Between Two Sexes

Hovering World

By Poppy Wilkinson

A review of Hovering World by Peter Dube

Published on April 1, 2003

Hovering World
Peter Dube

DC Books
$17.95
paper
154pp
0-919688-61-6

Peter Dubé’s debut novel follows the life of an intensely lonely man named Julian, who watches the flashing TV and wonders if “somebody else is looking at these same pictures and … finding the same messages.” Rather than gaze quixotically at the moon and wonder if someone is out there, Julian looks to the tube for hope. Julian’s alienation is only accentuated by the fact that he is almost perpetually surrounded by friends. Peter Dubé creates a fine tension between Julian’s complex inner monologue and the mostly shallow transactions within his social sphere. While the conversations are generally mundane, the reader must run to catch up with Julian’s thoughts, which rattle around his mind like a marble in a maze.

The book takes a day-in-the-life form: on this particular day a photograph of an angel is mysteriously delivered to Julian. From here, the reader follows Julian’s quest to resolve this mystery, and his obsession grows the pulse of the book also quickens. In the final quarter of Hovering World readers find themselves whirling from frantic dance floors to the steamy corridors of a gay sauna. Dubé takes us effortlessly through these layers of space, but what is most poignant is the fact that Julian feels at home in none of the many haunts he frequents.

The story is broken down into irregular chapters that are headed by the hours of the day. Peter Dubé is not only experimental in style – his book begins with an ellipsis – he also commendably inverts traditional value systems. In Julian’s world darkness is preferable to harsh and unforgiving sunlight. Julian “enjoys entertaining his home as if it were an underworld.” Adam, Julian’s friend, is also “insistent in blocking out the day … even in the middle of the afternoon, darkness settles over this room of Adam’s making space for maniacal intimacy.” Julian’s group is in some ways intimate (sexually and otherwise), but in other ways these people never truly seem to communicate.

Feeling disillusioned with his surroundings, Julian becomes captivated by the aforementioned angel photo. The image is well chosen, as the book is concerned with sexual identity and the figure of the angel is seen by Julian as being “as beautiful as a boy … or like a girl.” Angels are liminal beings: they exist between two worlds and two sexes. Most traditionally angels are messengers from God to men, but Dubé offers the reader a full spectrum of angels, fallen and otherwise. Dubé peppers the text with lines from Baudelaire’s Litanies de Satan, invoking images of a “Prince of Exile” and his fall from grace. These lines of poetry highlight Julian’s predicament as a gay male who has not yet found his place. Julian projects his anguish upon the angel in the picture who he sees as “screaming in rage at his loneliness, last of the angels to cruise the mid-day sky alone, alone, alone.”

Perhaps it is because Julian has no one he can talk to that he writes some heavily veiled letters throughout the book. Addressed to an unidentified “Friend,” these letters are at times poetic and at times obtuse. Reading them can be a tad tiresome, but they are not lengthy and by the end of the novel their meaning becomes clearer. The reader has to ride with the confusion and madness both within the city and inside Julian’s mind. Peter Dubé writes a book full of noise, but in the end offers quiet redemption. Although the book begins with a search for an untouchable angel, it ends with the satisfying possibility that Julian could enjoy a more ordinary happiness. mRb

Poppy Wilkinson is managing editor at Maisonneuve magazine.

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