Gay Protagonist Has Epiphanies and Talking Nipples

Monday Magazine | July 6, 2004
We all know that art is at its most effective when it hits close to home. But how close is too close? Halfway through the second page of Brian Francis’ debut novel, Fruit, I was wondering how he was able to gather so much detail about my adolescence without me knowing. I know it’s possible that many teenage boys have stories similar to that of Fruit’s protagonist, Peter Paddington, but it wasn’t just the similarities between myself growing up and the details about Peter—a chubby Canadian lad with an overactive imagination who pretends to like girls when he really dreams about boys—that I found so eerie. What made it even more personal for me was small details such as two older sisters (one a vegetarian) and a golf-loving, no BS father. I could go on, but that would take too long­—though I’m happy to report that I never attributed the voices in my head to my nipples like Peter does. I just believed I was a little crazy, like everyone else. And that basic fact is what makes Fruit so charming.

The growing pains experienced by Peter Paddington are something everyone has to deal with, whether you’re male or female (or otherwise), gay or straight, husky or rail-thin. Who can honestly say they didn’t have a crush on a high-school teacher at one point? I know I sure had one on a particular gym teacher. The descriptors Francis has Peter using may sound a little childish, but you must remember this is a 13-year old boy speaking. At the same time, however, it’s the farthest thing from childish; it’s how adolescents think and speak and they certainly can’t be faulted for it. Peter’s life is far from perfect, but he knows this and retreats to his imagination where things are a little more suited to his whims. He has religious epiphanies such as the Virgin Mary appearing in his closet door and sexual awakenings in the form of his “Bedtime Movies,” which the adult world would simply refer to as fantasies.

In the end, these epiphanies and awakenings are not the only ones that come to Peter, as well as many of the other characters in Fruit, but overall they seem secondary to the effective simplicity of the writing and the understanding of how difficult it is to grow up.

Monday Magazine

Founded in 1975 to provide a critical voice in Victoria's political and cultural communities, Monday Magazine continues to shake British Columbia's conservative capital city with tell-it- like-it-is features and reviews. Targeting educated, active adults and Victoria's growing youth market, Monday...
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