Richard Labonte has been reading, editing, selling, and writing about queer literature since the mid-’70s. Here now: his review of Walt Loves the Bearcat, originally published in the San Francisco Bay Times (Jan. 2006).
In one universe, black college cheerleader Marcus grows up to be a writer longing for his true love—and is gay; golden-haired college quarterback Walt’s promising football career is cut short by a painful injury—and he’s a twice-divorced straight man. They don’t meet for 21 years.
In another universe, black college cheerleader Bearcat and golden-haired college and NFL quarterback Walter meet as young men and fall in love for life—a madcap whirl, too good to be true but blessedly real.
These parallel stories, told with infectiously and ferociously inventive prose, eventually overlap, intertwine, and finally fuse together quite fantastically in Boyd’s majestically imaginative epic.
The novel embraces serious topics: interracial queer relationships, homophobia in the professional sports world, gay bar culture and one-night-stand stereotyping, black life on the down low, and living with AIDS. But Walt Loves the Bearcat is first and forever a love story, one written with a roller-coaster brio and a magical intensity that demand—and deserve—the reader’s perseverance.