Now I'm Here
title song performed by
Jim Provenzano’s sixth novel, Now I’m Here, is set in the small town of Serene, Ohio, in the 1970s and ‘80s. Two boys from different families—Joshua, with his stable middle-class home in town, and David, raised by his alcoholic and abusive father on their isolated farm—discover, then lose, then find each other again. Thirty years later, as the town’s history is slowly erased by fading memories and encroaching suburbia, their childhood friend, Eric Gottlund, tells the tale of their quiet heroism with poignancy and a sharp eye for detail.
Combining literature and music, the author blends historic and contemporary topics. In Now I’m Here, two Southern Ohio teenage boys, Joshua Evans (a piano prodigy) and David Koenig (a pumpkin farmer’s son) attend a Queen concert in 1978 on their first date. Their passionate affair grows into a life together full of farming and concerts in their barn.
Joshua’s brief fame as a musician includes an invitation to perform in a Los Angeles talent show. He also gains a bit of notoriety by performing unusual solo versions of pop songs at West Hollywood New Wave nightclubs of the early 1980s.
Fighting religious intolerance, “rehabilitation therapy,” the lure of fame, and the heartbreak of AIDS, the two boys grow into men before our eyes. Through their love of each other and of rock’n’roll—the English rock band Queen in particular—Joshua and David breathe life back into their home town, if only for a while.
Interview in the Los Angeles Blade
The music of Queen plays a significant role for Provenzano, both in his life and in the book. The two young protagonists have their first date at a Queen concert, and the band’s music is a continual thread throughout their story. Even the title is taken directly from a Queen song.
“I’ve been thinking about this novel for 23 years, and it started and stopped, and started and stopped – but when the Queen movie was announced, I really got a kick in the butt,” he says. (Read more)
Interview in Echo Magazine
Joshua and David come to life through Provenzano’a prose, as does the town of Serene. The story beautifully conveys the exhilaration of love, the power of music, and the profound sadness of loss. The book is also a slice of pre-internet life when downloading music or meeting people online wasn’t an option. In those days people had to listen to the radio or buy records to hear their favorite songs. They would meet by chance, as David and Joshua did, in real life situations. The late 70s and 80s were, in many ways the last remnants of a more innocent time. Provenzano’s deft writing whisks readers back to those halcyon days.
“Here is a novel of such sweep and breadth that to call it simply a love story is inadequate, even while the love of David and Joshua at the heart of the book resonates so deeply that I could not stop reading their tale. Provenzano is one of our masters; like his character Joshua he is a kind of musician. The instrument he plays on is the heart, and the story of these men rings true for all of us who lived through these years.”
– Jim Grimsley, author of Dream Boy and Winter Birds
"Jim Provenzano has again created characters that a reader can’t help but fall in love with. This is an epic story, a tale as captivating as a favorite piece of music.”
– Mark Abramson, author of Minnesota Boy
“A haunting page turner; Provenzano fearlessly navigates, with wit, unflinching candor and a detective’s tenacity, that deepest mystery: first love, with all its euphoria, madness and wreckage. Gorgeously written, Now I’m Here stands alongside the best of Edmund White and Andrew Holleran. I could spend a year with each sentence.”
– Adam Tendler, pianist, composer, author of 88x50
In Now I’m Here, a Queen show serves as backdrop to a burgeoning romance: “Brian May’s guitar solos curled about the songs with a rococo flair, and induced by both his sudden passion for David and the pot haze, it seemed to Joshua that May’s flowing sleeves floated like wings. The two boys were entranced…”
In addition to conveying the power of listening to music, Provenzano captures the intensity of making it: When Joshua, a piano prodigy and would-be rock star, sets fingers to keyboard, Provenzano beautifully renders his passionate character’s combination of fugue state and frenzy. (Read more)
“Joshua and David, the brave couple brought to life in Jim Provenzano’s captivating, unforgettable novel, Now I’m Here, manage to experience a quintessential epic romance albeit in just a few short years. Were it not for the admiring (and admittedly jealous) eye of their friend, Eric Gottlund, who meticulously narrates this heartbreaking, breathtaking story, the saga of Joshua and David could have easily gone unnoticed.
“This storytelling method effectively and passionately conveys the lengthy, turbulent evolution of their compelling, inspiring and uplifting relationship… The love story of Joshua and David reminds the reader how to appreciate the extraordinary in the ordinary. Professionally speaking, neither of these men achieves fame or accomplishes anything especially newsworthy, but what they share emotionally is nothing short of remarkable. Some books you read for laughter, intrigue, debate or information. Now I’m Here makes you feel. (Read more)
San Francisco Review of Books
"California author Jim Provenzano joins the great novelists who have written important and lasting novels about men in love, and while he has won prizes for his work it is now, with his publication of Now I'm Here that he joins the ranks of the major authors who have had a lasting imprint on our society and the LGBTIQ community. André Aciman, Andrew Holleran, Colm Toibin, Edmund White, Nicholas Sparks, and now Jim Provenzano are important artists whose impact is significant."
"Provenzano reminds us of a swath of gay men and boys who remain largely overlooked; the small town, Midwestern gays whose psyches, like their turf, have been regarded as flyover country. As Provenzano traces the friendship and falling outs between Eric and his two closest friends through the 1970s and 1980s, we hear untold tales of sexual awakening among the decidedly un-'woke,” we see the long- nailed finger of HIV/AIDS scratching far beyond big cities, and we are reminded how limited our sense of 'gay community' can sometimes be." (Read more)
Out in Print
Provenzano has honed his craft and takes you on this dizzying ride with the able assurance of a pro. His rendering of the mid-Seventies is deadly accurate ... and will bring a smile of remembrance to your face if you were coming of age then. He never missteps or falls short of the mark emotionally, either. The characters are all organic, built and embroidered on with well-chosen detail, and this never once feels false or contrived as many romances do. So, even if you’re not exactly a Queen fan (and why not, I wonder?), you’ll enjoy this supremely well-plotted and populated romance. Highly recommended. (Read more)
"While this is a small story, it is also as author Mark Abramson says, 'an epic story' that captivates the reader and holds him. It is not a story that will be easily forgotten; it will stay with you long after you have closed the covers. I also found it to be quite a personal story and that is why I have not shared much of the plot. I want you to have the same pleasure I did reading Now I’m Here." (Read more)