Monday, February 24, 2014

The Coming of the Night by John Rechy

The Coming of the Night by John Rechy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this a lot and will continue with other Rechy books. I read City of Night first and this second. This is no City of Night but it was good, and I do still give very high marks, both to Mr. Rechy for not resting on his laurels and for writing something new, and for the book itself, very entertaining and thoughtful.

This book is a snapshot of gay culture in 1982, when the first whispers of AIDS were starting. I expected the book to eventually step into the AIDS crisis but it never does, making allusions to it but never going there outright. The book is more a day or a few days set in LA as the Sant'Anas blow a hot wind of change.

Rechy has a gift for being sex-positive with great characterization and still evoking feeling and meaning. I think there things are all necessary for good gay fiction and few authors can manage all three.

Rechy examines the gay culture of the early 1980's with several elements still resonating now. A wide cast of characters really try to include everyone, we see porn stars, gym bunnies, ultra macho daddies and past-it aunties.

"I accept those things, Thomas, the three curses in the gay world - unattractive, old, and fat. I've been spared the fourth curse, the curse of a small dick, but that's not a blessing for me because no one notices."

I loved the scenes at the porn shoot, to me this had the ultra vivid characterization and humour of a Robert Rodi book, but with the sex left in that Rodi always cut. All the story lines are interesting, you'll be quickly turning the pages, and this can be hard to do with a large cast of all similar gay men. Some gay books you lose track of who's who, and while Rechy isn't perfect here, its a solid 9 out of 10.

The book has some thought provoking moments, like this meditation on gay sex culture that reminded me of the resonance of The Normal Heart:

"This is all there is - just sex and more sex and still more sex. That's all God gave only us - and to no one else - to compensate for all the shit they keep throwing at us. It's the only thing that blocks it all out. That's all some of us have. When that's gone - for some of us, there will be nothing."

Again well written, I read this on a gay vacation which was the perfect time for this book. Slight marks off for not being quite as good as City, and also for the last page, the last four paragraphs really which I found confusing. If someone could message me and fill me in on the meaning there I would appreciate it. Did he die? Why the blood? Was the Christ real? Did he screw him? To understand everything but the very very end I found frustrating. Still book is highly recommended.

View all my reviews

One by One by Penelope Gilliatt

One by one by Penelope Gilliatt
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book really stunk.
I bought it and read it on vacation due to a recommendation from an author on Band of Thebes best LGBT books of 2012 list. I generally like older gay themed books, I like British fiction, and this recommendation sealed the deal.
The plot goes nowhere. You know everything except the gay parts by reading the book jacket. There's a plague but we never see it, never care, it's more the backdrop for the gay scandal then a story on it's own.
The book is pre-Stonewall, pre-feminism, and really embodies the worst of that period. The woman becomes hysterical when the man isn't around. She needs tranquilizers to get through the day. There must have been a lot of tranquilizers around for all these women going to pieces. One day the husband comes home and sees the wife making a chart. He asks if it's something to do with the baby. The wife replies that no, she's crossing off the hours that she has to spend alone until he gets home. Sigh.
Pre-Stonewall, all the gay characters die.
The only surprising thing in the book was the gumption and back-talk of the woman when her husband's motivation was being questioned. Where was any of this during the fainting spells and sedatives? It was like a different person.
The story goes nowhere, you won't care about the people, it gives no insight into the period, just poor.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fort Lauderdale - Day 1 and 2

Here's Wayne on a patio having dinner. The flight was okay but when we got to the hotel first they tried to charge us more than our reservation, then they said they only had a room with one bed.  Annoying!  I'm sleeping on the pull-out couch which works okay as its close to the air conditioner anyway.
Our hotel looks a little like Melrose Place.
We did a boat tour today, walked around downtown and went to the Art Gallery where there was a great photo exhibition on the Civil Rights movement.
This is the oldest house still standing in Ft Lauderdale from the 1830's and was right beside our boat cruise dock.
They call Ft Lauderdale the Venice of America because of all these canals and man made islands. But I've been around and a lot of places are compared to Venice.
This is some hotel with a revolving restaurant and the number 66 used a lot.
This is one of the mega yachts here. There are so many!  This was costs like 250 million and it costs over half a million to fill the tank with gas.
This house is known as the White House as it looks like the White House.  
This is some palms near the water on our walk back to the hotel.
Tomorrow seeing Alberto and Jorge and then Saturday the cruise.  Excited!  Sleep now.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Song of the Loon (Little Sister's Classics) by Richard Amory

Song of the Loon by Richard Amory
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I finished it. That’s a good thing.
The book itself is tedious. For the first 60% the book follows a simple pattern and then rinse and repeat. The hero sails downstream, meets an Indian, they have sex. Within the first hour of their being together they tell each other they love each other and have never loved another more. They recite long drawn-out poetry to each other. Then the hero moves on downstream and the process begins again.
There is really no description of native life to keep you interested, although the book is set in the past there’s no historical interest displayed. Just clumsy sex scenes and clumsier dialogue about love said by people who just met.
This book is held up as one of the gay pulp classics and an example of the author overcoming the pulp medium to produce literature. For me this is the wrong book to hang that hat on. I’ve read much better and more relevant pulp, such as Sam or Lost on Twilight Road.
The hero must keep moving on to see Bear-who-dreams for a spiritual quest. Once he finally does (and sleeps with him, no shock there) the book picks up a bit. It’s enough to get you through to the end, although the villain of the piece really goes nowhere.
An example of the sticky dialogue, after sleeping with the entire Native community, Ephraim picks a mate and everyone else is jealous. “Tell them,” Ephraim said after a hushed pause, “to forget their disappointment at not having either of us, for we love each other.” As if that helps the other guys, that’s why they were upset in the first place!
There’s a nice introduction in the Little Sisters version I read detailing how pulp can be more than pulp and holding this book up as an example, something I don’t really agree with.
In the afterward the author explains more through interviews what he was trying to do with the book and I can see elements of this in the story. Writing a book with no women, where women weren’t even acknowledged to exist. Writing a story hoping to deal with issues of body image and monogamy. I appreciate the try.
The appendices for the book are great and make this edition the one you need to pick up. There are several interviews with the author and another author of the time on this book, the movie and gay publishing of the time. I can sense the author’s outrage at the injustice coming through the page, though the things they were arguing about now seem less important with time. For example, the author takes exception to the publishing industries term “fag hot” for gay themed books. Another author wrote an S&M book and specifically said in the intro letter that the leather community hates being called “leather queens.” So of course they called the book “The Leather Queens”. No royalties were paid, lines were cut or inserted from other sources, and the editors were heterosexual. Not very conducive to artistic expression.
There are also examples of gay infighting, where the book says men should act and dress like “men”. Where the author says publishing books with the word “fag” or “gay” in the title is bad for the image we present to straights, etc. This idea of self-policing gays has been around forever. I remember recently a debate on whether there should be a separate “gay” section at a local author’s festival. If there’s no gay section, how am I supposed to find the gay books?
I don’t understand how this book was so popular, other than it was one of the first. It’s not one I would choose to rest my laurels on now.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a cute boy I wanted to get to know better so I read it. He seems to have since gone out of my life and I may not see him again, so I’m left with the book.
I haven’t read Coupland since my early 20’s, he was very much a product of the nineties and the slacker generation looking to zone out of existence. This book is no exception and while there are smart moments, the book now seems very dated and the fresh cultural references of the time a touch stale.
Coupland’s strength here is his humour and insight, played to varying degrees of success. For example, the geek humour of a line like “Tonight she has a date with a Marina District tattoo artist, so we’re all expecting her to show up tomorrow with a Pentium chip etched into her shoulder.” This geek humour appealed to me less than this line, read on a snowy winter afternoon: “God, winter is gross. I can’t believe Eskimos just don’t set themselves adrift on ice floes for the boredom of it all. Or move to Florida.”
I think another thing I disliked about the book is that I’m not 20 anymore. Lines like “What’s a bar bill but a surtax on reality” may have once held meaning, but now I can’t even be bothered to stop to think about them.
The story is charming enough that I was able to continue but I was still ready for it to be over. The book ends on a touching note, but overall the plot really goes nowhere. The central story, OOp!, is never resolved, and elements that could have been strong are burned out too quickly. For example the work at Microsoft, one of the big reasons someone would pick up this book, is finished in the first 25% and you spend the rest of the book waiting for them to go back. They never do. Similarly one of the characters falls in love with someone on the internet, never knowing their age or even their sex, and this concept could have played out to a satisfying conclusion. Instead it’s resolved in about 3 pages.
This read was a distraction, but is not recommended.

View all my reviews