The Decade of Blind Dates – Richard Alther (Lethe Press)

Buy it now from Giovanni’s Room or at Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.

Who hasn’t been on his share of dates, blind and otherwise,searching for a connection with a kindred spirit? Not everyone, however, hasthe stamina or the support system to endure ten years of Mr. Not-Quite-Rights.Meet author Richard Alther’s alter-ego Peter Bauman, forty-five, divorced,recently out and looking for love in The Decade of Blind Dates.

To most of the world, Bauman would appear to have it all:supportive children, a friendly ex-wife who enables him to pay his bills whilehe paints, a swimmer’s build and a gay best friend to whom he can tell histroubles – but he wants someone to share it all with as well. Will it be thebig bear with the little weenie and an extensive bag of toys? Or the reclusiveforest dwelling basket-weaver with massive forearms? Or the fragile, impotentpoet?

What strikes me as most true about all of these encountersis their pattern: tentative phone calls or letters (many of these take placebefore the Internet) followed by enthusiastic first meetings full of banterclosely studied for either clues or missteps as both parties commence theirsearch for common ground. Some end immediately but others continue for a short,fitful while before sputtering to a disappointing halt. We’ve all done it manytimes over, haven’t we?

A whole book of these might sound a bit samey, but Altherprovides respite from these failed couplings by detailing Bauman’s bout withprostate cancer and giving us conversations between Bauman and his friend Barryabout Barry’s destructive relationship with his late partner, Len. Barry’sobservations about love and its hurtfulness are both insightful andheartbreaking.

If all this seems a bit serious – well, it is. But that doesn’t mean Alther doesn’t have hislighter moments. Some of Bauman’s prospective suitors are downright hilariousin a trainwreck-y sort of way – and a scene dealing with a device Bauman isbeing sold to achieve and maintain a post-operative erection had me in tears oflaughter.

Although Alther’s prose might sound a bit overwritten tosome, I considered it part of Bauman’s character. He overthinks things ingeneral, so expressing himself that way is hardly suprising. And as a painter,he must include verbally all those details it takes the eye a microsecond todiscern on canvas.

Don’t let that possibility stop you from experiencing thispowerful, yet witty read. If you’ve ever been on a search for that lastingrelationship, The Decade of Blind Dateswill speak to you in ways few other books can touch. 

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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