Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Joe's "Gay Reads" Recommendations, Part One

My Queer War by James Lord
In My Queer War, James Lord tells the story of a young man’s exposure to the terrors, dislocations, and horrors of armed conflict.

In 1942, a timid, inexperienced twenty-one-year-old Lord reports to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to enlist in the U.S. Army. His career in the armed forces takes him to Nevada and California, to Boston, to England, and eventually to France and Germany, where he witnesses firsthand the ravages of total war on Europe’s land and on its people. Along the way he comes to terms with his own sexuality, experiences the thrill of first love and the chill of disillusionment with his fellow man, and in a moment of great rashness makes the acquaintance of the world’s most renowned artist, who will show him the way to a new life.

My Queer War is a rich and moving record of one man’s maturation in the crucible of the greatest war the world has known. If his war is queer, it is because each man’s experience is strange in its own way. His is a story of universal significance and appeal, told by a wry and eloquent observer of the world and of himself.

Joe says: "A stream-of-consciousness memoir that tells what it was like to be gay in the army during World War II. This book captures not only the excitement and humdrum day-to-day life of serving in Europe, it also tells of the danger and (surprising) openness of being gay in the military during that time. An interesting read especially during this discussion of Don't Ask Don't Tell."

The Lunatic, The Lover and The Poet
A Divinity scholar at Wittenberg University, Horatio prides himself on his ability to argue both sides of any intellectual debate but is himself a skeptic, never fully believing in any philosophy. That is, until he meets the outrageous, provocative, and flamboyantly beautiful Prince of Denmark, who teaches him more about both Earth and Heaven than any of his books. But Hamlet is also irrationally haunted by intimations of a tragic destiny he believes is preordained.

When a freelance translation job turns into a full-scale theatrical production, Horatio arranges for the theater-loving prince to act in the play-disguised as the heroine! This attracts the attention of Horatio′s patroness, the dark and manipulative Lady Adriana. A voracious and astute reader of both books and people, she performs her own seductions to test whether the "platonic true-love" described in his poems is truly so platonic. But when a mysterious rival poet calling himself "Will Shake-speare" begins to court both Prince Hamlet and his Dark Lady, Horatio is forced to choose between his skepticism and his love.

Laced with quotes, references, and in-jokes, cross-dressing, bed-tricks, mistaken identity, and a bisexual love-triangle inspired by Shakespeare′s own sonnets, this novel upends everything you thought you knew about Hamlet. Witty, insightful, playful, and truly wise about the greatest works of the Bard, THE LUNATIC, THE LOVER, AND THE POET is a delectable treat for people that have loved books like Stephen Greenblatt′s WILL IN THE WORLD and John Updike′s GERTRUDE AND CLAUDIUS.

Joe says: "An interesting, historical bisexual love triangle. In Middle Ages Wittenberg, student Horatio falls in love with the handsome thrilling young Prince of Denmark, who is seeing the Lady Adriana. Echoing the Shakespeare's sonnets (which its plot is based on), this fun book would be excellent for a light summer read."

The Great Lover
In 1909, sixteen-year-old Nell Golightly is a housemaid at a popular tea garden near Cambridge University, and Rupert Brooke, a new tenant, is already causing a stir with his boyish good looks and habit of swimming naked in nearby Byron's Pool. Despite her good sense, Nell seems to be falling under the radical young poet's spell, even though Brooke apparently adores no one but himself. Could he ever love a housemaid? Is he, in fact, capable of love at all?

Jill Dawson's The Great Lover imaginatively and playfully gives new voice to Rupert Brooke through the poet's own words and through the remembrances of the spirited Nell. An extraordinary novel, it powerfully conveys the allure of charisma as it captures the mysterious and often perverse workings of the human heart.

Joe says: "Rupert Brooke wanted to be the Great Lover. He was adored by women and men, but he seemed to love only the idea of love. Based on a truestory, pieced together from letters and stories, this novel is a delight to read. The action takes place in England, just prior to the Great War and captures a world that was about to end... the last vestiges of the British Empire. It took me a little bit to get into the language of the book, but by the time I got into it, I was hooked and Jill Dawson didn't let me go until the end. Despite its setting, this is a thoroughly modern tale of the limits of love and lust. The story is told from two points of view: Rupert's and a maid's, Nell Golightly. Book clubs are going to love this book: it offers so much to talk about - class distinctions, the end of colonialism, bisexuality, poetry & its place in society, and so much more!"

A Single Man
When A Single Man was originally published, it shocked many by its frank, sympathetic, and moving portrayal of a gay man in midlife. George, the protagonist, is adjusting to life on his own after the sudden death of his partner, and determines to persist in the routines of his daily life: the course of A Single Man spans twenty-four hours in an ordinary day. An Englishman and a professor living in suburban Southern California, he is an outsider in every way, and his internal reflections and interactions with others reveal a man who loves being alive despite everyday injustices and loneliness. Wry, suddenly manic, constantly funny, surprisingly sad, this novel catches the texture of life itself.

Joe says: "Although I have written about this book before, and many folks saw the movie, I am still thinking about this elegant novella. Written 50 years ago, Isherwood's writing still speaks to our times: it is one of the perfect portraits of a man after his partner has died. If you've seen the movie, don't worry; the book has a slightly different tone, and stands on its own. A perfect companion to get ready for the autumn release* of Isherwood's Journals."

* BTC will get you the details on that as soon as they are available!

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