Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review: Conversations and Cosmopolitans: Awkward Moments, Mixed Drinks, and How a Mother and Son Finally Shared Who They Really Are, by Robert Rave and Jane Rave

Conversations and Cosmopolitans: Awkward Moments, Mixed Drinks, and How a Mother and Son Finally Shared Who They Really Are
by Robert Rave and Jane Rave 
copyright by Robert Rave and Jane Rave
St. Martin's Griffin
288 pages 

You know how, on TV, there are were those parents who everyone wanted for their own parents? If you grew up in the 70s or 80s, you know what and who I'm talking about.  Parents like Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham, or Bob and Carol Brady. Parents who were the epitome of cool, who you could tell anything to.

Well, after reading Conversations and Cosmopolitans, I think that Ron and Jane Rave should be designated the adoptive parents for every gay person in America. Everyone should have people like this - who react like this - when they come out. (Especially when they come out.)

"After talking with Robert and letting him know we loved him anyway, I think he felt somewhat relieved that he didn't have to pretend anymore with the people he loved most. His dad and I felt the same: Robert was our son, and being gay didn't really matter. .... At that moment, the most important thing for us was to make sure our son know we loved him and would always be there for him ... no matter what. And I think we did a good job proving that to him that day." (pg. 37)

Conversations and Cosmopolitans is a memoir written by a mother (that would be Jane) and her son (that's Robert). We're introduced to the Rave family shortly after Robert writes a letter to his parents informing them that he's gay. (This is now infamously known in the Rave household as "the gay letter.")  Reading this book is like pulling a chair up to the Rave kitchen table and listening to the old family stories.
While reading this, Robert and Jane become your new best friends, and that's due in large part to the structure of the memoir's narrative, which works incredibly well in this book. We're treated first to Robert's perspective of a particular event or situation, followed by Jane's take on the same happenstance. It's like listening to two people tell you a story, and you find yourself watching ping-pong match style from one to the other.

There's the one about Jane getting drunk on cosmopolitans during that crazy night in New York with Robert's friends - a group that included a new actor named Rupert Everett.  There's the story of Robert's disappointing (and expensive) summer when he rented a Fire Island beach house with several guys. And then, of course, the one about the birthday party dinner for the obnoxious friend who always has to be the center of attention. (There's one in every group, gay or straight or whatever else.)

All of this can be (and is) entertaining ... to a point.

For the most part, I enjoyed this memoir. Maybe because I'm a mom, but her parts of the book resonated more with me than Robert's did. At times, I found myself almost skimming over some of his narrative in order to get to Jane's down-to-earth,  perspective. Maybe that's what I personally need right now.  I dunno.

I'll start sounding a little nit-picky here, but I do have to mention that there were a few rocky editing issues that kind of irked me. One such error occurs IN THE THIRD SENTENCE of the book.  (It's Virginia WOOLF, not Virginia Wolfe.)  Then, we have the story about mom downing cosmos with a budding actor named Rupert Everett in a little movie called "My Best Friend's Wedding" ... but several chapters later when Robert flips on the TV and sees "My Best Friend's Wedding" starring Rupert Everett, there's no mention of the night of debauchery or even that Robert was once acquainted with him.

There are also a few situations that seem almost too rushed. Much of the book is focused on Robert's lack of a boyfriend and his efforts to attract one. We go through chapter after chapter of this - some entertaining, some sympathetic, some a little on the woe-is-me side of life, some a combination of all three - and then bam!  Turn the page to Chapter 19, which begins "My ex-boyfriend and I were physically and culturally complete opposites."

Whoa, huh?  Who?  What?  Where did THAT come from?

Also, one of the themes of the memoir is learning who you (and your loved ones) really are.  In Jane's life, she has had to come to terms with having become pregnant in high school, and the aftermath of being shunned by her community. It's not unlike the discrimination faced by people who are gay, who don't have the same rights as others, who are castigated as being less than everyone else.

I was expecting this parallel to take a more prominent focus in the book than it did. Even though it's mentioned on the back cover as a pivotal connection between mother and son, we don't learn about Jane's  teenage pregnancy until the last 20 pages of the memoir. I think the book's narrative would have been much stronger had we been privy to some of the conversations they had about this connection and discovery about who they are and how we have the ability to overcome what others thought about us - and what we wrongly believed about ourselves.

All in all, this is a light, easy, and humorous read.  It would be good vacation reading. You don't have to think too hard with this one.  It makes you smile in many parts and above all, it makes you appreciate the people who "get" us in this crazy life.  No matter what our circumstances, we all need at least one person - be it a parent or a significant other or a best friend who we can tell anything to and who will  stand up for us and always be by our side no matter what.  Everyone should have someone like this in his or her life.

And if they don't, there's always Conversations and Cosmopolitans. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending me Conversations and Cosmopolitans and for the opportunity to participate in the book tour. (Click here for the tour schedule and to see what others thought.) FTC disclosure: Although I received a copy of the book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours, I was not compensated in any way for this review.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm excited to read this one in spite of the issues you had with it, though I think that I'd likely identify with Jane's part of the story as well.

Thanks for being on the tour!