And while many excellent books were suggested, nothing really fit the bill. The three most recommended were Isherwood's A Single Man, Cheever's The Falconer, and Proulx's short-story, "Brokeback Mountain." Like I said, all exceedingly fine novels and would recommend them all.
But these are not books about domesticity, in fact they are quite the opposite. They are about loss, forced proximity, and separation respectively. What I am looking for is the chronicle of a life lived together, with all that entails. Perhaps such a book exists, but a few hundred lit nerds had a hard time naming it, which is telling in itself.
Then The New Republic suggested that a desire to see such a fully-formed representation of life-long intimacy might be misguided:
...it does feel a little reductionist to complain about the lack of great fictional gay love. For to do so suggests that there’s something essentially different about love between people of the same sex that can’t be communicated—even metaphorically—through a depiction of a heterosexual relationship. And that runs counter to the equality movement’s resounding and resonant argument that homosexual love is no different in kind from heterosexual love, and ought to be legally recognized in the same way. This is a truth that by now feels self-evident. As a straight woman, my only access to homosexuality is imaginative, through the medium of art. In the best of these works, it’s the idea of love that is paramount, not the particulars of who does what to whom.(Hat tip to Bibilographing via Book Lady's Blog for pointing this out)
This it seems to me is a necessary, if misguided, point. First, while Franklin wonders if it is "reductionist" to posit a difference between homosexual love and heterosexual love, she fails to see that the deeper reductionism happens when she suggests that "the idea of love" transcends cultural differences of all types. Using the same logic, we might suggest no man need ever write about say, parenthood, because there are plenty of books about motherhood and isn't it all just parenting anyway? Or we don't need any representations of Asian-American life because we have plenty of fine African American novels.
I am exaggerating for effect here, but my point is that in arguing for sameness, even if toward a just end, we push aside the real possibility of difference. I can't imagine, for example, that something isn't lost in transposing a gay relationship onto heterosexual characters. For example, how does a heterosexual have any access to understanding the kinds of social pressure that would have been exerted on a committed gay couple over the last 30 or so years? What does that do to a couple? Does it make their relationship stronger? More intimate? More fragile and in need of protecting? I have no idea, but I would guess that a skilled writer would want the full warrant of representing such a relationship, without a fictional beard of heterosexuality.
There are other reasons fully-realized gay romances should not be cloaked or otherwise transfigured. If the culture wars of the last 40 years have taught us anything, it is that representation matters. To see yourself in the news, in art, in politics, and in power is irreplaceable. My own interest aside, sophisticated, complicated, and diverse representations of gay love would make a difference in how our culture thinks about gay people.
They don't have to be the same. Gay relationships don't have to map onto heterosexual relationships. Arguments based on sameness are effective rhetorically, but they are not arguing for true tolerance, tolerance that can accept and withstand even real difference.
Maybe it would be the case that artistic representations of long-term gay relationships would look and feel largely the same as those of heterosexual relationships, though I doubt it. Maybe such depictions would give as another way of understanding, to quote Carver, "what we talk about when we talk about love."
But without those stories, we simply don't know.