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Literature / Love and Death on Long Island

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A 1990 novel by Gilbert Adair, giving a modern and humorous update on Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. The narrator, Giles De'Ath, is a middle-aged novelist from a wealthy family who's so cut off from pop culture that he's never even heard of home video. But one day he stumbles into a cinema playing a tacky teen sex comedy and falls for one of its actors, a Teen Idol named Ronnie Bostock. Giles becomes obsessed, to the point of tracking down Ronnie at his home on Long Island to try to break up his engagement.

In 1997, the novel was adapted into a film starring John Hurt, Jason Priestley, and Fiona Loewi.

Love and Death on Long Island contains examples of:

  • Altar the Speed: The acceleration of Ronnie's wedding plans goads Giles into desperate action.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Giles blurts this out after trying and failing to talk Ronnie into an artistic partnership.
  • Blatant Lies: While some of the things Giles claims seemed plausible at first, Audrey and later Ronnie start to see through the charade. Perhaps the most suspicious of all was Giles using a flimsy excuse not to call his (non-existent) God-daughter, allegedly a big fan of Ronnie's.
  • Butt-Monkey: Giles notices that Ronnie is typecast as "one of nature's victims, as one whose blood is meant for shedding."
  • Celeb Crush: Giles crushes on a movie star.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Giles has a dry, sarcastic sense of humor.
    Cab Driver: The sign says "No smoking".
    Giles: No, it says "Thank you for not smoking." As I am smoking, I do not expect to be thanked.
  • Diner Brawl: Happens in the movie scene where Giles first sees Ronnie, ending with Ronnie's character ending up sprawled on a table with condiments dumped on him.
  • Hopeless with Tech: When Giles eventually learns of the existence of home video, he orders a VCR without realizing that he needs a television to plug it into.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Giles says he had no sexual interest in men before meeting Ronnie, despite the fact that his British boys' school upbringing gave him plenty of opportunities.
  • Knuckle Tattoos: Giles is a regular customer at a (nonsexual) massage parlor, where the masseur has the classic LOVE-HATE tattoo.
  • Lighter and Softer: Adair took the pedophilia and disease out of Death in Venice and turned it into a humorous tale of culture clash. The film makes it lighter still.
  • Longing Look: In the film, Ronnie's fiancée starts suspecting Giles' motives when she sees him doing this.
  • Lover and Beloved: Giles aspires to this. He even mentions the tradition of great artists taking younger male lovers.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Giles spins a very elaborate web of lies to insinuate himself into Ronnie's life, and then ingratiates himself further by disingenuously praising Ronnie's mediocre acting and terrible films.
  • Nice Guy: Contrary to stereotypical expectations about a famous Teen Idol, Ronnie isn't at all arrogant about his fame, and he was more than happy to welcome Giles, an eccentric complete stranger, into his life until Giles' real motives became obvious. Even after the reveal, Ronnie showed Giles a surprising amount of compassion.
  • Older Than They Look: Ronnie plays teenagers in movies and Giles at first assumes he is one, but Ronnie is actually in his 20s.
  • Punny Name: Giles De'Ath, for Pete's sake.
  • Shout-Out: In the film, Ronnie's pose at the end of the Diner Brawl resembles Henry Wallis' painting The Death of Chatterton. This is underscored by a scene of Giles looking at the painting.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Pretty much the whole plot, since it's about Giles' obsessive pursuit of Ronnie, to the point of tracking him down to his home.
  • Stylistic Suck: The clips of Ronnie's terrible movies with clunky dialogue, wooden acting, etc.
  • Teen Idol: Ronnie is famous for a TV show loved by teens, and Giles finds out about him from gossipy teen magazines.