IF you’re an avid reader like me, you probably often experience those moments where you stare out into nothing once you turn the last page of a novel.
If the book was great, you probably need more than just a few minutes to reflect. You may shed a tear. You may have a pleasant smile on your face. You may even be angry with the ending. Either way, you’re in a deep, reflective mood of sorts and God forbid if someone interrupts you in “that moment”.
[showads ad=MREC]But one way to tell if the book is exceptional is when “that moment” becomes hard to shake off — even after you get up and get on with your day (or night). This is precisely what happened to me after I finished reading Timothy Conigrave’s Holding The Man.
Reading Conigrave’s memoir was also an emotional journey. By the end of it, I was an emotional wreck. I can still remember it clearly: I was home alone, it was a wet, summer’s afternoon on a Sunday and I was due to attend a friend’s 30th birthday that evening. I ended up arriving a tad late, mostly because I spent a few good minutes shedding a some tears and hugging my pillow. It is perhaps the most important book I’ve ever read.
Conigrave’s writing is honest, it’s emotional, it’s funny and more than anything, it’s so real. While I have not yet found my “Mr Right” and I was far too young to comprehend the AIDS crisis in the 80s and early 90s — I was still able to relate to so many parts of the story, and I’m sure many Australian gay men can say a similar thing.
In a piece published in The Daily Review in June, Ben Neutze wrote: “The book is a kind of rite-of-passage for most gay men living here — it’s more or less mandatory reading, and even if you have no strong connection to the gay ‘community’, it serves as an extraordinary but simple reminder that while you may feel like an ‘other’ at some point, there are others who have lived and survived similar experiences. It’s also a valuable, unique and compelling personal account of the early history of HIV/AIDS in Australia (which hasn’t been covered nearly as much as HIV/AIDS in the US).” I couldn’t agree more.
Less than a year after reading it, I had the privilege of attending the world premiere of the film adaptation at the Sydney Film Festival in June. Conigrave’s memoir is so significant in Australian literature, and I personally believe Neil Armfield’s film version did it justice.
To that end, it is an honour for me to place Timothy Conigrave’s story on the front cover of this month’s Star Observer. Samuel Leighton-Dore’s accompanying feature on page 12 is also rather unique, looking at the legacy of Holding The Man and how two of his uncles were once acquainted with Conigrave.
I just hope once the film is released in cinemas everywhere on August 27, it reaches an audience so wide that it cements itself as another timeless Aussie movie. Up there with Priscilla or Muriel’s Wedding.
I for one would definitely watch — and read — Holding The Man again.
Elias Jahshan is the editor of Star Observer.
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**This article was first published in the August edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.