For the Ferryman – Charles Silverstein (Chelsea Station Editions)

Buy it now visit Chelsea Station Editions

When it comes to pioneer moments, the removal of
homosexuality as a mental illness in the diagnostic manual of the American
Psychiatric Association is among the most important, and Dr. Charles
Silverstein was primary in this battle. His most recent book, For the
Ferryman
, deals with this fight, but takes on much more.

Subtitled “A Personal History,” For the Ferryman
addresses more than that historical reclassification, being an account of
Silverstein’s grandly tumultuous twenty-year relationship with his late
partner, William Bory, as well as a snapshot of the AIDS epidemic in New York
City. Detailed, unflinching, and unrepentantly honest, this memoir is both
personal in scope and universal in relevance.

It would, perhaps, have been easier on the author to write
this as a more detached and distanced history, but Silverstein doesn’t appear
to be the kind of man to take the easy way out. He chooses, instead, the path
of most resistance—as witnessed by the uphill battle he has with his fellow
psychologists or the difficulties of publishing a book titled The Joy of Gay
Sex
or, indeed, his relationship with the difficult, mercurial Bory.

That relationship is the emotional heart of For the Ferryman,
and Silverstein relates it all—from the glorious to the gruesome—with brutal
frankness. The glorious, to me at least, is represented by the “buzz” shared
between them:

                        “William
and I would extend the forefinger of a hand and

                        lightly
touch the tip of the other’s forefinger. The tips of

                        our
fingers were joined for only a second, representing our

                        union,
our feelings of love and intimacy, our sharing the

                        moment—a
reaffirmation of everything we meant to one

                        another.
“Buzz” we said at the moment of contact, the verbal

                        representation
of the voltage we shared between us.”

Bory was obviously such a unique, creative and winning
individual (albeit with his quirks and faults) that it’s difficult to read
about his AIDS-fueled decline into depression, despair and drug addiction.
Silverstein is unsparing of the details of Bory’s degredation, citing the
tricks, pawning of personal items and hosting of drug parties—all the more
damning for his non-judgmental retelling. However, it is not for those failings
I shall remember Bory. I will recall his loathing of technology, encyclopedic
knowledge of the arts and his fondness for Blue Willow dinnerware.

Silverstein’s prose is passionate and compelling, and he
effortlessly blends anecdotes with exposition. For the Ferryman is on a
par with the marvelous Jeanne Cordova memoir, When We Were Outlaws in
terms of importance, readability, and sheer sense of place and time. They could
be different sides of the same coin, in fact. So, extend your own forefinger, click
the “buy” button and dive in when this is delivered to your door.

You just may get a “buzz” of your own.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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