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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
When the sexual orientation of an eminent poet becomes the subject in fiction, you can expect it to spark a discussion. In The Wasteland, authors Harper H. Jameson and W.A.W. Parker give you T.S. Eliot up close, and bring out a fresh side of his persona in a thought-provoking plot which is sure to spark the interest of critics who have long since debated the poet’s true sexual orientation. The title is derived from Eliot’s famous 434-line poem, considered a central work of modernist poetry. In this homoerotic tale, Eliot is a bank clerk-cum-poet and paired with an openly homosexual man named Jack, who is unafraid to defy the conservative norms of the time. Eliot plays it safe by keeping his skeletons in his closet, yet at the same time worries that his homosexuality might take a toll on his career as a poet. Enter Vivienne, a vivacious, captivating woman who is drawn to Eliot. To keep up appearances, Eliot marries her for convenience, but sex is off the table as he finds more comfort in Jack’s arms.
Harper H. Jameson and W.A.W. Parker boldly combine facts and conjectures to bring to life a melodramatic story that rightfully earns its place in the canon of great LGBTQ fiction. It is similarly brimming with real-life intellectuals that further add dimension to the storyline. We have the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, whom Vivienne runs to in order to satisfy the void that Eliot could not fill. There is also Ezra Pound, who tries to talk some sense into Eliot about giving priority to poetry. The Wasteland is so intensely plotted that you get to feel how painful and awkward it is to hide your true self in a time where many are not yet open to the idea of homosexuality. The Wasteland is an impressive novel, where Jameson and Parker give a character study of real and complex literary genius. Some readers may not like the way Eliot is depicted here and might even think that he deserves to be projected in a different way, but the work deserves to be read for the sake of intelligent discussion.