Wooten, Arthur, “On Picking Fruit”. Alyson Books, 2006.
On Living at Middle Age
“On Picking Fruit” is destined to move to one of the top spots on my favorite fiction list. Arthur Wooten presents a portrayal of an average middle aged man attempting to do what we all want in life, a place where we can be comfortable and someone to share them with. He does so in a delightful and charming read with fascinating characters and witty prose. The book is pure entertainment—no heavy thought required, no outrageous moments and not a lot of sex.
Curtis Jenkins, the hero, is a successful idle –aged writer living comfortably in New York. He has just one problem and that is he can’t seem to find the right Mr. Right. His mother (overbearing and flamboyant) and his best friend, Quinn, feel that he is too picky and convince him to go and see Dr. Magda Turnick , a Dr. Phil type relationship guru. Turnick convinces Jenkins that he must date at least once a week while he is undergoing therapy with her. His adventure start and become more interesting and amusing. Some of the guys he meets are fascinating—a Liza Minelli drag queen, a selfish sort who eats steak while he offers Jenkins cheese, a narcoleptic con artist and a younger man who made him hide under the bed when his mother came home.
There were times that while reading I found myself laughing out loud. The book seems to me to be satire on gay dating. And hence the title—dating is a lot harder work than picking fruit.
This is one of the books that when you read it, you think to yourself, “I resemble that”. Wooten captures the emotions that many of us think we have managed to shuck. Basically the book is a travelogue of the life of Jenkins. It is a short book and once you start it you are determined not to close it until you finish.
One important fact is that Curtis Jenkins is HIV positive and Wooten uses this to show that a postive status should not affect the way one lives his life and carries himself. One thing I did notice was that some of the men he meets seem to have no clue about HIV or safer sex. But this happens in society so it is important to be aware of it.
Middle-aged gay men are seldom written about. As we get older some seem to think not only are we less desirable sexually, we are also less interesting socially. I often say that you know when you are getting older (I did not say MATURING) when you become one of the men that you used to say no to. People do not seem to want to read about middle age but once you start “On Reading Fruit” you will see that this is a field that should have more written about it. This is a fun book that is insightfully written and a pleasure to read. It is about all of our lives—those of us who are already at middle age and those of you that are on the way. It takes on the serious topic of finding a connection and a meaning to our lives and relationships and presents it in a humorous way. It is a human drama about the mistakes we have made and the foolish things we have dome. It is about what we have or have not learned and the best laid plans that have gone awry.
“On Picking Fruit” with its dynamic characters, sparkling prose and glowing wit and engaging story should be on everyone’s next to read list. It’s grand, it’s funny and it hits close to home.