The Pat Parker/Vito Russo Library book discussion group meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 8:00pm (except when noted). We meet at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community Center, 208 West 13th Street (near Seventh Avenue) in NYC. Ask at the information desk for the room number.
We're a friendly group, always open to new members. If you'd like, you can just read the book and join us at the Community Center. We'd be pleased to meet you. If you have questions or want more information, you can send e-mail to Howard@HowardWill.com. (If you send an e-mail, make sure you include the words "book club" early in the subject line because if you just say "Hey" or "I've got a question" it'll just get deleted because it looks like spam.)
We usually go for a late, cheap diner dinner after the meeting to continue a more general discussion. Everyone is always welcome.
I've created a FaceBook group called "Book discussion group at The Center in NYC". Please join it for a little discussion before and after the group, or to contact others in the group:
Jan 2, 2018: "Eminent Outlaws: Gay Writers Who Changed America" non-fiction by Christopher Bram (372 pages)
After World War II, a group of gay writers established themselves as cultural figures in America: enfant terrible Truman Capote; poitical and sexual chronicler Gore Vidal, Broadway playwrights Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams; novelist and social critic James Baldwin, English/American novelist Christopher Isherwood, exuberant Allen Ginsberg, sexy Edmund White, populist counterculture author Armistead Maupin, scandalous playwright Mart Crowley, and award-winning Tony Kushner. Bram weaves these men's ambitions, affairs, feuds, loves, and appetites into a single sweeping narrative.
Feb 6: "The Sheltering Sky," classic American novel by Paul Bowles (350 pages)
In this classic work of psychological terror, Paul Bowles examines the ways in which Americans apprehend an alien culture—and the ways in which their incomprehension destroys them. The story centers on Port Moresby and his wife Kit, a married couple originally from New York who travel to the North African desert accompanied by their friend Tunner after WW II. The journey, initially an attempt by Port and Kit to resolve their marital difficulties, is quickly fraught by the travelers' ignorance of the dangers that surround them.
Mar 6: "Arctic Summer," fictionalized biography of EM Forster by Damon Galgut (352 pages)
Damon Galgut’s third novel, a fictionalized biography of English author E.M. Forster, focuses on Forster’s many years in India and the process of writing his masterpiece, A Passage to India. This finely wrought novel also addresses Forster’s unforgiving childhood in England and the homosexuality he feared and repressed throughout his life. Psychologically acute without being sentimental, Forster’s relationships are described with compassion. Galgut is a master at constructing strange, compelling landscapes, and Arctic Summer shifts seamlessly between staid England, vibrant Cairo,and absurd India.
Apr 3: "Fire Shut Up in my Bones," memoir by Charles Blow (240 pages)
A moving memoir of how one of America's most innovative journalists found his voice by coming to terms with a painful past. NYTimes columnist Blow mines the compelling poetry of the African-American Louisiana town where he grew up. Blow's attachment to his mother -- a fiercely driven woman with five sons -- cannot protect him from secret abuse at the hands of an older cousin. It's damage that triggers years of anger and self-questioning. Finally, Blow escapes to a nearby state university, where he joins a black fraternity after a brutal hazing and enters a world of racial and sexual privilege that feels like everything he's ever needed and wanted, until now,,,.
May 1: "A Glass of Blessings," 1958 classic British fiction by Barbara Pym (240 pages)
The central character and narrator, Wilmet, is a married woman with a comfortable though routine life. She does not need to work and enjoys a life of leisure. When not lunching or shopping she occupies her time, somewhat guiltily, with occasional "good works.". She becomes drawn into the social life of her church and after a service renews her acquaintance with a friend's attractive but ne'er-do-well brother, Piers. She develops a romantic interest in Piers until she becomes aware of his relationship with a young working-class man, Keith. Pym is not gay and does not usually include gay characters, but this is a terrific period British piece.
We don't meet during the summer, but we'll probably go to a few movies and have dinner afterward..
Sept 4: "A House Full of Daughters: A Memoir of Seven Generations," memoir by Juliet Nicholson (336 pages)
A family memoir that traces the myths and secrets of seven generations of remarkable women. We read "Portrait of a Marriage: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson" by Nigel Nicolson a few years ago. This seems like a terrific followup. For many years Juliet Nicolson accepted the legends around her family -- the dangerous beauty of her flamenco-dancing great-great-grandmother, the flirty manipulations of her great-grandmother, the infamous eccentricity of her grandmother Vita Sackville-West, her mother’s Tory-conventional background. But then Nicolson, a distinguished historian, started to sift fact from fiction, uncovering details and secrets long held just out of sight. This is one woman’s investigation into the nature of family, memory, and the past.
Oct 2: "The Dream Life of Astronauts," short stories by Patrick Ryan (270 pages)
These nine stories set in Cape Canaveral, showcase Ryan’s masterly understanding of regret and hope, relationships and family, and the universal longing for love. The collection balances heartbreak with wry humor as its characters try to make sense of the paths they find themselves on. A would-be Miss America auditions for a shady local talent scout over vodka and Sunny D; a NASA engineer begins to wonder if the woman he’s having an affair with is poisoning her husband; a Boy Scout troop leader, recovering from a stroke, tries to protect one of his scouts from being bullied by his own sons. Set against landmark moments—the first moon launch, Watergate, the Challenger explosion—these private dramas unfurl in startling ways.
Nov 6: "The Child's Child," contemporary British novel by Barbara Vine (320 pages)
Adult siblings Grace and Andrew inherit their grandmother's sprawling London home and move in together. The arrangement is odd but ideal for the affectionate pair—until Andrew brings home a handsome new boyfriend. When he and Andrew witness a murder outside a London nightclub, things begin to unravel, and the lives of everyone in the house are disrupted. Grace escapes into reading a long-lost novel from 1951, never published because of its taboo subject matter. This is a brilliantly constructed novel-within-a-novel about family, betrayal, and disgrace.
Dec 4: "The Naked Civil Servant," classic autobiography by Quentin Crisp (240 pages)
A comical and poignant memoir of a gay man living life as he pleased in the 1930s. In 1931, gay liberation was not a movement—it was simply unthinkable. But in that year, Quentin Crisp made the courageous decision to "come out" as a homosexual. This exhibitionist with the henna-dyed hair was harrassed, ridiculed and beaten. Nevertheless, he claimed his right to be himself—whatever the consequences."As soon as I stepped out of my mother's womb...I realized that I had made a mistake", Quentin Crisp declares, giving a small hint of the witty and wry approach he takes toward the life he describes with uninhibited exuberance in this classic autobiography, which is both a comic masterpiece and a unique testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Jan 8, 2019: "Mislaid," humorous contemporary novel by Nell Zink (256 pages) - note date change...
A funny and startlingly original novel from an exciting new voice about the making and unmaking of the American family that lays bare all of our assumptions about race, sexuality, and desire. In 1996 Viriginia, freshman Peggy, an ingénue with literary pretensions, falls under the spell of Lee, a blue-blooded professor, and they begin an ill-advised affair that results in an unplanned pregnancy and marriage. The two are mismatched from the start—she’s lesbian, he’s gay—but it takes a decade of emotional erosion before Peggy runs off with their three-year-old daughter, leaving their nine-year-old son behind.
Here are the Books Under Consideration to be read in the future.
Welcome to the Pat Parker/Vito Russo Center Library Reading Group at the LGBT Community Center. As our founder Mel always reiterated, this is a friendly group which is always happy to have new members. Being a friendly group means we encourage everyone to participate without fear of confrontation and with respect from fellow members. We have the following guidelines to help this effort as well.
(1) All attendees are expected to have read the book and be willing to talk about it.
(2) Every participant is entitled to express his or her own opinion as it pertains to the book.
(3) The format of the meetings consists of an initial opening round where each attendee talks about the work for a few minutes without interruption or cross talk. Once everyone has had the opportunity to individually address the book, the discussion is then opened to all for a general discussion of the book. This is an important organizing element of this group to make sure that every one gets an opportunity to express himself or herself without comment.
(4) After the initial opening round, It is perfectly acceptable to express a dissenting opinion to something another member of the group has said about the book as long as it is in a respectful and constructive manner.
(5) Please refrain from personally attacking another member of the group over an opinion they have expressed about the book.
(6) Inflammatory language or inappropriate behavior directed towards another member of the group during the discussion will not be tolerated. If this type of language or behavior persists, the person who is responsible for displaying it may be asked to leave.
(7) Please respect the authority of the facilitator.
(8) Please try to stay on topic during the discussion. Feel free to introduce new information that may be relevant to the discussion of the book (e.g., historical facts, biographical information of the author, book background, etc.).
History of The Group
The complete list of our discussion group appears below.
We don't meet during the summer, but we'll probably go to a few movies and have dinner afterward.
Sept 4: "A House Full of Daughters: A Memoir of Seven Generations," memoir by Juliet Nicholson (336 pages)
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