City of Night is a novel about the lonely lives of the segment of the gay community that don’t make headlines for filing for same-sex marriage licenses.
In this novel as dark as its title, John Rechy brought the world of gay, purchased sex into mainstream literature much as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita did with pedophilia.
Sexually abused by his father, the unnamed narrator withdraws into books and movies. A loner, he goes from high school to the army, and from there to New York “looking for… perhaps some substitute for salvation.”
In one city after another, he hurls himself into the homosexual scene, wanting to be desired without having to reciprocate. He begins by using sex as a way to make money, but eventually admits he’s counting his conquests.
The narrator gets drawn into increasingly kinky situations which first repel, then attract him.
Finally offered a long-term gay relationship, the narrator turns it down. He would rather be miserably lonely than have a relationship in which he had to consider anyone other than himself.
Rechy is too good a writer for this story. He does such a good job showing the futility and waste of the pay-for-sex scene that readers are likely to lay down this novel for one that offers even a firefly-sized glimmer of hope.City of Night By John Rechy Grove Press, 1963 Paperback edition, 308 pages 1963 bestseller #7 My grade C+