Books Under Consideration
These are the books that the Pat Parker/Vito Russo Library book discussion group is considering to read in the future.
In general, we only read books that are currently in print and that are in paperback. The list is arranged alphabetically by author. A list of hardbound books that we'll consider reading in the future appears at the end.
Return to the Book Club list of books we've already read.
THE ANGEL OF HISTORY
by Rabih Alameddine (2016 novel)
$16 (paperback Oct 2017 from Grove Press)
National Book Award finalist. Set in Cairo, Beirut, and San Francisco, this novel follows Yemeni-born Jacob as he revisits his life over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic. We see his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS. All the while, Jacob is taunted mercilessly by the presence of Satan, who urges remember his painful past, and Death who urges him to forget. Lambda Literary best novel 2016.
WHITE GIRLS: ESSAYS
by Hilton Als (collection of essays, McSweeney's, Nov 2013)
$16 (paperback available Aug 2014 from McSweeney's) 200 pages
White Girls, Hilton Als’s first book since The Women fourteen years ago, finds one of The New Yorker's boldest cultural critics weaving together his brilliant analyses of literature, art, and music with fearless insights on race, gender, and history. The result is a complex portrait of “white girls,” as Als dubs them—an expansive but precise category that encompasses figures as diverse as Truman Capote and Louise Brooks, Malcolm X and Flannery O’Connor, and AIDS and music.
DAYS WITHOUT END
By Sebastian Barry (2017 novel)
$16 (Penguin paperback) 272 pages
17-year-old Thomas McNulty fled the Great Famine in Ireland and signs up for the U.S. Army in the 1850s. With his brother in arms, John Cole, Thomas goes on to fight in the Indian Wars. Orphans of terrible hardships themselves, the men find these days to be vivid and alive as cross-dressing entertainers, despite the horrors they see and are complicit in. A violent, poignant story of two men and the makeshift family they create with a young Sioux girl, this is a fresh and haunting portrait of the most fateful years in American history. Long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Award.
THE PRINCE OF LOS COCUYOS: A MIAMI CHILDHOOD
by Richard Blanco (2014 memoir from HarperCollins)
$15 (paperback available June 2015 from Ecco) 277 pages
A poignant, hilarious, and inspiring memoir from the first Latino and openly gay poet who spoke at Obama's 2013 inaugaral, which explores his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities. Blanco’s childhood and adolescence were experienced between two imaginary worlds: his parents’ nostalgic world of 1950s Cuba and his imagined America, the country he saw on reruns of The Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver—an “exotic” life he yearned for as much as he yearned to see “la patria.”.
THE HEART'S INVISIBLE FURIES
by John Boyne (2017 novel from award-winning Irish author)
$16 (paperback available 2017 from Hogarth) 550 pages
From the beloved NY Times bestselling author of The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, a sweeping and emotional saga about one man's life in post-war Ireland.
Cyril Avery is not a real Avery, that's what his adoptive parents tell him. But if he isn't a real Avery, then who is he?
Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do but eccentric Dublin couple, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his love with the infinitely more glamourous Julian Woodbead. He will spend a lifetime coming to terms with his homosexuality in a very Catholic Ireland and discovering where he belongs.
THE COMPLETE STORIES OF TRUMAN CAPOTE
by Truman Capote (2005 collection, multiple editions)
$15 (paperback available in multiple editions) 320 pages
A landmark collection that brings together Capote’s life’s work in the form he called his "great love," Ranging from the gothic South to the chic East Coast, from rural children to aging urban sophisticates, all the unforgettable places and people of his work are here. Most of Capote's stories were concentrated in the early years of his career, the 1940s, but his capacity for writing moving stories continued into the 1980s. From the first story, "The Walls Are Cold," an entertaining piece about a flirtatious young socialite, to the last story, "One Christmas," set in the New Orleans of his boyhood, this is a powerful collection of 20 stories.(This is NOT the "Early Stories" published in 2016.)
BOY ERASED: A MEMOIR OF IDENTITY, FAITH, AND FAMILY
by Garrard Conley (memoir, Riverhead 2016)
$16 (paperback Feb 2017) 349 pages
The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality. When he was a 19-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality or risk losing his family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day. Through an institutional 12-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, cleansed of impure urges, and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a brutal journey, Garrard found the strength to break out in search of his true self.
by Leopolidne Core (2016 stories from Penguin)
$16 (paperback Aug 2016 from Penguin) 240 pages
Winner of the Whiting Award and
Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Refreshing, witty, and absolutely close to the heart, Core’s twenty stories, set in and around New York City, have an other-worldly quality along with a deep seriousness—even a moral seriousness. What we know of identity is smashed and in its place, true individuals emerge, each bristling with a unique sexuality, a belief-system all their own. Reminiscent of Jane Bowles, William Burroughs, and Colette, her writing glows with an authenticity that is intoxicating and rare.
A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD
by Michael Cunningham (1990 novel published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
$15 (paperback available in 2004 from Picador) 342 pages
Two very different boys are drawn together by their oppressive home lives and by a connection that is both brotherly and sexual in this vivid coming-of-age tale. Clevelanders Bobby Morrow and Jonathan Glover become childhood friends in the 1960s, and their friendship persists well into the '80s, when first Jonathan and then Bobby moves to NYC. There they meet aging hippie Clare, who imposes her own needs upon the two men. Clare attempts to build a normal life for herself using Bobby to become pregnant and Jonathan as emotional support.
THE SNOW QUEEN
by Michael Cunningham (2014 novel published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
$16 (paperback available May 2015 from Picador) 272 pages
Cunningham’s luminous novel begins with a vision when Barrett looks up at the sky from Central Park to see a pale light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn’t believe in visions—or in God—but he can’t deny what he’s seen. At the same time in Bushwick, Barrett’s older brother, Tyler, is trying to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a song that will be not merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love. Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion.
STARS IN MY POCKET LIKE GRAINS OF SAND
by Samuel Delany (classic 1985 sci-fi novel from Bantam Dell)
$25 (multiple editions, 20th edition by Wesleyan in 2004) 376 pages
With a burst of radiation to the brain, an angry young man is transformed into a dim-witted slave—suitable only for the most brutal work. But the tragedy of Rat Korga is the prologue to the story of Marq Dyeth, an “industrial diplomat,” who travels from world to world in this exciting, sprawling future, solving problems that come with the spread of “General Information.” The greatest fear in this future is Cultural Fugue, a critical mass of shared knowledge that can destroy life over the surface of an entire world in hours. In this dizzyingly original novel, information is perilous, but without it a human is only a rat in a cage.
BERTRAM COPE'S YEAR
by Henry Blake Fuller (1919 novel)
$15 (Turtle Point Press, paperback 2000) 320 pages
After New York publishing houses rejected the manuscript on the grounds of its homosexual subject, Fuller self-published this novel in 1919 to a devastating silence broken by negative reviews. Although Edmund Wilson would later call it one of the best novels of its time, it was not republished until 1998. The bittersweet core of the narrative is the homosexuality of its hero, Edmund Cope, a young professor who arrives in Illinois and is taken in by a society of genteel Midwestern eccentrics. Meanwhile, the oblivious Cope writes letters to his absent friend, Arthur, to encourage him to join him in Illinois. An amusing entertainment, this novel is also an important discovery for the gay literary canon, particularly for its rare portrayal of day-to-day gay domestic life.
WAGSTAFF BEFORE AND AFTER MAPPLETHROPE: A BIOGRAPHY
by Philip Gefter (20th Century biography, published 2014 by Liveright)
$18 (paperback available Sept 2015 from Liveright) 468 pages, illustrated
The biography of Sam Wagstaff describes his influence on the world of art and gay culture. Born in 1921, Wagstaff followed the arc of a young man from a wealthy family. He attended Yale, served in the navy, and then followed his classmates to Madison Avenue. But by 1961, he'd became a respected curator first at Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum and then the Detroit Institue of Art. Returning to NYC in 1972, the 50-year-old Wagstaff met the 25-year-old Robert Mapplethorpe, then living with Patti Smith, for a historic lifelong romance. This biography provides a portrait of New York just before and during the age of AIDS.
ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE OF MY HEART
by Richard Goldstein (memoir, published 2015 by Bloomsbury)
$17 (paperback available June 2016 from Bloomsbury USA) 240 pages
In 1966, at the ripe age of 22, Richard Goldstein approached The Village Voice with a novel idea. "I want to be a rock critic," he said. In the weekly column he would produce for theVoice, Goldstein became the first person to write regularly in a major publication about the music that changed our lives. He saw the full arc of events that shaped culture and politics in the 1960s--and participated in them, too. He toured with Janis Joplin, spent a day at the Grateful Dead house in San Francisco, and dropped acid with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. He was present for Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, the student uprising at Columbia, and the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. He was challenged to a boxing match by Norman Mailer, and took Susan Sontag to her first disco. All of this while he was discovering his own queerness.
by Brad Gooch (memoir, published 2015 by Harper)
$15 (paperback available April 2016 from Harper Perennial) 256 pages
A memoir of life in 1980s NYC: wild bohemians, glamorous celebrities, and complicated passions -- with cameo appearances by Madonna, Robert Mapplethorpe, and William Burroughs. Gooch arrived in NYC in the late 1970s, yearning for personal freedom. This memoir of an exhilarating time and place describes his love affair with film director Howard Brookner, pieced together from fragments of memory. As both men try to reconcile love and fidelity with the desire to enjoy the freedom of the age, they live together and apart. Gooch works briefly as a model in Milan, then returns to the city and discovers his vocation as an artist. Brookner falls ill with a mysterious virus as the city is suddenly overshadowed by AIDS.
by Andrew Sean Greer (2017 novel)
To be considered when it's in paperback.
by Matthew Griffin (contemporary novel, Bloomsbury USA, 2016)
$16 (paperback available Jan 2017 from Bloomsbury USA) 282 pages
Set in a declining textile town in the South, this is the love story of Wendell Wilson, a taxidermist, and Frank Clifton, a World War II veteran. They meet after the war and sever nearly all ties with the world. For decades the routine of self-reliant domesticity seems to protect them. But when Frank's health fails and his memory dissolves, Wendell struggles to keep him healthy and to hold onto the man he once knew until he must come to terms with the consequences of half a century in seclusion, the sacrifices they made for each other, and the different lives they might have lived.
COLLECTED POEMS OF THOM GUNN
by Thom Gunn (new collection July 2017)
to be considered when it's in paperback
by Saleem Haddad (novel, Other Press, March 2016)
$16 (paperback only), 368 pages
Set over the course of twenty-four hours, Guapa follows Rasa, a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country, as he tries to carve out a life for himself in the midst of political and social upheaval. Rasa spends his days translating for Western journalists and pining for the nights when he can sneak his lover into his room. One night Rasa's grandmother catches them in bed together. The following day Rasa is consumed by the search for his best friend, a fiery drag queen star of the underground bar, Guapa, who has been arrested by the police. Rasa roams the city’s slums and prisons, the lavish weddings of the elite, and the bars where outcasts drink to a long-lost revolution.
DANCER FROM THE DANCE
by Andrew Holleran (1978 classic modern gay novel)
$13 (Harper Perrneal reprinted 2001) 256 pages
One of the most important and popular works of gay literature, this haunting novel is a seriocomic remembrance of things past -- and still poignantly present. It depicts the adventures of Malone, a beautiful young man searching for love amid New York's emerging gay scene. From Manhattan's Everard Baths and after-hours discos to Fire Island's deserted parks and lavish orgies, Malone looks high and low for meaningful companionship. The person he finds is Sutherland, a campy quintessential queen -- and one of the most memorable literary creations of contemporary fiction. Hilarious, witty, and ultimately heartbreaking,
by Scott Heim (1996 novel - Harper Perennial)
$15 (paperback republished in 2005 by Harper Perennial) 304 pages
"The summer I was eight years old, five hours disappeared from my life" So runs the catchy opening to Heim's impressive first novel. The speaker is Brian Lackey, now a troubled teenager, once an introverted kid growing up scared in the small town of Hutchinson, Kans. The reason for his memory lapse and his fear, as we and Brian learn during the course of the novel, turns out not to be the space aliens that he first suspects, but his molestation at the hands of his Little League coach. The key to Brian's reclamation of those lost hours is homosexual hustler Neil McCormick - the slugger on that Little League team and an accomplice to Brian's sexual abuse.
THE PRICE OF SALT
by Patricia Highsmith (classic 1953 fiction from a recognized master)
$11 (multiple editions, especially after the 2015 movie "Carol") 296 pages
A chance encounter between two lonely women leads to a passionate romance in this lesbian cult classic. Therese, a struggling young sales clerk, and Carol, a homemaker in the midst of a bitter divorce, abandon their oppressive daily routines for the freedom of the open road, where their love can blossom. But their newly discovered bliss is shattered when Carol is forced to choose between her child and her lover. This is the basis for the movie Carol.
by Cara Hoffman (2016 novel from Simon & Schuster)
to be considered when it's in paperback
WHERE YOU CAN FIND ME
by Sheri Joseph (2014 novel, Thomas Dunne Books)
$??? (paperback available ??? from ???) 336 pages
Caleb, kidnapped at age 11 by a violent pedophile, is miraculously returned to his stunned family three years later. His mother, who has been utterly consumed with finding him, flees the paparazzi staked out in front of their house and takes him to Costa Rica, where her mother-in-law runs a wildlife preserve. At the heart of the story is shell-shocked Caleb, who now feels like damaged goods and finds himself still drawn to his kidnapper. In the exotic environment of Costa Rica, where no one knows his backstory and he can forge a new relationship with his bohemian uncle, Caleb begins to understand just what has happened.
THE REBELLION OF MISS LUCY ANN LOBDELL
by William Klaber (fictionalized biography, St. Martin's Press, Feb 2015)
$16 (paperback available 2016 from St. Martin's Griffin) 278 pages
At a time when women did not commonly travel unescorted, carry a rifle, sit down in bars, or have romantic liaisons with other women, Lucy Lobdell boldly set forth to earn men's wages. Lobdell (1829 - 1912) did all of these things in a personal quest to work, to wear what she wanted, and to love whomever she cared to. But to gain those freedoms she had to endure public scorn and wrestle with a sexual identity whose vocabulary had yet to be invented. In this riveting historical novel, Klaber captures the life of a brave woman who saw well beyond her era. This is historical fiction at its best.
THE NIGHT OCEAN
by Paul Lafarge (2017 fictionalized biography of HP Lovecraft)
to be considered when it's in paperback
WHILE ENGLAND SLEEPS
by David Leavitt (1998 novel)
$16 (reprinted 2014 by Bloomsbury) 272 pages
Set against the rise of fascism in 1930 Europe, the novel tells the story of a love affair between Brian, a rich young writer, and Edward, an idealistic employee of the London Underground and a Communist. Brian is better educated than Edward, but also far more callow, convinced that his homosexuality is something he will outgrow. Edward, on the other hand, possesses “an unproblematic capacity to accept” both the well-off Brian and the unorthodox nature of their love for each other, until, at the urging of his wealthy aunt, Brian agrees to be set up with a “suitable” young woman. At this point, Edward flees, volunteering to fight Franco in Spain, where he ends up in prison, and Brian, feeling responsible for Edward's plight, pursues him into the chaos of war.
THE NARROW DOOR: A MEMOIR OF FRIENDSHIP
by Paul Lisicky (2016 memoir)
$15 (paperback available January 2016) 192 pages
Lisicky creates a compelling collage of scenes and images drawn from two long-term relationships, one with a woman novelist and the other with his husband, a poet (Mark Doty). The contours of these relationships shift constantly. Denise and Lisicky, stretched by the demands of their writing lives, drift apart, and Lisicky's romance begins to falter. Both international and local disturbances make an unsettling backdrop to the pressing concerns of Denise's cancer diagnosis and Lisicky's impending breakup with his now-famous husband. His compassionate heart and resilience seem all the stronger in the face of such searing losses and yet he remains unsentimental, authentic, embracing both loss and life.
THE END OF EDDY
by Edouard "Bellegueule" Louis (2017 autobiographical novel)
to be considered when it's in paperback
by Mark Merlis (contemporary novel, Univ of Wisconsin Press, March 2015)
$tbd (paperback available ??? from ???) 272 pages
Jonathan Ascher, an acclaimed 1960s cultural hero, has been dead for thirty years. When a would-be biographer approaches Ascher’s widow, she delves for the first time into her husband’s papers and all the secrets that come tumbling out of them. She finds journals that begin as a wisecracking chronicle of life at the fringes of the New York literary scene, then recount Ascher’s sexual adventures in the pre-Stonewall gay underground and the social upheavals that led to his famous book “JD.”
by Tim Murphy (contemporary novel, Grove Press, 2016)
$16 (paperback June 2017 from Grove) 440 pages
Murphy follows a set of characters in an actual iconic building in the East Village, the Christodora. The building is home to a privileged young couple Milly and Jared and their adopted son. Their neighbor is Hector, a Puerto Rican gay man who was once a celebrated AIDS activist but is now a lonely addict. As the junkies and protestors of the 1980s give way to the hipsters of the 2000s, enormous changes rock the personal lives of everyone in the building. Moving kaleidoscopically from the Tompkins Square Riots and attempts by activists to respond to the AIDS epidemic, Christodora recounts the heartbreak wrought by AIDS, illustrates the allure and destructive power of hard drugs, and brings the ever-changing city to life.
by Joe Okonkwo (a contemporary novel about the Jazz Age, Kensington, May 2016)
$15 (paperback only) 350 pages
In a lyrical debut set against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance and glittering Jazz Age Paris, Okonkwo creates an evocative story of emotional and artistic awakening.
On a sweltering night in 1925, beauties in beaded dresses mingle with hepcats in dapper suits on the streets of Harlem. Ben and his devoted wife, Angeline, are among the locals crammed into a basement club to hear jazz and drink bootleg liquor. For aspiring poet Ben, the swirling, heady rhythms are a revelation. So is Baby Back Johnston, an ambitious trumpet player who flashes a devilish grin. Ben finds himself drawn to the trumpeter and then to Paris where Baby Back says everything is happening.
Publishing Triangle award winner 2016.
UNDER THE UDALA TREES
by Chinelo Okparanta (Nigerian biography, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sept 2015)
$15 (paperback available Sept 2016 from Mariner) 328 pages
Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and its war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly. Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. Under the Udala Trees uses one woman’s lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood as the country recovers from the effects of war and division. Publishing Triangle award winner.
AFTER THE PARADE
by Lori Ostlund (debut novel, Scribner, Sept 2015)
$17 (paperback available July 2016 from Scribner) 340 pages
A moving debut novel about a man who leaves his longtime partner in New Mexico for a new life in San Francisco, launching him on a tragicomic road trip and into the mysteries of his own childhood. Self-conscious 40-year-old Aaron escaped the confines of his Midwestern hometown but he still feels like an outcast. After twenty years under the controlling direction of his older partner, Aaron decides to take control of his own fate. But soon after establishing himself in San Francisco, he sees that real freedom will not come until he has made peace with his heartbreaking memories of Minnesota and his search for his missing mother..
BLACK SHEEP BOY
by Martin Pousson (a novel in stories, Rare Bird Books, 2016)
$16 (paperback date Feb 2018) 208 pages
Meet a wild-hearted boy from the bayou land of Louisiana. Misfit, outcast, loner. Call him anything but a victim. Sissy, fairy, Jenny Woman. Son of a mixed-race Holy Ghost mother and a Cajun French phantom father. In a series of tender and tough stories, he encounters gender outlaws, drag queen renegades, and a rogues gallery of sex-starved priests, perverted teachers, and murderous bar owners. To escape his haunted history, the wild-hearted boy must shed his old skin and make a new self. As he does, his story rises from dark and murk to reach a new light and a new brand of fairy tale.
MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS
by Arundhati Roy (2017 novel)
Author of the best-selling "The God of Small Things." to be considered when it's in paperback.
by Umberto Saba, translated by Estelle Gilson (first availabiltiy in English 2017)
$15 (New York Review of Books NYRB paperback, March 2017) 160 pages
A complex tale of sexual awakening by one of Italy’s most admired poets, "Ernesto," is an unfinished novel, written in 1953 but not published until 1975, long after the author’s death. Ernesto is a 16-year-old boy from an educated family who lives with his mother. His mother is eager for him to get ahead and has asked a local man to give him some workplace experience in his flour warehouse. One day a workingman makes advances to Ernesto, who responds with curiosity. A month of trysts ensues before the boy begins to tire of the relationship, finally escaping it by engineering his own dismissal. Yet this experience has changed him, and as Umberto Saba’s unfinished, autobiographical story breaks off, Ernesto has struck up a new romantic attachment to a boy his own age.
By May Sarton (novel,
W.W. Norton & Co.)
$14 (paperback 1997, multiple editions available) 256 pages
When Laura Spelman learns that she will not get well, she looks on this last illness as a journey during which she must reckon up her life, give up the nonessential, and concentrate on what she calls "the real connections." The heart of the story is Laura's realization that for her the real connections have been with womenher brilliant and devastating mother, a difficult daughter, and especially a woman she knew when she was young. In interviews, the openly lesbian Sarton expressed anger at critics who derided the (autobiographical?) novel, which contains a memorable portrait of a gay male son, by marginalizing it as a "lesbian novel."
NO ONE CAN PRONOUNCE MY NAME
by Rakesh Satyal (2017 novel)
The author of Blue Boy. To be considered when it's in paperback.
THEY MAY NOT MEAN TO, BUT THEY DO
by Cathleen Schine (2016 humorous novel)
$16 (paperback available June 2017 from Picador) 304 pages
From one of America’s greatest comic novelists, a hilarious new novel about aging, family, loneliness, and love. The NYC-based Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don’t just grow, they grow old, and the clan’s matriarch, Joy, is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children would have wished. When Joy’s beloved husband dies, the children have no shortage of solutions for their mother’s loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy’s college days.
MY BROTHER'S HUSBAND
by Gengoroh Tagame (2017 graphic novel)
to be considered when it's in paperback
by Elizabeth Tallent (2015 stories from Harper)
$16 (paperback available June 2016) 272 pages
The long-awaited return of a writer of remarkable gifts, this collection of richly imagined stories, the master of short fiction delivers a diverse suite of stories about men and women confronting their vulnerabilities in times of transition and challenge. Tallent delivers a collection of diverse, thematically linked, and deeply powerful stories that confirm her enduring gift for capturing relationships at their moment of transformation: marriages breaking apart, people haunted by memories of old love and reaching haltingly toward new futures. It explores moments of fracture and fragmentation to show the wilderness of our inner psyche and evoke the electric tension of deep emotion.
FEBRUARY HOUSE: AUDEN, MCCULLERS, BOWLES, BRITTEN, AND GYPSY ROSE LEE IN BROOKLYN
by Sherill Tippins (from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005)
$18 (paperback 2006, Mariner Books) 336 pages
Full title: "February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof in Brooklyn" This is the uncovered story of an extraordinary experiment in communal living, one involving five young but already iconic writers and the country's best-known burlesque performer, all living together in a house at 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn during 1940 and 1941.
In spite of the sheer intensity of life in the brownstone, Carson McCullers wrote both "The Member of the Wedding" and "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" there. Gypsy Rose Lee, workmanlike by day, party girl by night, wrote "
The G-String Murders," Auden, along with Britten, was being excoriated at home in England for absenting himself from the war but presided over the house like a peevish auntie, collecting rent money and dispensing romantic advice. At same time, he was composing some of the most important work of his career. Tippins masterfully recreates daily life at the most fertile and improbable live-in salon of the twentieth century.
AT DANCETERIA AND OTHER STORIES
by Phillip Dean Walker (2016 from Squares & Rebels)
$15 (paperback only) 100 pages
In these immaculately crafted stories inspired by the 1980s, Walker spotlights a cast of celebrities and historical figures in situations unsettling as Day-Glo and poignant as roses while the specter of AIDS looms. "This highly original meditation on the '80s is like nothing else you've read. Dead celebrities are brought back to life in the oddest places: Jackie O in a New York sex club, Princess Di in a London drag bar, Rock Hudson at the White House. Plus Halston and Liza, Keith Haring, Madonna, and an anonymous narrator who notices that only good-looking guys in New York are getting the new gay cancer. Odd conjunctions, great wit, and the shadow of AIDS make these stories deceptively light and strangely disturbing." Andrew Holleran, author of "Dancer from the Dance"
THE PAYING GUESTS
by Sarah Waters (British historical novel, published by Riverhead UK in 2014)
$17 (paperback available Sept 2015 from Riverhead) 576 pages
An enthralling novel about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London. It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned and the out-of-work are demanding change. In South London, in a genteel villa—a large, silent house now bereft of family and servants—life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers. With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house are shaken up in unexpected ways. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction.
LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN and AN IDEAL HUSBAND
by Oscar Wilde (two plays, multiple editions)
I chose these two plays over The Importance of Being Ernest but will trust someone to confirm this? In Lady Windermer's Fan, the title character has a happy marriage - or, at least, that's what she believes until one of London society's gossips, the Duchess of Berwick, arrives with her daughter to voice her suspicions about an affair Lord Windermere appears to be having. It's not just the Duchess who has evidence, however. Windermere's private bank book shows that he's been giving large sums of money away. An Ideal Husband revolves around a blackmail scheme that forces a married couple to reexamine their moral standards — providing, along the way, a wry commentary on the rarity of politicians who can claim to be ethically pure.
by IO Tilett Wright (2016 memoir from HarperColins)
$16 (paperback available Sept 2017) 385 pages
Born into the bedlam of downtown New York in the 1980's, Wright came of age at the intersection of punk, poverty, heroin, and art. This was a world of self-invented characters, glamorous superstars, and strung-out sufferers, ground zero of drag and performance art. Still, no personality was more vibrant and formidable than iO’s mother’s. Rhonna, a showgirl and young widow, an erratic glamazon. She was iO’s fiercest defender and only authority in a world with few boundaries and even fewer indicators of normal life. At the center of Darling Days is the remarkable relationship between a fiery, gender-bending kid and a domineering mother.
LEAVES OF GRASS
by Walt Whitman (classic American poetry in various versions from 1855 to 1892)
$10 (multiple paperback editions) 150 pages.
Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) first published Leaves of Grass in 1855, becoming the volume of poems that defined his life's work. Although some critics treated it as a joke and others were outraged by its unprecedented mixture of mysticism and earthiness, the book attracted the attention of some of the finest literary lights and achieved a wide readership. In 1892, the final edition was published to generally favorable reviews but was soon banned in Boston as obscene. The collection is notable for its delight in sensual pleasures during a time when such candid displays were considered immoral. Where much previous poetry relied on symbolism, allegory, and meditation on religious and spiritual issues, Leaves of Grass exalted the body and the material world.
WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL?
by Jeanette Winterson (memoir, published in 2012 by Grove Press)
$15 (paperback available March 2013 from Grove) 240 pages
Jeanette Winterson’s novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents. Why Be Happy...? is a memoir about a life’s work to find happiness. It's a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser; about growing up in an north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition.
It is the story of how a painful past that Jeanette thought she'd written over and repainted rose to haunt her, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother.
Books we've decided not to read, but if someone wants to discuss the matter again...:
IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote
MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
THE LETTERS OF NOEL COWARD
CONCERNING THE ECCENTRICITIES OF CARDINAL PIRELLI by Ronald Firbank
SARAH by J. T. Leroy
NOW IS THE HOUR by Tom Spanbauer
THE SELECTED ESSAYS OF GORE VIDAL
Patrick White (a gay author, the only Australian to win the Nobel prize for literature, but no gay content)
ORLANDO by Virginia Woolf