Friday, August 31, 2012

Ebook: The Heart in Exile by Rodney Garland

I created an ebook version of this book, which you can download for Kindle here.

The Heart in ExileThe Heart in Exile by Rodney Garland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The novel is one of the first to openly discuss homosexuality in England, printed originally in 1953.

The book starts off well, along the standard detective line, with a femme fatale coming in to the shop and asking for help, her fiancé is dead and she wants answers.
Our hero detective is a gay (bisexual?) psychiatrist who takes the case due to his own involvement with the deceased and the book plays out as a series of investigations into the death.

There's several good things in the book, and it is worth reading. There's a lengthy tour of the British "underground" which is what they call the queer network. Gays would pick a bar, all go there until it was raided, and then pick another bar. There were no gay bars, only this network relay system. For a slice of post-war gay life in Britain, this book is it, and it portrays the scene well.

The mystery of the plot is okay, if a little half-baked.

The main problem is the extreme emphasis on social status. The class system was alive and well in London in the early 1950's and is mentioned on nearly very page. Generalizations pour off the pages, all working-class people stick together, you can spot working class people even if they try to hide it, the working-class have an inferiority complex, the upper-class have had too much of the Communist ideology so prevalent today, etc, etc.

There is the odd pro-gay passage, the narrator himself is gay, but overall this was the most negative book on homosexuality I've ever read. Inverts will never have real love, "normals" have it better, etc. Combine this with the constant class references, inverts who are lower-class can fit in better, etc, and it gets to be too much.

This class system presented doesn't exist in my life or way of thinking, so many of the pages and pages of generalizations about the different classes really washed over me. For example, the narrator goes to a party and everyone in the room is lower class and they're all staring at the three upper-class people in the corner with a mixture of jealousy and hatred. Class, class, class.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst

The Stranger's Child The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Wealthy British people sitting around drinking tea and proclaiming "What is to be done?!?!"

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy

Firefly SummerFirefly Summer by Maeve Binchy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Classic Binchy and a great slice of Irish small town life.

Reading a Maeve Binchy book is like sitting down with an old friend over a cup of tea and I was saddened to hear of her recent passing. Although I had read this book previously, it was long enough ago that I forgot most of it.

Like the best of her books, this one is thick and yet goes down as easily as pie, the length is what makes it good, and you never want it to end. The UK version is over 900 pages and I've seen reviews saying it needs a sequel.

I don't think it does, the book ends at an appropriate point. Binchy is possibly the best storyteller of all time, she can weave a complex story like she's knitting a scarf and I was so caught up in the story I was racing at the end, not wanting the book to be over but not able to wait any longer to find out what happens, I wouldn't have stopped for the world ending.

This is what good fiction does, gives you a story, draws you in, and won't let go and Binchy is at the height of her powers with this novel.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The problem with ebooks

The main problem with ebooks I find is that there is no quality control.

Would a publishing house release a paper book with over 100 typos?  Certainly not.  But with ebooks, it seems to be de-rigeur.  I particularly don't understand as it's so easy for the companies to correct the errors and send the better copies out to the public.  It's much harder to correct paper mistakes.

So why is no one correcting these errors?  I think part of the problem is that there is no reporting method to report the errors.  I've been putting them at the end of my reviews, but it doesn't seem like any one is paying attention, or cares.

For example, I recently read Going Down in La-La Land by Andy Zeffer. There- were superfluous hyphens in - nearly every- line.  Why? I don't - know.  But to say- it was distracting would - be an understatement. I mentioned this in my- amazon review - and someone wrote me - to say they would- get it fixed.  Nothing yet.

Then there's people just looking for a quick buck.  I had considered briefly scanning a version of City of Night by John Rechy, the gay classic, for my own use only of course. The book however is known for it's lack of punctuation and would be a nightmare to proof, and I saw a version on amazon which I bought.  Looking through it yesterday, I noticed the retail copy was a poor scan with many errors left in.  For example "I" became "1", "I'll" became "111", "75¢" became "751", "I'm" became "I'rn". How hard would it have been to do a search and replace to change all 1's to I's?

This hit a high point today with The Golden Age of Gay Fiction by Drewey Wayne Gunn, which I actually returned.  It was a disgrace, my review is below.  This needs to be fixed.  Even on Girl Gone, a New York Times bestseller I recently noticed more than an acceptable number of errors.

To say this Kindle edition of this book has poor formatting is to grossly understate the word "poor".

I own the paperback and bought the Kindle edition to read on the go, but the way it's set up, it's unreadable. For example, the paperback opens with the quote "The Golden Age was first..." in the paperback edition. In the Kindle edition, it is changed to "The Golden Age was rst...rst..."

The pages in the paperback are divided into columns and in the Kindle Edition the columns sometimes run together.
For example:

These books                    Some of
are good books                these books
to read.                          are expensive.

This becomes, in the Kindle version "These books Some of are good books these books to read. are expensive."

Try making sense of that on your Kindle.

The page numbers and the page borders are still included in the Kindle version, even though they no longer correspond to the end of pages or to the right numbers.

A book cover will be shown and then two or three paragraphs later the title reference shows up.

The chapters are not divided, the chapter headings appear at the bottom of the first page of the chapter. This would be like me putting the title of this review down here. POOR FORMATTING!

Sections of the
text have too
many paragraph
breaks and leave
all the text on
one side, like this.

Need I go on? I am amazed that anyone would even consider selling this as a finished product, let alone charging what they are.

The Magic of The Magic

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book as it's burning up the charts and I was told full of twists and turns. I was led to believe for some reason it was "wet-your-pants" good. Well, it's good, but my pants are still dry.

The book is almost two different books, and I liked the first one better. The first one is a thriller but it's one written in a style I haven't seen before, a thriller written like fiction, with believable people and realistic situations. When Amy goes missing, is her husband to blame? The first half recreates their marriage and some of the situations brought forward I was wondering myself how to handle them, I was talking to friends about it, to myself. A smooth writing style and flow led me along like a river.

The second half is as I said a different book. The relateability and believability of the characters gone, you're left with a different story. I was jarred. Some of the moments reminded me of "The Lost Memory of Skin" by Russell Banks. Then credulity was strained a little too far, then it was over. To the book's credit, I kept thinking I knew how it was going to end and it didn't, there was a different than expected ending, and I can see it being divisive but I liked it.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Letter to the editor - Playgirl magazine

Regarding the letter from Susan Jones in your summer issue, where she says "there are so many magazines that are published for gay... men", please name one. I've looked.

There is one magazine currently sourcing original male models for nude shoots and you are it.

Can't we play nice and all just get along?

Adam Dunn, Toronto, Canada

I bought this issue as I heard Dirk Shaffer was going to pose again for the magazine.  Dirk first posed for Playgirl in 1991, and later for the man of the year issue in 1992, the first issue I ever purchased, and later made a movie about being gay and posing.  He also is the subject of an oil painting on my wall.

Well, he's not in this issue.  All the stuff about Centerfold Reunion had me tricked.

There is a long, long history of people posing naked and selling the pictures.  I think it's too bad that in the internet age that time has passed.  It's not just about seeing the photos, but seeing new models, high quality reproductions, I think there's still a place for that not covered by the internet.  I often read Attitude magazine for the articles and think how I wouldn't object if there was a little nudity thrown in.  But they've gone the total other way, making efforts to remove nudity for some reason.

I'd like to think there is still a place for high quality tasteful male nudes other than in $100 photo books.  Think Physique Pictorial and the like. But I also thought a gay book store was still viable, and with ebooks now, I no longer think any book store can stay solvent.  So what do I know?

Teacher/Student fantasy

Brian Francis, author extraordinare, inspiration for countless thousands and millions, cooking genius and really nice guy is teaching a creative writing course this fall.

I wanted to go last year but found out about the course too late.  I've been waiting a year to register, and it turns out for the 6 week course,

1 week I have front row centre tickets to Sister Act: The Musical

1 week I have a book club where I am leading a discussion of Brian Francis' first book, Fruit.

the last 2 weeks I am on a gay cruise.

But screw it, I registered!  No Sister Act, no book club, I'm going for 4 of the 6 weeks and I expect every one in Toronto will be rushing to register for the course and the chance to have this same once in a lifetime opportunity, so go NOW!  Register!