Book Review: ‘Portraits’ by N.A. Diaman
Diaman is an experienced gay writer with seven novels and three memoirs under his belt. This newest novel is a quiet, charming story of long loving relationships in San Francisco and Europe (Germany, then mostly in Paris) and finally, briefly, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. There are three chapters, the first named for Theo, the son of Greek emigrants from Istanbul, who opened a Greek bakery, which became a landmark in the Bay Area. Theo works in a book store and becomes a manager. He falls in love with Sebastian, an American son of Ethiopian parents. Sebastian is a musician who finds it impossible to break into the crowded San Francisco music market. He gets a chance to perform in Europe, so he takes it, first in Germany, going from city to city, then finally to Paris where he makes his mark. In Germany he meets the Turk, Deniz. They begin living together and eventually become lovers. Sebastian teaches Deniz to play the guitar, and he joins Sebastian in his singing career. They are very successful.
In the meantime, Theo accepts his separation from Sebastian and meets Conrad, a Native American silversmith from New Mexico. They too become a loving couple. Much later, Conrad has an urge to discover his roots and rides off on his motorcycle to the Southwest, then down into Mexico. He finally settles in San Miguel de Allende. He builds a house there and eventually persuades Theo to join him.
This engaging novel is divided into 150 short chapters, none longer than 2 pages. Each is a snapshot into the lives of Theo, Sebastian, Conrad, their families and friends, recording the exciting and the mundane aspects of their lives, but never boring, always a pleasure to read. Diaman is a skilled and talented writer. Collections of current gay fiction will want this for their collections, and readers seeking an uplifting gay relationship novel will want to enjoy this too.
James Doig Anderson, Professor Emeritus
Rutgers University Department of Library & Information Science.