“Let’s talk about our relationship”: Ockham’s Razor, by Alan Michael Williams


Antelopes and giraffes have a few things in common, right? Four legs, both mammals. We consider them fundamentally different creatures. Now lets say a third animal comes running alongside them. One that resembles an antelope, but it also has a number of qualities that a giraffe has. Maybe it has long legs or maybe it has spots. Should we say and I think this should be in a British accent: that animal there is fundamentally an antelope with a few giraffe qualities. Or should we give the creature a new name? A giraffelope.

That’s Micah, talking with Brendan about the claim that gay men’s brains are like women’s brains, from the novel Ockham’s Razor, by Alan Michael Williams. I agree with Micah, yet, ironically, the novel made him look a lot like a “giraffelope” to me. Forgive me for viewing the story through the lens of my own (straight) experience, but it had me thinking “Micah loves Brendan the way a man loves a woman” and “Micah loves Brendan the way a woman loves a man.”

If the popular stereotypes are true, I think a lot of straight men would find this novel difficult — not because of the explicit man-on-man sex action, but because of the explicit (and frequent) man-on-man “let’s talk about our relationship” action. Sexist stereotypes aside, if you’re one of those people who thinks a good story ought to include some car-chases and explosions, then you probably won’t find this novel interesting. On the other hand, if you think that working to understand yourself and your relationships can be a story, then you’ll likely enjoy this book, as I did.

Ockham’s Razor is the tale of a relationship between two gay males within Mormon culture. More precisely, it tells a story of a gay teenage boy trying to figure out how to reconcile his homosexuality with his Mormon faith — and what happens when he meets up with an older gay male in Mormon culture who has already made his choices. It presents a fascinating contrast when read alongside Langford’s No Going Back, exploring what would happen if the older guy is only a couple years older (and out of the church) as opposed to being much older (and heavily personally invested in the idea of heterosexual-only marriage). To anyone who is trying to understand the psychology and mindset of gay men in modern Mormonism, I’d highly recommend both of these works, as they illustrate different facets of it.

Micah’s story is a bittersweet one. When he and Brendan are together, you can feel the passion of true love expanding to fill the whole universe. But when Brendan distances himself, Micah can’t stop second-guessing himself. He’s defensive when his Mormon mom hints that their relationship (being homosexual) isn’t real. And he’s obsessed with the Mormon idea that homosexuality is like drug addiction.

Actually, the central theme of the story is the question: “Are the Mormons right that homosexuality is like addiction?” Micah works at a detox center with two women who represent two different philosophies about dealing with addiction (comfortable harm-reduction vs. the cruel-to-be-kind hard-line approach). Micah doesn’t quite reach a conclusion about which of those two philosophies he prefers, and he never quite seems to answer his own question about homosexuality as an addiction. From my perspective, it looks quite clear that it’s not — Micah’s feelings towards Brendan are instantly recognizable as the same type of “in love” that anyone might feel. But considering that the story leaves the question open, I’d be curious to hear the reaction from Mormons who think homosexuality is like addiction — what would they think of this book?

The author also leaves Brendan’s perspective open to multiple interpretations. Micah wants to understand what Brendan is thinking and why he makes the choices he does. But he never quite figures it out. Maybe you will — just read the book and try for yourself! 😀


C. L. Hanson is the friendly Swiss-French-American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! Follow me on mastadon at @chanson@social.linux.pizza or see "letters from a broad" for further adventures!!

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10 Responses

  1. Holly says:

    this sounds much more appealing and realistic than “No Going Back” in terms of the narrative and characters. Any comments on the prose and so forth? Just curious as to what you thought.

  2. chanson says:

    Actual literary criticism on the quality of the prose? On the grand scale of indie-published works, I don’t think either one of them is up at the level of Torn by God.

    Beyond that, it’s a little difficult for me to judge. Both works (“No Going Back” and “Ockham’s Razor”) center the story around the introspection that goes on in the main characters’ minds. I was impressed by the feeling in Williams’s scenes when Micah and Brendan were together, such as the scene where Micah is watching Brendan dance ballet. Other scenes were a little clunky (especially some of the dialogs about drug addiction).

    Both books were focused around examining ambiguous situations, but I think Williams did a better job of just portraying the ambiguity and letting it be. (His treatment of racism was particularly interesting, as Brendan is a “brown boy”). Langford’s is far more explicitly didactic (offering instruction to faithful Mormons on how not to be cruel to gay Mormons), especially the character of Paul’s mother (“Here’s how to love me and help me feel comfortable with who I am without encouraging my homosexuality, Mom!”).

    I’m not sure if that answers your question… 😉

  3. MoHoHawaii says:

    You mention “the explicit (and frequent) man-on-man ‘lets talk about our relationship’ action.”

    LOL! Homosexuality was once known as the love that dared not speak its name. It’s actually more the “love that can’t shut up.” 🙂

    I think there is a kernel of truth here. Many gay males are more verbal about their emotions than straight guys, and you sometimes see “nesting” instincts that straight guys don’t have.

    I think this is related to the appeal of yaoi comics in Japan. The yaoi genre is based on romance between young men and is intended for a straight female readership. I believe that the reason it is popular is because the male characters are shown as sensitive and romantic and this appeals to women who have macho-fatigue. In yaoi, the guys *love* to talk about their feelings for each other.

    Who would you guess is the audience for Ockham’s Razor?

  4. chanson says:

    I think there is a kernel of truth here. Many gay males are more verbal about their emotions than straight guys, and you sometimes see nesting instincts that straight guys dont have.

    It’s very possible. As I was reading this book, I kept thinking that if I were to portray a straight male character analyzing his relationship like this, I know for a fact the straight male readers would complain “guys aren’t like that!!” (I contend that a few straight guys are like that, but they’re in the minority.) OTOH, if a gay guy portrays a gay character who loves to analyze relationships, who’s going to contradict him?

    Actually, one really interesting point was when the (gay) main character was analyzing the problems in his straight friends’ relationship. The scene where his straight male friend was asking him for relationship advice struck me as pretty realistic. (Of course I’m not a guy of either persuasion…)

    Who would you guess is the audience for Ockhams Razor?

    I don’t know who the intended audience is, but I think it would appeal to people who are interested in stories that center around interpersonal relationships. So to make a broad (stereotypical) generalization, that would be mostly gay men and straight women.

  5. leisurelyviking says:

    For me at least, romantic love is like addiction (disclosure: I am heterosexually oriented).

  6. chanson says:

    leisurelyviking — good point. Perhaps romantic love can be reasonably compared to addiction, but there’s no particular reason to limit the metaphor to homosexual romantic love…

  7. I think for Mormons the main problem is with actual gay sex itself, which for us will NEVER leave the level of vice. So any compulsion to have gay sex functions much like an addiction to drugs, porn, or anything else harmful. We think gay sex is spiritually harmful because it so directly runs counter to God’s example and commandments for his children.

    On the other hand, I personally don’t think all the emotions of homosexuality can as easily be chalked up to vice, even from a Mormon perspective. That’s a big part of the reason why this issue is so complex. No doubt there is some virtue in many of the emotions, although if/when they lead to same-gender sodomy, then obviously (from a Mormon POV) these emotions are not virtuous.

    Sodomy outside of hetero marriage will NEVER be acceptable to the LDS Church, and even sodomy within hetero marriage is “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

  8. chanson says:

    Sodomy outside of hetero marriage will NEVER be acceptable to the LDS Church, and even sodomy within hetero marriage is dont ask, dont tell.

    So you’re saying that anal sex isn’t necessarily a sin or vice if it’s man and wife? What if it’s the wife pegging her husband with a strap-on?

  9. FLeeS says:

    Mr Bigelow, the LDS Church will NEVER condone gay marriage, just as it will NEVER allow blacks the Priesthood . . . Whoops, I guess myopia doesn’t work in a church that believes in ongoing revelation.

  1. July 7, 2010

    […] been active on this blog since chanson reviewed my gay, Mormon novel Ockham’s Razor last October. I will be presenting a paper about my novel at this year’s Sunstone Symposium […]

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