Jonathan Rauch’s gorgeously written memoir about growing up gay, Denial: My 25 Years Without a Soul was released a few days ago. From Rauch’s introductory blog post, explaining the book:

From a very young age, long before I understood I was gay or what “gay” or sex or sexuality might conceivably mean, I understood that I could not marry and have a family, the two things I wanted most. Students pay their respects on October 1And so, in my teens, I set out on an ambitious course of denial. The more obvious and overwhelming my sexual attractions became, the harder I worked to to make the obvious seem impossible.

Not just for a year, not even even for a decade, but for 25 years, I lived in an inverted world where love was hate, attraction was envy, and childhood could never end. I thought I had been inexplicably stripped of the capability to love. And what is a soul without even the possibility of love? I felt soulless. In a way, I was soulless.

It all ended suddenly, seemingly miraculously, as if I had snapped awake from a dream, in April of 1985, 28 years ago. For a while afterward, I strived to forget the dream and make a right-side-up life for myself, but there came a time when I realized I was forgetting too well. So I wrote it down, every detail, an almost clinical record; the whole strange story of my implacable war on my own personality, and my unexpected escape into love.

In an excerpt from the book, Rauch describes his discovery of muscles in books and magazines:

When that happened, it was like water for the parched, and I would simply stand in the bookstore drinking it up. As time went on, I accumulated a stack of muscle magazines, which I kept in a cabinet next to my bed. By night, by day, whenever, I would open one and find a picture of an overwhelmingly muscular man and look very hard at him.

If I looked hard enough, which was easy to do, he would stir into motion. He would ever so slowly draw his fingers into a fist and then draw the fist inward toward the elbow and squeeze until the forearm was a veiny explosion of sinew, and then he bent his elbow until the biceps balled up and jammed against the iron forearm, and then, not finished yet, he let his arms fall to his sides and then stretched them out and up and behind his head and drew breath into his chest until it nearly burst, and he looked at me like a lion flashing his mane, daring me to imagine that any man so strong and indomitable might exist.

Then looking harder still I could see myself approach him there in my room, just near the bed, and he would let me try to encircle his arm with my hands, but it was no use, his arm was too big to encompass, the best I could do was to cup my hand over the biceps and feel how it pushed right through my palm, the hardness an eruption of marble. And then he would seize me and lift me and for him this was as easy as lifting a feather pillow, those piston arms as inexorable as a forklift. Up, up I went, helpless in his hands, spinning, spinning in their grasp, gasping at his strength, until I gained release. And then at last I would put him away.

(Photo: Students pay their respects on October 1, 2010 to first-year student Tyler Clementi, 18, who killed himself shortly after being filmed and broadcast over the Internet during a gay encounter at Rutgers Univeristy in New Brunswick, New Jersey. By Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.)