"Book Tales" was selected as a Book Showcase of the Month for February 2017 by BlueInk (professional reviews for independently published books) and included in their Booklist Magazine, a bi-monthly magazine read by over 60,000 librarians and book professionals and prepared in conjunction with the American Library Association.
"This creative, compelling collection of short stories is linked by an unusual common theme: Each story is inspired by a book or writer...Gay themes permeate Book Tales, as many authors referenced are gay as are nearly all of the main characters...The stories have an easy style and passion for literature that comes through on every page. The characters are likeable and engaging, and the authors and titles referenced are different enough to appeal to a wide audience. Readers looking for thoughtful stories exploring the impact and importance of books will certainly enjoy Book Tales."
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David G. Hallman
iUniverse, 169 pages, (paperback) US$13.99, 978-1-5320-0248-9
(Reviewed: November 2016, BlueInk Reviews)
This creative, compelling collection of short stories is linked by an unusual common theme: Each story is inspired by a book or writer, from Paul Bowles and his novel The Sheltering Sky, to E.M. Forster and Maurice, and even Francis Poulenc and his opera Dialogue des Carmelites.
Gay themes permeate Book Tales, as many authors referenced are gay as are nearly all of the main characters. Several stories are about young men discovering their sexuality and learning about relationships. The books they read help in their journey. In “About Time,” for example, as Grant reads the novel The Front Runner, one of the first bestselling novels featuring a gay couple, he begins to understand why “athletes had been an obsession” for him from a young age.
In “La Biblioteque Sainte-Genevieve,” Peter is so enthralled by Abelard and Heloise’s story that he travels to Paris to read their letters in the original French, identifying with them because “so much resonated with his interests, his despairs, and his aspiration for a love as intense as theirs.”
“Morgan and Maurice” blends fiction with an essay about E.M. Forster. The first part covers his life, describing his shyness and how “a pinch on the bum” inspired his gay novel Maurice, as well as the impact of Oscar Wilde’s trial on Forster’s decision to not publish it during his lifetime. The Epilogue is an imaginary conversation between Forster, known to his friends as Morgan, and Maurice, the title character. Their discussion ranges from playful to argumentative, as when Forster explains why he didn’t publish Maurice. It’s a clever, imaginative look at the relationship between author and character.
The stories have an easy style and passion for literature that comes through on every page. The characters are likeable and engaging, and the authors and titles referenced are different enough to appeal to a wide audience. Readers looking for thoughtful stories exploring the impact and importance of books will certainly enjoy Book Tales.
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“Book Tales” by David G. Hallman— A Collection
Review by Amos Lassen (http://reviewsbyamoslassen.com)*
I must admit that I am not much of a short story reader and the only reason for that is personal choice. Sure, I have read and loved some short stories but if I have to choose between a collection of stories and a novel, I choose the novel. Yet every once in a while a short story collection comes along that bowls me over. “Book Tales” is such a collection.
I have always felt that the purpose of reading (for me, at least) is twofold—entertainment and intellectual stimulation. Now if you follow my reviews, you know that I do not always find intellectual stimulation in the books I review so I must rely on entertainment. Then along comes David Hallman who fulfills both requirements in one book of short stories. In this diverse collection of seven stories, there is something for everyone. Let me go a step further and say there is something special for everyone. Gay life, like all life, is filled with joy and heartache, pain and pleasure, drama and melodrama and the key is finding out how to deal with it all. Each of the stories here looks at aspects of life that deal with our social and personal relationships.
After all, is life not a relationship? I have just begun to look at it as such. The stories here are also gay stories but that does not mean there is no crossover to straight society. After all, outside of the bedroom we are all the same. Each of our characters is looking for something and is not that which we all do in life. Birth is a beginning, death is an ending and life is a journey that we all take.
David G. Hallman sees literature and sexuality as those forces that determine our identities and the kind of experiences we have. We see that in the different experiences of gays and straights. To reach his obvious goal of each story having something to say, Hallman brings together fact and fiction as well as literature and sexuality. This might not sound original but it is the way that he does so that is fresh and novel. There is also erotica here and there is literature. I base this statement on the literary and erotica works that I have read. Hallman takes on an expository mission looking at the connection between art and life and we sense his love for literature in what he writes. Each story is based on literature and the uniqueness with which Hallman integrates it into a story is nothing short of amazing. We have books that act as catalysts for action and we have books that serve as a way to introduce characters. We have a story about a writer and his famous gay novel in which we learn about how he came to write it and why it was so real for him. From the world of art we learn of sexuality and identity that we see reflected in the works of art that they produced.
I have deliberately not named any of the stores and if you continue to read here, you will understand why. I do not like to give a heads up to a specific piece when the entire collection is so good.
Some of you may find the sexual explicitness to be a bit too heavy and I am ready to disagree on that. The sex is not gratuitousness but there to help develop the character and the plot. We see the importance of sex in one’s identity and humanity. Stop and think if you have ever thought about yourself minus your sexuality.
I cannot praise “Book Tales” too much and in fact, I am reading it for the third time. I originally got a copy before it was officially published and I was so impressed with it that I could not sit down to write about it. In fact it has taken me two weeks to write this and now I am determined to read it just for pleasure’s sake.
* Note from David G. Hallman: Amos Lassen's website of his reviews of LGBT literature is the most visited such website on the internet.
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CLARION Review: (4 stars out of 5)
Short Stories by David G. Hallman
iUniverse (Sep 28, 2016)
Softcover US$13.99 (184pp)
Atmospheric style and intimate characterizations make these rich stories well worth reading to the bittersweet end.
Book Tales, a collection of short stories by David G. Hallman, explores literature and sexuality as dual forces in the construction of a person’s experience and identity. The book’s seven tales blend fiction, historical fact, and literary biography to probe the intersections of literature, sexuality, and identity for a variety of male protagonists. Often explicitly erotic and always well-written, these stories explore the connection between life and art, from haunted artists to the stories that haunt us.
Hallman’s use of books as a recurring theme is always evident, although his references to extant literature play greater or lesser roles depending on the story. Tales like “About Time” and “Strong Like Tessa” feature characters who interact with a specific work of fiction, with the referenced book serving as the catalyst for each character’s arc. Stories like “Tangier Tryst” and “La Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève” feature books that work as foil or foreshadowing for characters as they go about the business of love and life.
Most of the stories are fiction, but other stories in the collection rely heavily on historical facts about gay writers. One story, “Morgan and Maurice,” stands out as an almost straightforward biographical sketch. Fascinating information about E. M. Forster’s life, writing career, and sexual identity is presented, but the story concludes with an awkward fictional conversation between Forster and Maurice, the subject of Forster’s novel of the same name.
In “Fifth Business Fiction” and “Faggots and Faith,” departures into the history of gay artists’ sexuality and identity are beautifully woven into the narrative. The result is a sense of resonance and depth, with the true lives of historical gay artists mirrored in their art; that art, in turn, is held up as a mirror to the characters in Hallman’s tales.
The cover design suggests an intense psychological thriller, which the work is not. Instead, the collection is one of deft eroticism. Hallman doesn’t just pay lip service to the notion that love and sex are a foundational part of the human experience—he revels in it. His frank engagement with his characters’ sexuality is explicit, but never gratuitous. By exploring this often taboo topic, Hallman honors the full spectrum of his characters’ experiences, and makes a compelling case for just how important sex is in shaping identity and in anchoring people in their own humanity.
The short stories in Book Tales are diverse and riveting. Hallman honors the lives of those who create art as much as the lives of those who consume it. By illuminating the intertwined struggles of sexuality, identity, love, and loss, this collection’s atmospheric style and intimate characterization create seven rich worlds well worth reading to the bittersweet end.
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have his/her book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Review make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
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Author Winslow Eliot interviews me on my memoir "August Farewell" and novel "Searching for Gilead":
“Memoir or Fiction? Writing What We Know and/or Writing What We Imagine.” You can hear our conversation at: http://bit.ly/10009FT
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A review of "August Farewell"
We (The Imprimatur Universal) enjoyed the book – “August Farewell” - one Winter afternoon. It is wonderfully written, poignant story - and doesn't fall victim to self-indulgence or self-pity. An open letter of devotion and love. This book should not be shoved into a "category", such as Gay Lit, but rather should be shelved next to the likes of Joan Didion - the laughter, sorrow, and commitment to a loved one cross all lines of human experience. This book will touch many hearts.
~ The Imprimatur Universal [comments are a composite of a group of five]
William N., Founder the Imprimatur, New York, NY
Follow on twitter: @EditorChief1
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A review of "Searching for Gilead"
The great thing about vacation is endulging in reading some great books. On my trip to Mexico I had the pleasure of seeing author David G. Hallman and the timing felt right to read his novel "Searching for Gilead" on the flight home. I'm glad I did. Hallman has utilized that same exquisite use of description, narrative, and characterization from his memoir "August Farewell" in this, his debut novel. Full of love, longing and social issues, Hallman pulls his readers into his world and takes them on a beautiful journey through several decades.
Gregory G. Allen, Author
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A review of "Searching for Gilead" in Advocate
Searching For Gilead: A Novel by David G. Hallman (iUniverse, $21.95)
When they meet in 1976, Tom Fischer and Jonathan Compton, the young protagonists in Searching For Gilead immediately fall in love. The next 30 years see the couple’s families become increasingly at odds, with one side devoted to business and the other to missionary service.
It's a gay modern Romeo and Juliet.
Toronto-based author David Hallman has written several non-fiction books including last year's very touching memoir, August Farewell, which wove vignettes from his 33-year relationship into the story of his partner's final two weeks of life.
Searching for Gilead, his first novel, could be a thinly veiled retelling of his own and a life dedicated to the United Church of Canada and the World Council of Churches. That familiarity with the subject has led to a realistic portrayal of convoluted familial relationships and an honest examination of questions about God, injustice, love, and death with a story that's more universal than it is gay — rare for a self-published book.
Diane Anderson-Minshall, Executive Editor, The Advocate
A review of "August Farewell" in Advocate in an article entitled
August Farewell: The Last 16 Days of a 33-Year-Romance by David G. Hallman (Rising Star/iUniverse, $16.95)
After his partner of 33 years was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, David G. Hallman only had two weeks to say a final farewell to the love of his life. In this moving memoir, Hallman recalls those painful last days and shares anecdotes from the three decades they spent together, traveling internationally and running a bread-and-breakfast in Canada. David Hallman has written six nonfiction books and is the author of the just-released novel Searching For Gilead, which reads as a thinly veiled memoir of his and his partner’s time working with the World Council of Churches. Watch this video for all the enticement you need to read both of these very worthy books: http://bit.ly/jZrEbf
Diane Anderson-Minshall, Executive Editor, The Advocate
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A review of SEARCHING FOR GILEAD
Family, as a clever therapist once said, is the final frontier.
But family is more. If one thinks about it, we each have our own particular family. My family isn’t my brother’s nor is my sisters’: all three of my siblings lived in different families, given their own psychologies and their own experiences.
SEARCHING FOR GILEAD is a powerful reminder that every family is prey to its own secrets, each in its own way, echo of Tolstoy’s aperçu about happy families all being alike but unhappy ménages each agonizing in its own way.
And in this well-turned novel, what begins as a fault line at once separating and uniting two families drawn together by the love affair of their gay sons, Jonathan and Tom, becomes, in Hallman’s skilled hands, an examination of the fault lines within each of us.
The heart is a divided organ; sorrow is everywhere you look. But family is our one shelter against the storm, gay or straight, broken or healing, lost or found. And as SEARCHING FOR GILEAD makes delicately human, in an appassionata of a finale, the whole mad structure of our families turns on two elements of love, interwoven just as Tom and Jonathan’s lives are: gratitude and forgiveness, leavened, when our better angels connive, by laughter.
SEARCHING FOR GILEAD is far too honest and too passionately engaged to be a mere novel of ideas. Its magic lies in making subtly clear that even as time steals our lives, time also mercifully gives us the chance to forgive, to lend meaning to our joys and sorrows and those of the people we love. And, as in so many scenes in SEARCHING FOR GILEAD set at a table where conversations have strange turnings and sudden trapdoors...what else is there but love and laughter?
Brendan Howley - novelist, journalist, screenwriter
Author of THE WITNESS TREE (2011) http://amzn.to/Q9yQhW
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August Farewell is inarguably the most touching book I have read thus far in my life. David G. Hallman pours forth the heartbreaking last days spent with Bill Conklin, his lover and best friend for thirty-three years.
David G. Hallman allows the reader to share an intimate time with his partner. The telling of the final days with Bill was surely a cathartic exercise for David, and such an honor to read. You can feel the emotions jumping from the pages as David and Bill meet specialist after specialist trying to get answers to the pain Bill was living with, until the terrible disease of Cancer was diagnosed. From the highs to the inevitable lows, David relives the pain and despair Bill was experiencing, bringing raw emotion forward. David shares fond memories of times he and Bill travelled the globe enjoying the opera and of spending time with friends and loved ones through the holidays as they built their life together.
The memoir could have been weighed down with the darkness such emotion can bring, however David added touches of humor and little quirks of Bill’s to allowing a lightness to the love story. The inclusion of private photos of their life and adventures brings a connection between the couple and the reader.
I challenge anyone who has read August Farewell not to have a moment when they recall a time shared with, or the loss of a loved one. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Paperback: 180 pages, ISBN: 9781450286367 $16.95 Kindle: 180 pages ASIN: B004NIFDHU $9.99
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"Lyrical writing at its best" - a review of Searching for Gilead
I have now finished "Searching for Gilead".
A fine book, for me, must have something to say, and say it well, in a nuanced way. Yours is a fine book indeed.
To jump to the end first, the chapter about Mahler's “Resurrection” symphony (my personal favorite since an unforgettable performance by the LA Phil under the baton of Esa Pekka Salonen) represents lyrical writing at its best. I will re-read it before listening again to this monumental opus, and, because of you, it will be soon.
As you mention in your introduction, you do deal with several weighty complex issues; thank you for doing us, the readers, the courtesy of not pretending that anyone can have all the answers to them. You do so not in a didactic way (how can Thomas Mann have written plodding "Magic Mountain" after exquisite "Buddenbrooks" is beyond me) but you succeed through your very well fleshed out characters who come off as the real people, complete with those contradictions without which there is no true human being.
Good books don't have to be page turners but yours is. It has what it takes: a compelling plot and knowing where to stop a chapter and how to start the next. Congratulations.
Best of luck with "Searching for Gilead" and, please, write more novels.
Santa Barbara, California
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A Compelling Story
Amazon.com review of "Searching for Gilead" by Alina Oswald, author of "Journeys Through Darkness"
David G. Hallman, the author of August Farewell, did it again--wrote a compelling and captivating book. Searching for GILEAD tells the story of two families initially united by the love connection between their two sons. Spanning over a thirty-five year period, the story is engaging, entertaining, touching, and at times adventurous. Mostly, it is human. Searching for GILEAD is a work of fiction, yet exposes elements which are intrinsic to everyday life, elements such as God (religion, spirituality), Injustice, Love, Environment, Arts and, yes, Death, as part of life.
Hallman is a master of storytelling, using his craft to entertain, excite, intrigue or make us fall in love with the characters and their stories. As a result, we have a chance to share their laughter and sorrows. Through it all, we gather a more open, understanding and accepting image of the world.
Searching for GILEAD is a must-read for any season. An absolute gift to oneself or a loved one.
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REVIEWS BY AMOS LASSEN
Hallman, David G. “Searching For Gilead: A Novel”, iUniverse, 2011.
A Book that Grabs the Reader and Does Not Let Go
I first became acquainted with David Hallman through his beautiful memoir, “August Farewell” about the loss of his partner to cancer. He wrote such a beautiful book and I was totally moved by it so when his first novel, “Searching for Gilead” came out, I was anxious to read it. The novel is also quite an emotional read as it presents the themes of “love, laughter and loss”. We meet two families—the Comptons and the Fischers and we are with them for some thirty plus years. What the families have in common is that each has a son that is in love with the son of the other family—Jonathan and Tom. As the boys love, they unite their families and the relationships become quite intriguing.
On the surface level we read about the families but beneath that, we meet some very complex and important issues—religion, injustice, love, the environment, the arts and death but above all else is the theme of understanding. Hallman is a superb writer and he has a wonderful story to tell. Put those two ideas together and we get a book that is hard to put down. We are brought into the lives of the characters and we travel around the world with them. We share their joy and we feel their pain and we laugh and cry together.
I have always felt that it is easy to write tragedy—after all, we see it everywhere. Comedy is much more difficult because we all do not laugh at the same things. Trying to bring tragedy and comedy together is perhaps the most difficult but Hallman succeeds here beautifully. His tragedy is of the kind that through it we learn to love and love is not instinctive. It must be learned and cultivated or it becomes worthless. The comedy is subtle and also helps to relieve tension.
When Jonathan and Tom fall in love, they go and introduce their partners to their respective families and then begin to travel the world and experience adventure after adventure and we are with them the entire time. This is one of those books in which the reader becomes a character because he is so drawn into the story. We do not just read; we take part. Because of this, the characters are with you even when you are not reading. We take on the emotions of the characters and when they smile, we smile and when they are hurt so are we. Even more interesting is that we also connect to the other characters in much the same way. We empathize with everyone and while this can be unsettling at times, it becomes very rewarding.
One of the things that I have discovered about literature is that when I am engrossed in a story, I begin to live it and when I take on the emotions of the characters that I read about, I find that I become a better person. Whatever is going on in my mind is obscured by what is happening with my new literary friends and I love that but it just does not happen enough.
There is one very important point here—even though the author and the main characters are gay, this is not a gay novel. It is a look at the human condition as seen through the eyes of the gay characters. The fact that they are gay is not important—what is important is that they love each other. Theirs is a relationship that has lasted for some 33 years and while some may see that as the core of the novel, I think that the lives of all of the characters are just as important. I do remember that after I closed the covers of the book, I was numb. Had been on an emotional roller coaster and it was going take a while to calm down.
The book is very conveniently divided into five sections which cover the 33 year long relationship but, as I said, it was not just Jonathan and Tom that we read about and each character has his part to play. I have read the book from cover to cover in a single reading and that was because I could not stop reading. I kept wanting to know more and to find relief from the emotional devastation that I felt.
The language of the book is gorgeous and the author has written a beautiful novel. Combining personal emotion, beautiful prose, a look at the world and a philosophical discussion on the human condition makes this a book that must be read.
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Review from www.lavendermagazine.com
Posted at http://bit.ly/A47CAP
Searching for Gilead
Opening in 1976, Searching for Gilead follows the book’s two protagonists and instantaneous lovers, Tom Fischer and Jonathan Compton, through to 2010. Tom and Jonathan are a couple, and, as couples will, they enmesh their families with them. One side of the clan touts big business, the other missionary service in foreign countries. Hallman knows his subject. Working 30 years for environmental ethics through the United Church of Canada and the World Council of Churches, and maintaining a thirty-three year relationship with his partner, whose last weeks he chronicled in his memoir, August Farewell, Hallman deftly captures the ongoing maelstrom of emotions of family relationships, weaving them into realistic plots and dialogue attempting to address his questions concerning “God, injustice, love, the environment, the arts, and death.”
Searching for Gilead
|Few books have affected us the way this book has. Searching for Gilead, authored by David G. Hallman is a very touching, very romantic, very historical and very tender novel about real life with a loving gay couple thru their 34 years together. It deals with their relationships with each other as well as their respective families, their friends and in the work place.
Searching for Gilead, it is one of those marvelous books that seldom comes out and when it does it is a wonderful and exciting event for readers all over the world. Although the two main characters, Tom and Jonathan are from Canada they both travel throughout the world in their business and social lives. Their relationship with each of the families are extremely interesting and as the case with many gay relations dealing with their families, in this case all of the family members are intelligent, smart and caring enough to accept them as a family of their own.
Of course problems arise from time to time over the span of their 34 years in their relationship but they are hit head on and life goes on. This is an EXTREMLY touching story of two gay men in love with each other, who share the same things that matter in a relationship.
Being in a loving relationship ourselves for 41 years, we will never, NEVER forget reading in the epilogue, "If I believe my lecture to Jonathan on his death bed about love and memory, I should be less distressed than I am. Regretfully, the platitudes have lost their vibrancy. 'He'll live on in your heart' You'll be comforted by all your wonderful memories.' Like hell. My memories serve not to comfort. Rather they reinforce how much I have lost."
While reading the book, you will laugh, chuckle, get emotionally entangled in the events and people, and yes, even cry. After all, that is what a great book should give the reader. We were fortunate in being able to meet Mr. Hallman when we were in Ft. Lauderdale in January. He is a very interesting, intelligent and thought-provoking gentleman. He is quickly becoming a national treasure for his writings.
The author, David G. Hallman worked in environmental ethics and has written several other books as well including his memoir, August Farewell, which is an extremely touching story about his 33 year relationship with his gay partner until his death. Mr. Hallman now has a very loyal following of readers all around the world. Searching for Gilead can be purchased thru Amazon.com or at many book stores. The author's website is: www.davidghallman.com
We simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. And now we are waiting for Mr. Hallman's next novel to come out!
Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!
TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columnists who write for gay publications from coast to coast (And now legally married). Proud members of the IGLTA. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit their website at http://gaytravelersataol.blogspot.com/
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5.0 out of 5 stars
A poignant love story
Posted on Amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/AtUL8VThis review is from: August Farewell: The Last Sixteen Days of a Thirty-Three-Year Romance (Paperback)
When I finished reading "August Farewell" by David Hallman, I was speechless and teary-eyed. I felt I had met both David and Bill and followed them through not only snippets of their incredible life together but also the excruciatingly painful last sixteen days of their 33-year relationship. It is a stunning love story as well as a model of what end-of-life care should look like, told through David's eyes with love, gentleness, compassion, humor and respect.
David's writing is exquisite - honest, simple yet powerfully detailed and well-paced in its delivery, which is a mixture of effective dialogue, scenic details, flashbacks woven skillfully throughout. In doing so, we get to know Bill's charismatic personality and we get to appreciate the strength of their relationship together. He invited me right into his experience-weaving in the good times of traveling, parties, day to day squabbles with the painful realities of a sudden illness and death of a loved one- and kept me turning the pages until the end. The scene of Bill visualizing Jesus and declaring he was ready to leave was riveting.
Because Bill and their relationship came alive on the pages, his decline and eventual death had an even greater impact to me as a reader. I felt the loss. It is a beautiful tribute to a loving relationship and to the power of hope and faith in letting go. I highly recommend "August Farewell" to anyone who has ever been in love and lost someone dear.
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Beautiful and Moving Love Story
Review of August Farewell posted on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/vXUZVf
This is one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever read. It is also beautifully written. I love how Hallman tells the story of his beloved partner Bill's rapid decline in the present tense, because it makes it feel like we are right there with him going through it. He intersperses vignettes from their 33 year life together, written in past tense. This is a very effective way to give us a clear sense of their time together and their relationship, without taking us away from the telling of their final story for any length of time. We come away knowing that not only did these two men love and respect each other deeply, but that they lived a full rich life, filled with family and friends. This is a story about death that will move you to tears, but in some sense they are not tears of sadness as much as they are tears of compassion for our common human journey through love and loss. Never more than when reading this book will you think, "no matter how different we are, we are all the same." What a wonderful tribute Hallman has written to the life and love that he and Bill shared. Bravo.
Melissa Ann Goodwin, Santa Fe, NM Author of "The Christmas Village" http://writeryogini.blogspot.com/
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A review of "Searching for Gilead"
Review by author David Allan Barker published at: http://nouspique.com/2013/01/searching-for-gilead-by-david-g-hallman/
In my previous post—about the genderqueer adventure story, The Complete Lockpick Pornography—I concluded with a question. The Complete Lockpick Pornography presents two poles, two possible responses to prejudice. One is the queer response—get in the face of those who oppress you. The other is the make-no-waves response—do whatever you can to avoid confrontation. Each approach comes at a cost. In that post, I asked if there is a third way that confronts prejudice but doesn’t polarize or alienate. Maybe we can find that third way in David G. Hallman‘s first novel, Searching for Gilead. I have previously reviewed his memoir, August Farewell, an account of the final sixteen days of his partner’s life. After thirty-three years together, his partner, Bill, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The memoir recounts their final days together, while drifting back to earlier times, their first encounter, falling in love, building a life together. It is tempting to read Searching for Gilead as a fictionalized elaboration and expansion of August Farewell. Like Hallman, the narrator, Tom Fischer, is an environmental advocate, and the fact that the story is told in the first person creates the illusion that the author and narrator are the same person. But I’m inclined to heed Hallman’s advice in the preface: this is a work of fiction.
One of the things that distinguishes Searching for Gilead is that, while August Farewell has a narrow focus—a single relationship—Searching for Gilead, is broad. When Tom meets Jonathan Compton, we get drawn into their families and the web of relationships that evolve. Characters are not static nor always likeable, which gives them a grittier, more tangible feel. They have to deal with Tom’s sister, who has married into a conservative Christian family and has adopted a more severe view of her brother’s “lifestyle”. On the other side, Jonathan’s father is a bit of a hardass, a pragmatic businessman who has his own ways of making life difficult. Nevertheless, neither character is fixed, and both soften over the years. At the same time, our narrator, Tom, engages in a couple infidelities, and while we want to smack him the head for being stupid, he remains sympathetic; we may not like his choices, but Hallman gives us enough that at least we understand.
The story is also broad in terms of time. It covers the thirty-four years of their relationship and is divided into five parts, each named by its year—1976, 1984, 1993, 2002 and 2010. There’s no plot to speak of, or if it needs to be named, it could be summarized as: shit happens. This is the story of lives interweaving, and they do so in often random and unexpected ways. Tom gets a job in New York at the United Nations headquarters and they have to cope with the strain of a long-distance relationship. Jonathan has an opportunity to teach philosophy for a term in France, but his sponsor/advocate (Michel Foucault) dies of AIDS. They go with Jonathan’s family to the Biennale in Venice (stories of the Biennale ought to be a literary subgenre) and Jonathan’s twin brother commits suicide. Tom’s parents eschew retirement in favour of working at a refugee camp in Kenya near the border of Sudan. Shit happens and we have to cope; each of us has to work to find our Gilead.
One of the things I enjoy about the novel is the way the fictional world impinges on the world of fact. Characters skirt on the edge of the real world. Jonathan has worked with Michel Foucault. Tom’s environmental work at the U.N. means that he rubs shoulders with Maurice Strong. At the end of the novel, Tom sits alone in Roy Thomson Hall and listens to TSO conductor, Peter Oundjian, lead the orchestra in Mahler’s Second Symphony. This may be a work of fiction, but it closely mirrors the world we readers inhabit. Which returns me to the question I posed at the outset: is there a third way? I think Hallman gives it to us with his gentle insistence that we allow his story to impinge upon the margins of our world. This is how our world opens itself to a wider vision. His story breeds empathy.
A final note: I find it heartening that Searching for Gilead is self-published. It confirms yet again my longstanding conviction that it’s possible to enjoy good fiction outside the walls of the monoculture behemoths that control more than 90% of North American publishing. Hallman continues to hone his craft and is currently working on a collection of short stories.
Buy Searching For Gilead through your local bookstore or online retailers such as Amazon, Chapters-Indigo, Barnes and Noble.
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San Diego Reader
August Farewell (a recommend)
By Mindy1114 |
Accessed at: http://bit.ly/vtaQct
Mindy Ross, Escondido, California
"August Farewell (a recommend)" THIS BOOK IS SUPERB!
David G. Hallman is a master at his craft. I first heard about his memoir "August Farewell" on Twitter. Normally, I don't pay much attention to indie authors. Most of them have a lot to learn. But Hallman's video, describing his 33-year relationship and the subsequent demise of his cancer-ridden lover, moved me to tears and prompted me to invest in his profound love story.
On August 7, 2009, after months of medical testing with no definitive results, a doctor stood at the foot of Bill Conklin's hospital bed and said, "Our diagnosis is pancreatic cancer, stage four. There are indications that the cancer has spread from the pancrease into the liver, the lungs and the lymph nodes."
With surgery out of the question, both men agreed that Bill should spend his last days at home, thus beginning a sixteen-day downward spiral that not only took a toll on Bill, but David and their many caring friends and relatives too.
"I'm going to die soon," Bill told his long-time partner. "It's not going to be long, I'm sure. I feel sorry about leaving you, but my God, we've had a good life together. How many people have had the kind of love that we have had and for as long as we've had? We've been truly blessed."
"We've had a great run. Thirty-three years."
"We've had a really great run."
For days, the couple reminisced about spending Christmas in a snow-covered cottage and a big soiree at The Queen's Inn in Stratford to celebrate David's fiftieth birthday. The couple hung red decorations on Valentine's Day in Puerto Vallarta and saw Don Giovanni at La Scala in Milan, thanks to a scalper who sold tickets for three-hundred US dollars apiece. But perhaps the greatest of their adventures came when the couple traveled to St. Petersburg to explore the Winter Palace of Catherine the Great and the Hermitage, which houses one of the world's largest collections of European art.
"Thank you for the wonderful trip," Bill later wrote in an art book for David. "I know that you did a phenomenal amount of excellent organization and spent so much money and effort to make the entire trip an experience of a lifetime--and it was!!! This book is just a small thank you."
One morning, David woke up to find Bill laying still, his arm cold to the touch. Thinking the worst had happened, his eyes filled with tears. He dropped to his knees beside Bill's bed and bawled.
"What the f*ck are you doing?" Bill screamed. Not only was he still alive, he was also wide awake and "livid."
For Bill, the end finally came on August 23--just two weeks after his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. By then he had grown weak, was in pain and experienced hiccup-hacking-gagging spells. Butterfly ports installed in his abdomen administered medications to control these problems, but there was no way to control the fact that Bill, a former music teacher, had lost his ability to communicate.
"God, why don't you let him go?" David asked.
Seven days later, David was jolted awake late at night. He got up and found Bill taking loud, deep breaths for five minutes and then he expired, leaving David to plan a memorial service and to write a superb tale of sadness, laughter and love.
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August Farewell: The Last Sixteen Days of a Thirty-Three-Year Romance by David G. Hallman
Review by David Pimental, West Michigan
Review posted on Amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/vjB49N
A wonderful story of love and loss
Definitely 5 stars! What a wonderful love story...yes if you read the overview you will know the ending...but there is so much love and passion between the first and last chapter. We often refer to books as "couldn't put it down"...however, for me August Farewell was one that I had to put down often, and reflect upon the content and my life - will I be able to look back upon my life having experienced the same love and passion for live as did David and Bill. At times you feel like you are eavesdropping, but in a good way. This definitely should be a must-read for all young gay couples...you can live a passionate, fulfilled life as a gay couple. Thank you David, for sharing you and Bill with us...we are better for having known a you for a bit. While I am sure the loss is great, I hope the many wonderful memories hold you warm and tight at night.
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I began reading August Farewell on the seventh day of that summer month. The date coincides with the beginning of David Hallman's narrative of his lover's death two years prior, and memory of their decades-long relationship.
A book by a gay Canadian Christian man might seem remote to a woman like me, who's married, Jewish and lives in New York City. But Hallman connects, effectively; his story sticks and might influence the near-death arrangements of any person living in our modern world.
Hallman recounts the death of a man, his partner William (Bill) Conklin, who'd lived for years with multiple sclerosis and its debilitating effects. In August, 2009 Conklin learned he had advanced pancreatic cancer. The story works through the author's 16 daily notes on meetings with doctors, nurses and palliative care specialists, and visits with old friends and family.
The patient chose to die at home and his partner, Hallman, honored his wishes. Their story of calm, palliation and love at life's end is heartening.
Why post this now? Because the book's calmness, and message, lingers.
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A memoir of goodbyes
xtra — Canada's Gay and Lesbian News
Review by Matt Mills / Toronto / Thursday, September 08, 2011
David G Hallman's memoir, August Farewell, is a day-by-day account of the cancer diagnosis, quick decline and achingly slow death of Bill Conklin, the author's partner. Or rather, it's the story of the final days of a journey the two men shared together over 33 years.
Hallman and Conklin met in the mid-1970s at Toronto's Club Manatee and divided much of their next three decades together between homes in Toronto and Stratford, Ontario. In August of 2009, Conklin was diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer.
Hallman describes the emotional roller coaster he and Conklin rode in the final 16 days of Conklin's life. What are the logistics of palliation? What do you say to the man who has been the centre of your universe for three decades when you find you will soon be separated by death? And what do you do when you're all talked out and the end won't seem to come?
Hallman intersperses his account of Conklin's final 16 days with snapshots from their lives together. They had a wonderful time.
August Farewell is readable and interesting, a kind of voyeuristic peek into the most deeply personal of experiences. Still, it's fascinating and eminently readable and may be particularly interesting to those who call Toronto's gay community home.
There's a therapeutic element implied for the authors of works of grief. It's as if by recounting on paper their gut-wrenching experience, the survivor earns a kind of catharsis. There's also a sense that overcoming horrific challenges and memorializing the life of a long-time lover requires a kind of monument, the building of which earns the creator the latitude to carry on alone, or better, to build a guiltless new future with others. Those sentiments seem clearly evoked in the text.
It's difficult, frankly, not to think also about yourself as you read, about your own life and the prospects for your own death. Dying slowly is no time to walk alone.
But August Farewell, although a first-class tearjerker, is not dripping with pathos and despair. In fact, there really is no despair. There is something rather life-affirming about it. It's a story not just about Conklin and Hallman, but also about the many people in their lives. It's really a kind of love story.
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Review posted on Amazon.com http://amzn.to/rjKgmH
Bill is Smiling
August Farewell: The Last Sixteen Days of a Thirty-Three-Year Romance (Kindle Edition)
Bill is smiling... A well written love story about a life cut short with pancreatic cancer. Thanks to his devoted partner (the author), Bill's footprints on earth will forever be visible. Although a death occurs, it's really about two lives well lived. David Hallman generously allows the reader to take a trip around the world with him. The Journey is oozing with music, art, and life appreciation. By the time you finish reading, you will know Bill Conklin and David Hallman personally. If you loved "Philadelphia" you won't be able to put this one down. If you've ever loved or lost someone, you must take this journey with Bill and David. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.
co-author of Getting Into The Zone
On Twitter: @KathleenHagburg
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August Farewell: Lessons in Grace and Hope
(review by author Jack A. Urquhart posted on Amazon.com http://amzn.to/og7Vk1 )
Toronto-based writer David G. Hallman's beautifully rendered memoir, August Farewell, appropriately subtitled, "The Last Sixteen Days of a Thirty-three Year Romance", deserves honorable mention in the pantheon of memoirists whose writing documents the heart-rending loss of a beloved spouse. Reminiscent of Paul Monette's poetic musings in Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog, and more recently, Joyce Carol Oates' A Widow's Story, Hallman's memoir captures in deceptively elegant prose the days following his long-term partner William Conklin's diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and his death a mere sixteen days later on August 23, 2009.
Presented in seventeen chapters, Hallman's portrait of a loving relationship built on respect, patience, judicious compromise, and `hard-kick-under-the-table lessons' (of the kind anyone who has navigated a long-term relationship will instantly recognize) engages the reader from page one. Lovers whose passions included deeply shared spiritual beliefs, as well as social activism--both were at the forefront of the international boycott of Nestlé in the late 70s and early 80s--and an abiding love of music and travel, it isn't surprising that the two men should be closely in tune throughout the slowing-down process of Mr. Conklin's final days.
One of the most moving vignettes, captured in Chapter Eight, presents the two men in a shared devotional; as Mr. Hallman accompanies his lover on the piano through the hymn, "Breathe on Me, Breath of God," Mr. Conklin, a music teacher whose tenor voice once soared, summons from dwindling reserves the wherewithal to complete the two-line hymn. Another milestone moment, detailed in Chapter Four, captures both men confronting the necessity of letting go:
"Sorry if it sounds harsh, but you've got to leave me alone so that I can slip away," Mr. Conklin starkly entreats. Who could help but be affected by Hallman's unspoken response: Do I love him enough to give him what he wants?
It is a reaction that will ring true for anyone--especially those who have struggled to maintain a respectful distance through arduous final hours and days at a loved-one's bedside.
Hallman's memoir is beautifully conceived and paced; but perhaps his greatest achievement is the transformation of a deeply personal loss into something inescapably universal in its implications and instructiveness. A primer for navigating the journey from life unto death (for who can claim expertise in that unfathomable journey), August Farewell offers lessons in grace and hope.
Jack Andrew Urquhart is the author of the inter-connected story collection, So They Say So They Say Stories Volume 1. Follow him on Twitter @JackAUrquhart
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Joplin Independent (Joplin, MI)
August 30, 2011
Review of August Farewell by Mari Winn Taylor
Sixteen days to say good-bye
|Updated: 2011-08-30 13:40:59|
Pictured are David Hallman and Bill Conklin at Casa de los Arcos in Puerto Vallarta where they stayed every February for many years. (Photo compliments of the author)
by Mari Winn Taylor
For what may seem to be an intimate good-bye, author David G. Hallman wants the world to share in his accounting of the last difficult days of what was once a 33-year romance. August Farewell (iUniverse, 2011) tells the story of 16 days in August 2009, advanced chapter by chapter, between Friday August 7 when his lover, previously smitten with MS was diagnosed with advantaged stage pancreatic cancer, until Sunday, Aug. 23 when Bill Conklin died.
It may be novel for many readers to be exposed to the life of two gay men. But Hallman's description of his panic over coming across as a nerd on the first date, the revelation of their "love at first sight," and how a jealous friend failed to railroad their relationship are situations not unlike any heterosexual relationship.
When they first met, Hallman describes his friend as "energetic" and "athletic," having an animal magnetism that was compelling. While he called him "Mr. Perfect," he lets the reader discover any faults--whether he displayed a "mischievous spirit" or simply was too much of a practical joker, whether his independence was a positive trait or whether his strong-willed nature lacked a bit of finesse. The reader gains glimpses into Conklin's personality each chapter as Hallman escapes the pain of witnessing his friend's diminishing capacity.
Says the author, "...I learned long ago not to interrupt Bill when in full flight, correct him in public or kick him under the table. Such gestures were always counterproductive with him, to my usual embarrassment."
Of course, Hallman does not claim to be without weaknesses not the worst of which was falling asleep while entertaining dinner guests. He also may be the one to acquiesce when challenged by his partner.
Chapter interludes also describe their life together, filled with music and art and the many trips they shared while Hallman worked for United Church of Canada addressing environmental issues worldwide. Especially poignant are accounts of times spent taking a romantic ride on the Nile at sunset and roaming the streets of Cairo, a trip to Moscow, scalping tickets in Milan in order to see a performance of Don Giovanni at La Scala for which they had failed to get advanced tickets, and the many winters spent in Puerto Vallarta. We're told of trips that included visits to cemeteries and gravestones including that of Oscar Wilde, Richard Tauber, Eva Peron and Marlena Dietrich. Besides memories of these trips, we learn that their condo with a picturesque view from a wall of windows is filled with memorabilia of a life together, including a signed Dali etching, Coronation in Vienna, a reminder of one of their favorite cities.
Describing the deaths of parents and a brother who committed suicide, Hallman says that he's "been down that road far too frequently in the past few years"...and "planning funerals doesn't get any easier." His computer becomes covered by tears as he reads responses from family and friends to the news he relates to them.
Conklin's dream of walking with Jesus, we are told, saves him from having irrational thoughts --going to hell over having killed his parents--because he ordered rolled oats for his Dad in the hospital which eventually caused him fatally to choke and for his mom because he acquiesced to her plea for removal of her breathing tube so she could die.
Conklin's own debilitating condition where at times only a furrowed brow are a sign of distress may lead the reader to ponder euthanasia although such an idea is never mentioned. As Conklin's symptoms increase, he stops eating, losing the ability to swallow and the capacity to speak. He is attended to by home health care workers that do their best to keep him from experiencing pain. Home health care rather than hospitalization is an option that Hallman thinks is underutilized.
Finally, the author sets the scene: The sun has set. The music is playing softly. A candle is burning beside [Conklin's] Jesus picture. After a nap from which he wakes up with a start at 10:20 p.m., Hallman sits down on a chair besides Conklin's bed, takes his hand, says "Good-bye, my darling, I love you" one last time, hears deep breaths that become silent and knows that his lover is finally "out of pain" and "at peace."
The book concludes rather nicely with a photo album chronicling Hallman's and Conklin's life together, an e-mail death notice to family and friends, details of the memorial service, a list of recorded music selections that were their favorites and finally Hallman's good-bye during a service of internment.
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Caring Wise - Support for the Family Caregiver
On August 7, 2009, Bill Conklin and David Hallman sat waiting in the emergency room. They had been there all day. For months, Conklin had been thrilled by his seemingly effortless weight loss, while Hallman was deeply worried about his partner's accompanying fatigue and pain. Repeated tests remained inconclusive. But now it looked like they might get an answer.
They did—and the news was not good. Conklin had pancreatic cancer. Stage Four.
In the beautifully evocative August Farewell, David Hallman recounts their final days, from that devastating diagnosis to Conklin's death, capturing both factual details and his own roller-coaster emotions. In the preface he notes that "the experience of those two weeks was so intense, profound, and spiritual that I wanted to record it while it was still fresh, fearing that as I began forgetting details, it would feel as if I were losing Bill all over again." Hallman need not worry; he has not only preserved those final days, but a compelling portrait of Conklin himself.
This is a true love story. Within his 16-day chronology Hallman masterfully intersplices scenes and stories that trace the arc of their thirty-three-year relationship. I made it to page 13 before starting to sob (much to the consternation of the man sitting next to me on the airplane), but Hallman's dry wit ensures that there are laugh-out-loud moments, too. Hallman recounts their classically awkward meeting. Typical couples' issues about friends and family and how to decorate a new home. Pivotal moments and special memories. And above all, how they take care of each other.
This is also a sensitive guide for those tending to a loved one with a terminal illness. It illustrates the power of hospice care, details the legal issues and funeral preparations one must face, even offers guidance to friends wondering how they can be most helpful.
On day 8, Hallman notes how quickly seemingly abnormal new routines become normal. Indeed. Yet, how do we deal with that? Hallman has captured—and most generously shared—what is in many ways a universal experience. His observations and insights on this most personal of journeys provides a filter for others seeking their own understanding. Conklin's final wish was that we be kind to each other. In many ways, by publishing August Farewell, Hallman has done just that.
August Farewell is a beautiful book...a small miracle.
Reviewed by Trevania Henderson
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OutSmart - Houston's gay, lesbian, bi, and trans magazine
It was 16 days from the time that Bill, David Hallman's partner of 33 years, was diagnosed with cancer until the time Bill died. This loving memoir recounts not only those few brief days but details a lifetime of loving companionship. "I wrote this memoir to remember the details of the last 16 days I spent with Bill. I felt that if I forgot any of the time together, it would be like losing Bill all over again" speaks to the importance of not only a loving life, but to the relationship that continues once our beloved is gone. Both heartbreaking and joyful, this story will stay with you a long, long time. Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com. —Review: Angel Curtis
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REVIEWS BY AMOS LASSEN
Hallman, David G. "August Farewell ", iUniverse, 2011.
Saying Goodbye Forever
Review by Amos Lassen
In August, 2009 the doctor told David Hallman and his partner Bill Conklin that Bill had pancreatic cancer and nothing else could be done for him. This book is about the sixteen days that followed and when David said his final goodbye to the man he has lived with and love for thirty-three years. As David remembers Bill we are treated to his talking with humor and affection for the man he loved. Both men were involved in social justice and they cared about our environment, loved the arts and to travel and they were both deeply spiritual men.
As I read, there were times that I felt as if I was violating the author's privacy as this is such a personal book. Their beautiful and loving relationship ended quickly and David gives us an intimate look at what they shared. We do not feel the anger that David might have felt about losing his partner and we actually get to know both David and Bill here. We are with them as they travel and I found it amazing that I was there with them.
I do not want you to think that the book is depressing because it is not. Rather it is uplifting and since we know how it will end, we are ready for that. Being with David and Bill during some of their shared moments is a treat and the author has written about them beautifully. One cannot help being pulled into the narrative and I found it to be an affirmation of life. I feel I must make note of David as a caregiver—he is so strong and showed his love while many of us might not have been able to do what he did.
Review from SoSoGay, - UK's best on-line LGBT lifestyle magazine
A Touching and Uplifting Story
Review written by Scott McMullon
August Farewell: The Last Sixteen Days of a Thirty-Three-Year Romance tells the story of author David G Hallman and his partner Bill, as Bill faces his final days before dying of advanced pancreatic cancer. This succinct and highly powerful story invites the reader on an emotional journey as it explores love and the end of life.
The book opens with a story about Hallman's being in bed with his lover of 33 years on the day that their lives were turned upside down. Hallman launches into the story quickly; to his credit, he is able to convey the pain and sorrow of his partner's condition without falling into melodrama. From the moment of diagnosis the story's pace takes an unusual turn as the narrative splits across time, with David and Bill in the 'present day', but also with the couple at various points of their shared lives. Although this is initially jarring, it soon works well and helps push the story to new heights. The style allows readers to be free from cumbersome episodes of exposition in the present, while presenting snippets of the couple's lives to demonstrate the deep love that they feel for one another.
The use of language is exquisite, conveying the narrator's own emotional turmoil deftly. With one paragraph he makes us feel his love with such intensity that when he cries, we want to reach out and ease his pain. The sense of pain and frustration here is so palpable that I almost shed a tear myself, feeling his desire to make everything as perfect as he can for the one he loves.
At 150 pages this is a short read; that said, it is certainly not what might be called an 'easy-read'. Hallman is not shy about expressing how bleak the future seems as he prepares for his partner's death; one particularly harrowing vignette finds David planning Bill's funeral, even as Bill lies semi-conscious in another room. As the reader you need to be prepared to walk hand in hand with David as he goes through the worst time of his life, with little but faith and memories to sustain him. When the story reaches its inevitable and painful conclusion, grief and sadness can be matched with thankfulness for an intense and beautiful story.
August Farewell is not a read for the faint-hearted; its vivid characterisation, deeply emotional narrative and tragic conclusion would be heart-wrenching for even the bitterest cynic. Ultimately, however, as a touching and uplifting story about the value of commitment, courage and love it is a beautiful and vital book.
August Farewell: The Last Sixteen Days of a Thirty-Three-Year Romance is available from amazon.co.uk.
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Memoir of man's last days becomes story of commitment, love
Cover to Cover
By ANNIE CHARNLEY EVELAND
of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
"August Farewell: The Last Sixteen Days of a Thirty-Three-Year Romance," David G. Hallman, 180 pages, paperback, $16.95, amazon.com.
David G. Hallman initially intended to capture the final 16 days with his life's companion in a memoir before his memories became hazy.
Those reminiscences evolved into a love letter that serves as a guide for others coping with the terminal illness of a beloved family member or friend.
Hallman and Bill Conklin met and fell in love in the 1970s, and for 33 years their lives were filled with adventure, emotional, educational and spiritual growth and joyful accomplishment.
But their dreams of travels-yet-to-take were dashed when Bill was diagnosed with end-stage pancreatic cancer on Aug. 7, 2009. The pair was already familiar with chronic illness because of Bill's longtime journey with multiple sclerosis. They also cared for their elderly parents.
Nonetheless, when after months of feeling ill Bill was given the diagnosis, Hallman found himself awash in shock, sorrow, grief and loss. Yet he sprang into action, as they both wanted Conklin to live his final days at home.
The multifaceted resources available to help accomplish this in their home of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, amazed Hallman.
He was able to facilitate a warm, loving, safe environment for his partner, who rapidly became more incapacitated as the days passed. His palliative care came through a hospice physician, nurses and overnight caregivers so David could sleep. The strenuous, stressful, emotional journey was also smoothed by a phalanx of friends who quietly came bearing kind words and food, who ran errands and prayed with them.
The title mentions the final two weeks of their life together, but Hallman laced passages about the state of Conklin's care with anecdotes of their lifetime of travels around the world; trips to the opera; the homes they bought, fixed up and lived in; and their times with family and friends.
It is a deeply touching story of love and dedication. It has meaning for all those fortunate enough to have found that special someone, that person to whom they commit for all their days.
Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at email@example.com
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Review by David Allan Barker and published on http://nouspique.com at:
Wed, Jul 6, 2011
On Friday August 7, 2009, William Conklin and his partner of almost 33 years, David Hallman, learned that William—Bill—had pancreatic cancer. Within 16 days, Bill was dead. David wrote quickly of those 16 days, fearful perhaps that if he lost the memory of them, it would compound his sense of loss. The result is a memoir in 16 chapters—one chapter for each remaining day of Bill's life—and each chapter toggles between present time and memories of a gay couple building a rich life together. Hallman writes that, initially, he had intended to distribute the memoir only amongst family and friends, but those who read it encouraged him to seek publication so he could share their story more widely. This was wise advice and I'm glad he took it.
Anyone will find August Farewell a comfort who has grieved loved ones lost to a terminal illness, or has acted as a caregiver during the dying process, or served as an impromptu health care advocate, or struggled with the mechanical details of legal concerns and funeral preparations. One might almost call the book a pastoral resource, which seems natural given Hallman's long service with the United Church of Canada. But the book is more important for the way it normalizes (I'm not sure if that's the right word) a long-term committed gay relationship. We witness the nervousness as they approach each other at the Manatee in 1976, the first date, the decision to move in together, Bill's diagnosis with MS, vacations together, buying a house in Stratford together, creating enough space for their individual pursuits (Bill taught music and David practised environmental advocacy through the Untied Church of Canada and the World Council of Churches).
It's worth noting how remarkable is the simple fact of this book's existence: that a man feels free enough to write with candor about his joy at life with another man and grief at the loss of that life. In the past, such candor might have resulted in imprisonment. Even today, elsewhere in the world, such candor can result in death. One would like to believe in social change. One would like to believe, as Dan Savage puts it, that it gets better. And Hallman's memoir affirms that it does, indeed, get better.
However, I worry that Hallman's memoir might represent something of a high watermark. Over the past year, the city of Toronto has witnessed a remarkable sea change in its receptiveness to social justice concerns. On a couple of occasions, Hallman's memoir both anticipates and prods us to think about that sea change.
The first is the appearance at the door of Rob and Marco, friends who have heard about the diagnosis and have cooked a dinner for them. David invites them in and asks Rob to say a prayer. Rob is Rob Oliphant, former minister of Eglinton St. George's United Church and Liberal MP in the riding where I live. Like most Liberal MP's in Toronto, Rob Oliphant lost his job during the last federal election. His appearance in the memoir offers an unintentional reminder of the marked conservatism which has gripped the entire country and Toronto in particular. Since the election, finance minister Jim Flaherty has wasted no time warning cultural organizations to expect funding cuts. A conservative minister who admitted doctoring a document to deny funding to a social justice organization was nevertheless re-elected. We hold our breath and wonder how long before Harper reneges on his assurance that same-sex marriage is no longer up for debate.
The second is an account of the Toronto bathhouse raids of 1981. While Hallman remains overwhelmingly positive in the events he recalls of his life together with Bill, ha makes an exception for the bathhouse raids. Although he and Bill were not part of that scene, they did participate in protests of what they viewed as an abuse of police powers in order to harass a vulnerable group. Two thousand strong, they marched up Yonge Street to Bloor (tracing in reverse the present-day path of the Pride Parade). They staged a peaceful sit-in, claiming a right to be on the streets like anybody else. Things turned ugly when the sit-in broke up and young straight men engaged in a queer-bashing spree. None of the queer-bashers was arrested. Predictably, six of the victims were.
One of the things the Pride Parade does is institutionalize the affirmation that the streets belong to everyone. We get together to celebrate the diverse range of interests which require our protection and nurture if we are to be a whole society. But I sense that sea change. I catch a whiff of it in the air, especially over city hall. With the mayor's blessing, city councilor Giorgio Mammoliti is waging a passive aggressive little war against Toronto Pride, claiming he is acting in the interests of the Jewish community by rooting out the anti-Semitism inherent in the word apartheid in the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid group. QuAIA can't participate in Pride Week or city funding will be cut for the whole enterprise. And so we had the spectacle, this weekend, of Mammoliti out with his camcorder hunting down evidence of QuAIA participation. Even councilor Adam Vaughan described Mammoliti's behaviour as "creepy". It seems like a smoke-and-mirrors ploy to defund Toronto Pride. Mammoliti's immaturity, coupled with Rob Ford's refusal even to acknowledge Pride week, signals a hardening of Toronto's heart. We are turning our backs on the hard-won right to live with dignity.
More than ever, we need books like August Farewell to remind us that talk about rights in connection with Pride Week is not talk about the right to dress up and march in a parade, or to carry a banner with a particular message, or to party all week long, but the wider right of us all to live fulfilling lives free from fear. August Farewell shows us what such a life looks like.
David G. Hallman's web site http://davidghallman.com/
David G. Hallman's blog (includes excerpts from August Farewell)
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A many splendoured book
Review Published on June 25, 2011
The Guardian, Charolottetown, PEI, Canada
Elizabeth Cran, Book Reviewer
Here is a book which is at once a love story, a narrative of one man's dying (as told by his lover and primary caregiver), a religious book, a detailed description of how one can die at home, a gay love story and a celebration of friendship and kindness.
August Farewell, the title, is the only flaw in this 167-page memoir, sounding as it does more like that of a cheap romance than that of one of the most outstanding, unusual — and dare we say moving — publications of the season.
The author is David G. Hallman, a remarkable environmentalist and writer who has represented the United Church of Canada at important conferences on the subject all over the world. Bill, his lover, was a successful teacher of piano and voice — for a while he was working 30 hours a week at this — and worked part-time at an antique business.
Together, they ran a bed and breakfast from their home until the strain — each of them had three quite different jobs — became too much for them.
Then in 1993 David was diagnosed positive for AIDS. Eventually he had to go on full-time permanent disability.
In the late 1970s, shortly after they met, Bill had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
"By the spring of 2009," the year he died, "he only had the stamina for . . . six students."
In spite of these handicaps, they had a very happy life together for 33 years. Finally in August 2010, Bill was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer; it had spread to his liver, lungs and lymph nodes and was inoperable.
The narrative of Bill's dying is interspersed with episodes and anecdotes from earlier times in their long relationship — some of them quite funny. It is vividly and beautifully written, though not formally or in abstract language. After a photograph section, documents concerning his death and burial are included — not as appendices but as an integral part of the story.
The occasional expressions of affection, which may seem strange to readers who are "straight," should not bother anyone. No sexual matters are alluded to.
August Farewell is published by iUniverse, 1663 Liberty Dr., Bloomington, Ind. If it is not readily available all over this country, it should be.
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Imprint Online - The University of Waterloo's Official Student Newspaper
Jun 17 2011 in Arts by Dinh Nguyen, Assistant Editor in Chief
David G. Hallman
David G. Hallman's August Farewell is not a book equivalent to a summer blockbuster. It is not a bestseller filled with plot holes, twists, allegories, and foreshadowing. There is no dramatization, no deus ex machine, no clichés.
Documenting the last 16 days of Hallman's partner's life, who was abruptly diagnosed with Stage Four pancreatic cancer, August Farewell is a memoir that captures and embodies one of the most powerful human conditions: death.
And though it is in there, the book doesn't simply allude to the sheer rawness of death. Instead, it depicts the reality of death in Western culture — elements often overlooked by stories that aim to dramatize. August Farewell tells the story of the everyday circumstances surrounding death: love, and the burden that our closest family takes upon themselves in performing the cultural and personal rituals surrounding our demise.
Imagine having to order the coffin for someone you love while he or she is still alive. The planning of the wake, the service, and the funeral is only half the burden, there is also the emotion. Imagine checking up on the one you love, standing by the door, looking through a crack to see if he or she is still breathing. Every time your loved one closes his/her eyes, you are left with the lingering question: is this it? In August Farewell, Hallman documents performing all these rituals. And through them, the readers embark on a journey with Hallman to accept the death of the love of his life, the physical ending of a 33-year relationship.
You cannot paint a story about death without sadness. For anyone who can relate to, or imagine, the scenario August Farewell is bound to jerk some tears. The most memorable parts in the book are the interactions between the characters. August Farewell parallels the remaining days after the cancer diagnosis and the flashbacks of the memorable events in Hallman's relationship with his partner. Through sassy comebacks and angry tangents during the healthy days, the sometimes awkward yet heartfelt interactions between their friends and family during the last 16 days, and a photograph of the Hallman and his partner, Bill's personality is imprinted in our minds. It is through events like Hallman kicking his partner under the table only to get a sassy reaction during the beginning of their relationship that illustrate the complexity of the couple's love.
And it is through interactions, like, when the condo staff and management team came to visit Bill during the last stages of his life, that make the character personable. Through this we learn how loved Bill is by the people in his life.
In August Farewell, Hallman does not leave us with an anticlimax, or climax. The story is outlined to the readers since the beginning. We know that Bill is going to die. Hallman does not try to distract us from this fact. He does not let us forget about death. He shares with the reader almost every detail of the event— from the very intimate to the comical.
The reader is with the couple every part of the way. They are there when Bill accepts death. They are there when Hallman sends out personal emails to his closest friends and family, updating them on Bill's conditions. They are there for every moment Hallman graphically illustrates the deterioration of his lover's body, and how much pain Bill is in.
The readers are there for the final moment. And through this journey, death and the process of it is made out to be a beautiful thing; or as beautiful as it can be for the topic.
While this book is not a Shakespearian play, or a piece of literature that will be talked about for centuries to come, it is something that is unique in its own rank. It is a true story, with real people, and factual events. It reminds us that life is not mundane. The events that each of us experience is a story and a journal worth telling, for they embody the human condition.
And did I mention? August Farewell is about a gay couple.
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RadioBlog Interview (June 9th) on "The Powerful Patient Show"
Recording of a 50 minute interview with host Joyce Graff about my 33 year relationship with Bill and about the two weeks between his diagnosis and death as described in August Farewell. Interview can be listened to at:
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Interview (June 1st) in The Record about August Farewell:
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InsideToronto interview (May 21st) about August Farewell:
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Interview reproduced with the kind permission of the United Church
Observer (David Wilson, Editor) and Jill Kitchener (Photographer)
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