Richard Meeker, Better Angel
Largely autobiographical, Better Angel (Greenberg, 1933) recounts the story of Kurt Gray from the age of thirteen through twenty-two. Brought up in the small town of Barton, Michigan, Kurt has loving parents who care about him and are relatively undisturbed that he appears different from his playmates. He is more bookish, less interested in sports, and often accused of being a sissy. Part One of the novel deals with Kurt’s adolescence with good humor and tolerance. One learns what it is like not so much to be different, but simply to be a boy growing up in small-town America in the mid 1920s. (As far as one can ascertain, the novel takes place in the mid-through late 1920s and the early 1930s.) There is something poignant and wholesome here, even in the pages dealing with Kurt’s introduction to masturbation and the physical dangers he fears from it. This may not be Theodore Dreiser, as one gay critic has outrageously suggested, but it is a first-rate, firsthand account that can stand against any contemporary novel dealing with the maturation of any small-town American boy, gay or straight.