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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
One very fine book that I have read recently which really touched me, and surprised me, too, is this lively one by an author, Ethan Mordden, whose writings I always have enjoyed, whether fiction or about film, music, or whatever. "How Long Has This Been Going on?" is only one of the many literary and music-oriented works by this multi-talented writer that I have read and savoured, then re-read again and again, in full or in part. Some of Mordden's other fiction is even better than this novel, but I was impressed at how Mordden sustains the epic style of this 590 page "brick" of a book. Mordden's other works of fiction tend to be episodic, essentially amounting to interweaved short stories, but this massive work shows the author's unanticipated skill in creating such a work of such panoramic scale.

The book comprises the accounts of a series of fictional characters whose lives eventually (and ingeniously) come seamlessly to intersect, being tales of the lives of gay men and lesbians from 1949 to 1991 and of the society of those changing times. This is really is an huge accomplishment, never flagging in interest or in coherence. The characters are very sympathetic, for all their peculiarities and failings, from which Mordden does not flinch to recount. My favourite chacters are Blue, a kind-hearted, rustic Southern guy (of the variety so often denigrated as "poor white trash"), who also happens to be of irresistible good looks and multi-orgasmic sexual potency, turned loose in New York City (and parts beyond), and Walt, a very cute and lovably quirky musician from the Midwest, whose fate brings him together with Blue, then separates, and finally reunites, amidst the adventures of many other fascinating boys, men (some of them being those boys grown older), and women.

Some readers have complained of the artificial and overly highbrow dialogue, but, for the most part, I disagree with this caveat. It is, usually, the more intellectual and politically activist personalities who express themselves in this way, their "naturally unnatural" way of speech, as it were. The earthier and more direct characters usually express themselves in vocabulary and diction that are natural and quite believable; the variety of the ways in which all converse abet Mordden's strongly individualised portrayals of them. I find it amazing that a writer from the Mid-Atlantic states (the part of the U. S. of A. from which Mordden hails) captures with such authenticity the folkways and speech patterns of the rural, Southern character from the backwoods that Blue is, conveying with such rightness the slang, accent, regional archaisms, word order, and all the rest of Blue's very Dixified way of expressing himself, with utter believability, yet without any sense of artificiality or of literary condescension whatsoever.

Despite the length of the novel, I was sorry when I arrived at the end of this immense piece of fiction. I wanted it to go on and on, to cover the years following the 1990s and thus the later lives and adventures of the intensely interesting people (regarding those who still are among the living at novel's end) who have populated its pages. Perhaps fate already has given Mordden the wisdom and opportunity to write a sequel that is awaiting publication, of the kind that he has produced so often in his delightful "Buddies" series of novels.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 1999
This book provides as many reasons to disagree with the author as to agree; but every point it makes is worth considering. Starting from the 40's, and running through to the present day (or as near as dammit) it dissects the gay experience in America over the last fifty years. But this is not a single issue book. It's a book about what it means to be alive, a book about embracing the truth of how-however- one is born, and working out how to live with it; and as such, it should be read by gay, straight, undecided and dead people alike.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2013
It's amazing how a 600 page novel can keep the reader so closely involved that it seems so much shorter than it actually is. I know some reviewers have noted that it is like a `Gone with the Wind' for gays but in some respects it is. The down side of following such a disparate group of men and women (but mainly men) for 30 or 40 years is that the reader becomes so attached to them and feels almost part of their lives so their disappointments become yours. The characters are just so real and no matter who reads this book you will find aspects of yourself in one or many of them at different times in their lives.
So many of the differing political viewpoints which surfaced from the 30's onward are presented and then we see what they melted into in the Gay Pride March in 1991 with some of the original group still living and doing a good job of it too. Not everyone is so lucky and some of the characters play supporting roles only and fade out quickly - like so many country boys who made it to the cities of New York and San Francisco in the `70s and were able to breathe free for the first time in their lives. So many of them never saw much of the 80's. Their story is told as background for the main protagonists.
You'll find yourself identifying with one character or another and - as I did - perk up somewhat when they returned to the narrative. I only discovered this book by accident and I don't know how the author isn't much better known in Europe. His writing style is very fluid, no words wasted with little concentration on long dreary descriptive passages of nature or buildings or even physical characteristics leaving the reader to fill in the gaps. A brilliant read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2010
I have only recently got onto the books of Ethan Mordden and wonder whsat I have been doing all this time. This book is a masterpiece, chronicling the story of gay America from the late 1940s to the early 1990s through the interlined stories of gay men and women in Minnesota, San Francisco and New York. Mordden's characters ae as memorable as those of Dickens. They are a brilliant feat of both imagination and realisation, credible, captivating and haunting. The book is fast paced, original and compelling and the way some of its most appealing characters respond to, and succumb to, AIDS is unbearably moving. The book is a slso a series of love stories, funny, quirky, sad and wonderful. If I sound OTT then I can only suggest you read the book. Forget the bible and Shakespeare, this is the book I would take to my desert island.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2010
Being a fan of Ethan Mordden already, I bought this book as soon as it was published. I couldn't put it down and finished it in aobut 4 days. It is truly a masterpiece. Living in America at the time, I thought it captured perfectly the changing face of gay people in America. I have given this book as a gift several times and believe every gay man should read it. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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on 6 July 2015
Fantastic book. A sweeping enjoyable history of gay life in the US up to the early 90's.

Wish we could have it on Kindle too
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One of my all time favourites - an absolute gem!
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