Paul Lisicky goes straight in The Burning House
If a good man wasn’t hard enough to find already, Paul Lisicky has made the search even more precarious with his second novel, The Burning House, a smoldering exploration of how desire both nurtures and consumes us. The author of Lawnboy, an achingly beautiful coming-of-gay-age story, Lisicky tries his hand at the complexities of heterosexual male desire, as complications arise for the leading man when his wife’s sister moves in and attraction becomes palpable.
“Was it ever possible to love two people,” his narrator asks, “wholly, equally, at once?”
In language that is simultaneously muscular and tender, both butch and queer—like the sweat-stained cotton shirt of a man laboring in his rose garden—Lisicky questions what it means to be shoehorned into a body, with its appetites and fancies, its impulse to please and be pleased, to touch and be touched.
Though desire gets his characters into a beautiful jumble, there’s nothing clumsy about the delivery. The Burning House is clearly the work of a writer well-versed in the art of description, that old habit of taking notice: “Peonies in their vases, knives in the drawers. Out through the window, sodium vapor orange pummeled the bayberry across the lagoon. The light transformed the plant, otherworldly now, a hot trashy gold.”
Using all the techniques of a poem—ellipses, disjunction, compression—The Burning House presents us with prose at its lyrical best: language that both asserts itself in its grandeur while simultaneously questioning its ability to capture the marrow of experience. Of his own novel, Lisicky says, “I think of it as a long poem, and I hope poets will get what it’s up to.”
HOMO MAGAZINE: FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK & TWITTER