A young boy sitting on a piano bench realizes one day that he will never marry. At the time, this seems merely a simple, if odd, fact, but as his attraction to boys grows stronger, he is pulled into a vortex of denial. Not just for one year or even 10, but for 25 years, he lives in an inverted world, a place like a photographic negative, where love is hate, attraction is envy, and childhood never ends. He comes to think of himself as a kind of monster—until one day, seemingly miraculously, the world turns itself upright and the possibility of love floods in.
Equal parts Oliver Sacks and George Orwell, with moments of Woody Allen, Jonathan Rauch’s memoir of his “inversion” is by turns harrowing and funny, a grippingly intimate journey through a bizarre maze of self-torment that ends with an unexpected discovery. Many people, gay and straight, have lived through their own versions of this story, seeking to twist their personality in directions it just won’t go. Not all have been lucky enough to escape.