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In 1988, Tom Marino is 21 years old. Having just ended a straight relationship that was headed toward marriage, he begins to embrace his homosexuality, which has always been with him—as his ex-fiancée knows, he’s no stranger to gay encounters.
What else is there to say about young Marino? In addition to his administrative job at a bank, he works as a stripper. And he is very, very taken with himself. No, really, he could give lessons to Narcissus in self-adoration. And in case the reader should forget, Marino mentions on virtually every page how hot he is, how much he enjoys looking at himself, and how lucky we all are that we can look at him, too.
The young Marino can’t change clothes without pointing out how smashing he looks in whatever he’s wearing; can’t pass a mirror without stopping for a let-me-admire-myself moment. In short, if you already suspect that great-looking guys with chiseled bodies tend to be shallow and self-absorbed, there’s nothing in this story that will change your mind.
The book’s main concern is Marino’s relationship with a man, also named Tom, whom he meets at a club. Instantly falling in love with each other’s looks, they fall into bed and then into a relationship. I use the word “fall” advisedly, for the affair is a plunge toward disaster from the very start. I’m giving nothing away by saying that Tom is a sociopath who is just out to get all he can get from Marino. (One of the first things Tom does is to get Marino to hand over all of his credit cards. Hello!)
Anyone who has been in a train wreck of a relationship will identify with Marino, who realizes he’s in trouble but can’t do anything about it because he is so deeply in love. And in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes: when two perfect-looking guys have sex, it’s just perfect.
If this book was a novel, you might put it down early on and never pick it up again. But the fact that it’s a memoir changes everything. Marino is nothing if not honest, and there’s something compelling about the way he leaves nothing out when it comes to his own past behavior. I’m talking binge drinking at every opportunity, cheating on Tom with other men and a woman, and masturbating while driving. That last behavior disturbed me deeply because, let’s face it, New Jersey drivers are bad enough when they have no distractions at all.
Speaking of Jersey, yes, this is what you get—a story played out in exurbs and suburbs, among strip malls, greasy spoons, and cul-de-sacs. It’s fitting that this story of shallow people takes place in such shallow waters. And yet, and yet—I recommend this book. Its saving grace is this: it’s compulsively readable. You know already that the story can’t end well, but you keep turning the pages for the same reason that bystanders keep looking at an accident: watching a tragedy in progress is so damn fascinating.
So by all means, take Tomorrow May Be Too Late to the beach this summer. Reading about perfect guys having perfect sex isn’t all bad, especially when you’re half comatose from lying in the sun. You can skip the superfluous Epilogue, in which Marino tries to put the best face on things by saying that his 10 months with Tom was the happiest time of his life. Unfortunately—and this makes the book a very guilty pleasure indeed—it’s the unhappiness that keeps us riveted to the page.
Reviewed by Wayne Courtois