Review: The Scar Letters


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Toby Johnson's books:

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story

PLAGUE: A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.

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Books on Gay Spirituality:

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Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"


The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington


A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

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Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium


Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"


"It's Always About You"

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Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

You're Not A Wave

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The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

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Let Me Tell You a Secret

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Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption


Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
 
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes


The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis


The Techniques Of The World Saviors

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Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
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The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

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Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated


In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

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Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

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Book Reviews


Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois


Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass



Bearing the Weight of Human Suffering



The Scar Letters cover
The Scar Letters
Richard Alther

Centaur Books
978-0-9886577-2-4
 6x9 trade paperback, 234 pages, $16.9
5

Reviewed by Toby Johnson



The Scar Letters: A Novel
by Richard Alther is a sensitive, beautifully-written and ultimately moving and heartwarming account of a modern gay man coming to terms with personal pain and human suffering.

As a young man, a little dumpy and socially-inept, Rudy Dallmann was the victim of a cruel hate crime. Mugged outside a gay bar, he was raped and terrorized at razor point by teenage queer-bashers. Double F's—faggot and fairy—were carved into his chest with the blade.

The novel begins with this horrendous event. A warning: the first chapter is hard to read. The story is told in Rudy's first person, so the reader is inside his experience. As things begin to unfold, we learn Rudy's become reclusive, sexless and isolated, living in the country as a nurseryman with his flowers as his only friends—save one, a gay guy named Tex
whom he's got an unrequited crush on, an AIDS care volunteer who'd come to the rescue following the assault so many years before.

As the eighteenth anniversary of the attack is coming up, Tex encourages Rudy to break out of his shell and to see a therapist to work on getting over the trauma that still burdens and cripples him. We discover Rudy's history through the introspection that follows from being in therapy. The story is beautifully told as recollection is woven into the narrative.

In coming to terms with the assault, Rudy goes in search of the police records, and though there was no report filed on the queer-bashing, because the boys who attacked him were picked up for car theft that same night, he is able to find photos and discover their identities. Rudy seeks them out. The two have gone very different directions: Bud into a life of failure and petty crime, Stan into a successful job, a bland marriage and team swimming.

Rudy joins the swim team, and whole new layers of the charaacters—both Rudy and Stan—are revealed and the story takes a surprising and satisfying turn.

Each chapter of The Scar Letters begins with an epigraph citing terrible punishments meted out to poor homosexuals in the past. One whole chapter, in fact, recounts a tale of gay persecution in a  medieval prison. This isn’t just a light romance, though it has moments of lightness and of romance. Underlying the story is a question of how we bear the weight of human suffering that comes down to us all through history. So much pain has been caused human to human, and especially to people of different sexuality.

In the end, Rudy transforms his life, forgives the perpetrators seeing how they themselves were also victims of that horrendous act,
resolves the trauma of long ago, and finds the love he has been longing for—and it's a wonderful twist.

Perhaps the message is that in our happiness today as self-affirming gay men and well-intentioned seekers of love and fulfillment, we somehow receive recompense for the horrors wrought upon our predecessors.

The Scar Letters is a beautiful, wonderfully readable, and spiritually, emotionally uplifting novel of personal transformation and triumph. A great read.

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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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