In Aspects of Love, David Beasley's latest published fiction, the author looks at how sexual attraction and love (not, of course the same thing) are pursued and coloured by individual dreams and self delusions while being subject to the constraints, pressures, and expectations of society. As the title suggests, Beasley explores different kinds of love, doing this through episodes in the lives of three men. The protagonists are presented as self-absorbed, seeing and expecting relationships solely from their perspective. In "Helen" we share in the brief sensual affair of a younger man and an older woman. "Adam" takes us into the psyche of a narcissistic homosexual whose eager overtures are usually directed at people least likely to respond. Moving between Paris, city of artists and lovers, and the confines of highly formalized Spanish society, "Caravetti" is the story of the life and loves of a painter and sculptor, bound finally by tradition in his life, if not his art. These stories were written about 40 years ago, the two latter extracted from the author's first, unpublished, novel and appearing in print for the first time. David Beasley, who lives in Simcoe, is the author of a number of novels, assessments of modern artists and curatorial influences, mysteries, and non-fiction. In this collection Beasley generally writes simply, with ease. Occasionally a forced word or a purple-tinged passage intrudes, but does not seriously hamper our interest. Each story is set in a different place; "Helen" in London, England; "Adam" in the Muskoka area of Ontario; "Caravetti" in Paris and on an island off the coast of Spain. The dampness of London, the bright sunlight and warmth of San Bernadino, the metropolitan atmosphere of Paris, and the greenness of summer at the lake are all well evoked. Beasley creates characters who, though we may not always like them or find them sympathetic, come alive off the pages. "Helen" is told in the first person, by the unnamed 21-year-old lover of a forty-something once-successful actress. He is struggling to write a play; Helen is hoping a small television part will mark a come-back for her. Each is greedy: Helen to revive her career, the young man to possess her solely. She is perhaps the wiser. "You can't own a person," she tells him. "You can't have anybody only to yourself." In some ways Caravetti wants to have it all. The life of an artist in Paris with his American mistress, his duller wife left back home with their children. Told in flashbacks, it details his struggle to be allowed to share in his children's lives when he returns to the island following the death of his pregnant lover, and the terms of his ultimate reacceptance into his family. The sub-plot deals with the happy-go-lucky Pedro, his affair with the older Senora Cosmos whom he abandons to marry a young, rich girl. "Adam" is perhaps the least successful, certainly the most confusing to read. Beasley interlaces the text with asides, mostly referring to native Canadian history. Some are marginally relevant, most are not. Few add to the interest or development of the narrative. Easy reading for a long holiday weekend.
Reviewed by Joanna Manning for The Downtowner