suspicions as to what their deep feelings really meant. Even when Lymie longs to touch Spud, I felt it was more of an adoration of a body of a type that he could never hope to have, for he himself is an entirely different body shape, rather than any sexual desire.

"Very often, looking at Spud, he felt the desire which he sometimes had looking at statues-to put out his hand and touch some part of Spud, the intricate interlaced muscles of his side, or his shoulder blades, or his back, or his flat stomach, or the veins of his wrists, or his small pointed ears."

The affection is clear between them both, but stronger from Lymie to Spud. Spud inhabits a much more physical world than Lymie; he boxes, he swims--does all sport well, while Lymie's skills are cerebral and Spud takes Lymie for granted, while always wanting him in his life. I think that others see their relationship a little more clearly than they do themselves, notably the effeminate landlord (there's always one!) and Spud's own family, who, until Sally is brought home to meet them, had been entirely accepting of Lymie's place in Spud's life.

The crisis comes when a mutual acquaintance tells Lymie (and it's never acknowledged as to whether it's a true tale he tells) that Spud hates Lymie because of Sally's friendship. Sensitive Lymie feels entirely betrayed and takes matters into his hands. Thankfully the book doesn't end with tragedy but still, the author writes the only ending that would have been accepted in 1945, after giving us one of the most memorable scenes in the book.

If you liked the Charioteer, you'll definitely like this, because it has much in common with its themes and has beautiful prose--and as a piece of homosexual history, I'd think it definitely rates a read from anyone interested in America at this time.
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on 25 March 2000
This book is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.
Such is the quality of writing, that some part of it will have resonance for everyone. The story is engaging and rewarding to read, the writing is intelligent and elegant.
Maxwell can capture the subtleties of both verbal and non verbal communication and convey them with startling accuracy. His ability to identify the fragile and unredeemed features of human existence is both powerfull and moveing.
Every boy & man should read this book, it will leave them richer than it found them.
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on 3 January 2008
William Maxwell writes in the small spaces. He explores the little sad areas of our lives that are comprised of looks that are not returned, thoughts that remain unuttered because we simply cannot figure out how to say them, and embraces we wish we have shared but did not because we lack the courage to put our arms around the person we love. The Folded Leaf is a beautiful, melancholy story by an author whose understated value has sadly caused a lack of popular appreciation compared to his flashier contemporaries - Hemingway, Nabokov, Bellow, Updike, Roth.

The Folded Leaf is the story of Lymie and Spud, two young boys who share a strong friendship, even though they seem utterly different. The novel is told primarily from the perspective of Lymie, a shy, withdrawn, introverted and very sensitive young man who loves Spud with all of his heart. Spud, on the other hand, is something of a strong man, an athlete who does not understand, but is able to appreciate, the sensitivity of his friend. They compliment one another, with Lymie taking security from Spud's strength while Spud draws another kind of strength from his friend.

The two boys love one another, with Lymie's love much the stronger, but the love remains platonic. It is the casual, affectionate, innocently physical love of young boys who become college men understanding that there is nobody else in the world more compatible with them than the other. A girl, of course, shatters this, but even though Spud may lose that first blush of pre-sexual affection, Lymie does not. The novel moves very slowly from the boys' strong relationship to a rather one-sided, heartbreaking examination of what happens when one friend moves on and the other cannot.

Is the story a homosexual one? It is hard to say. Spud and Lymie are physically affectionate, going so far as to spend almost their entire college life sleeping in the same bed. Note: Sleeping. While there is a lot left unsaid about Lymie's true feelings - he wonders, every now and again, when he shall meet a woman of his own to marry, but the wondering is academic rather than passionate - my reading of the novel is that Maxwell was happy to have Lymie's feelings remain ambiguous. Lymie is very much in love, and it is to the author's credit that the love does not have to be defined as sexual or emotional - it is simply what we see on the page. Lymie loves Spud and Spud loves Lymie: in different ways, it is true, but what they both feel is what we would call love. Maxwell is shrewd in avoiding the question of romantic or platonic love - what we have is love, just love, and it is shown to be enough. I highly doubt Lymie would have considered his feelings for Spud as anything wrong, and Spud - athletic, not very intelligent, given to boisterousness - certainly has no problem with his diminutive friend.

Maxwell shines the brightest when he is delving into Lymie's thoughts. We understand most of the novels scenes, from their school days to when they bunk together at university to when Spud becomes a (rather ignoble) boxer to Spud's engagement with Sally, from Lymie's perspective, allowing us to see the friendship in a way that Spud, and an outsider, never would. Consider this long quote: 'Lymie didn't know what the trouble was, but he was not dismayed. He had worn Spud down once before and he was sure he could do it again. Every day between four-fifteen and four-thirty he appeared at the gymnasium and stood a few feet away from the punching bag where Spud, if he wanted his gloves tied on or any small service like that, wouldn't have to go far to find him. When Spud came up from the showers, Lymie was there waiting by the locker, like a faithful hound. He made no move to open the lock, or to touch anything inside the locker that belonged to Spud. Occasionally while Spud was dressing and afterward on the way home, Lymie would say something to him, but Lymie was always careful not to put the remark in the form of a question, so there was no actual need for Spud to reply.' This is unrequited love at its most honest. Sadly for Lymie, Spud of course does not appreciate the layers of meaning and feeling behind Lymie's behaviour, and of course there is conflict that ends in tears. The novel ends the only way it should, but there is hope for the friendship and hope for Lymie, forced by circumstance to face the reality that even though his boyhood love may never have lost its intensity of feeling, Spud's certainly has.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 March 2013
Lymie Peters is a thin, intelligent, solitary boy useless at sports; Spud Latham is a natural sportsman, lithe, perfectly proportioned and muscular, a natural fighter who loves boxing, but not so good in the classroom. That the two become such close friends makes an unlikely combination, but Lymie is devoted to Spud, and Spud sees his role as protector of the weaker boy.

They remain close throughout their school years and as they move away from home to attend the same college. They room together, and become close to two girls, but trouble lies ahead as misunderstanding and jealousy take their toll, eventually leading Lymie to desperate steps.

This is a most engaging novel. Set in the 1920s it captures much of the period with detailed descriptions of place and fashion. The friendship between Lymie and Spud is beautiful if at times uneven, and while nothing is suggested one might read much more into it. Beautifully written, it holds ones attention throughout to its ultimately positive conclusion.
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on 12 August 2014
An interesting book, original and easy to read. If it was written today by a modern author it would probably have been ruined by explicit sex, whereas the subtlety of the intimation of the sexuality of the main characters is far far better. No grinding axe or 'message' to get across, just a good story leaving the reader to look and follow wherever it takes them. Will explore more books from this author.
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Exquisitely written account of friendship, love and shyness.
Lymie is an intelligent but puny kid, ever excluded by the others. When he becomes friends with tough new boy Spud, a kid who fits in with the rest, the relationship becomes intense- on Lymie's side at least- but unspoken issues arise between the two at college...
This part was so beautifully written; a lesser author might have broken up the friendship with an argument, but Lymie continues to hang around Spud -who allows him to while barely acknowledging him, in a heartbreaking episode.
The reader totally understands the kind of guy Lymie is to the rest of the world:
'The boys in the fraternity were friendly toward Lymie and accepted him, but as an outsider, a foreigner with all the proper credentials. Their attitude was a good enough indication of what he could accept socially, the rest of his life. If he had been the kind of person who mixes easily and makes a good first impression, he wouldn't have walked past the plate glass window of LeClerc's pastry shop, years before when he was in high school.'
Beautiful, heart-rending, showing a total understanding of human interaction.
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on 18 April 2015
Bought because it was my book club choice. I didn't know he author, but found the story strangely compelling. I must say I have thought about the book a lot since I read it. Not always the case with a book I was compelled to read.
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on 10 April 2015
Typical American litterature, and I mean that in the best possible way. Under the apparent simplicity and a storyline where not much happens, lies an absolutely beautiful study of the human soul which heralds the kind of work Williams would do later with Stoner for example.

Now a word about the Vintage Books edition - on the outside, I find the package really nice. Inside, it's another story. The paper is cheap and the print fuzzy, a sure sign that this was meant to look good but cost as little as possible. But even worse is the fact that I found five typos throughout the book. Call me old-fashioned, but that's another sure sign of cost-cutting by not hiring proper or enough proof-readers. Remember the time when no publisher would be caught dead letting typos go to print? What could be understandable if these book cost £3 is totally unacceptable at £8.99. At the same price, Penguin offers much, much better quality (paper, ink, and no typos...).
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on 26 June 2014
It's rare indeed that I come across a 'new' author. I loved this novel - the content and the style. Especially the style. I bought it initially as it was listed as a 'gay interest' novel. It's not really. It charts the friendship between Lymie and Spud, two polar opposites who forge an unlikely friendship. Lymie hero worships and 'loves' Spud - but it's unrequited - and so it goes. It would have been a great novel anyway, brimming heartbreak and yearning - and a bit of boxing - what makes this outstanding though is Maxwell's style - it is a beautifully written book. The characters resonate long after the book is finished through crystal clear prose and a deep understanding of the human heart and the complexity of human love. I can't believe I have never heard of him before as he deserves to be highly esteemed in the way his contemporaries were. Delicious.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 March 2013
Lymie Peters is a thin, intelligent, solitary boy useless at sports; Spud Latham is a natural sportsman, lithe, perfectly proportioned and muscular, a natural fighter who loves boxing, but not so good in the classroom. That the two become such close friends makes an unlikely combination, but Lymie is devoted to Spud, and Spud sees his role as protector of the weaker boy.

They remain close throughout their school years and as they move away from home to attend the same college. They room together, and become close to two girls, but trouble lies ahead as misunderstanding and jealousy take their toll, eventually leading Lymie to desperate steps.

This is a most engaging novel. Set in the 1920s it captures much of the period with detailed descriptions of place and fashion. The friendship between Lymie and Spud is beautiful if at times uneven, and while nothing is suggested one might read much more into it. Beautifully written, it holds ones attention throughout to its ultimately positive conclusion.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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