Tuesday, April 22, 2014

South Carolina not such a "Fun Home" for Alison Bechdel

Greetings, Colleagues--

Nearly seven years ago, back in August 2007, we discussed Alison Bechdel's graphic novel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. The Washington Post reports that GOP legislators in South Carolina have cut funding for the College of Charleston in retaliation for its decision to assign the book to students and perform a musical based on it on campus, among other actions.

And for good measure, they are also replacing the college president, who supported those initiatives, with the state's lieutenant governor--a Civil War re-enactor whose view of gay rights is about what you would expect.

How heartwarming it is to know that Confederate values are alive and well in the Palmetto State, isn't it?

Bemusedly yours, Steve

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fwd: Bookmen DC: Vote early and often! Polls are open for our 2014-2015 reading list

Hi, Tom--

Hope all is well.  I've been getting bouncebacks on my past few messages to you about Bookmen meetings, but I'm hoping that glitch has somehow been resolved.

Could you let me know if either of the e-mail addresses I have for you is better than the other? And if any of the titles on our latest list of nominees particularly interests you, do vote by Monday.

Thanks, Steve

Begin forwarded message:

From: Steve Honley <sahonley@his.com>
Date: April 6, 2014 9:20:51 PM EDT
Subject: Bookmen DC: Vote early and often!  Polls are open for our 2014-2015 reading list 

Greetings, Colleagues--


Thanks to all who suggested books for our next reading list, which will run from July through next spring.  While I am sorry it wasn't possible to include everyone's recommendations, I think we have a lot of strong choices.

As always, my profound gratitude goes to Tim Walton, who edited, formatted and distilled the many suggestions into the document below—and has added links to www.Amazon.com so you can read reviews, check out sample pages, etc.  (All on top of maintaining our blog and contributing regularly to it.)  Bravissimo!


Our voting process is quite informal:  All you have to do is reply to this message with a yes or no added next to any/all titles that you feel strongly about.  (No need to say anything about the rest.)  Or, if you prefer, you can copy the listings you like into a separate e-mail and send that to me.


Either way, please respond no later than Monday, April 21, to have your votes counted.  As always, early birds are much appreciated!  :-)


A few reminders:


You can vote for as many or few books as you wish.  No need to rank the selections or assign grades, numbers, stars, etc.   Just saying yes or no is perfectly fine.


Comments are completely optional but welcome.  However, if you've already read a nominated title (or something else by the same author) and wish to sing its praises--or warn the rest of us away from it—that would be helpful.  Please feel free to post such comments on our blog, as well: www.bookmendc.blogspot.com.


In keeping with our informal style, all of you are welcome to vote even if you're new to the group or haven't been to a meeting in a while.  However, in the unlikely event that I have to choose between two selections in a category that garner similar numbers of endorsements for a slot on the next reading list, I will probably pick the book whose fans include more regular attendees.


If you have any other questions about the process, let me know.  Otherwise, I look forward to your votes, and seeing you at a (not too distant) future meeting.


Steve Honley
Facilitator (aka Benevolent Despot)
Bookmen DC
Nominations for Bookmen DC's Summer 2014-Spring 2015 Reading List 

This list isn't supposed to tell you everything you might want to know about each book, but rather to give you basic information and a description or quotation to make it easier to remember.  Often subtitles suffice. Also, there's a wealth of information on Amazon.com (be sure not to overlook the customers' reviews), Wikipedia and, of course, Google.

The list is constructed as follows:
Title. Author (Editor).  Year Originally Published (decreasing within genre), Number of Pages, Publisher, Price (rounded up—usually at a discount on amazon)

Firefly. Janette Jenkins.  2013, 156pp, Europa Editions, $15
Noël Coward's last days on Jamaican retreat with manservant Patrice.

Necessary Errors. Caleb Crain.  2013, 480pp, Penguin, $16
American ESL teacher comes out in Prague after the Velvet Revolution.

The Dream of the Celt. Mario Vargas Llosa.  2010, 368pp, Picador, $16
2010 nobelist's novel of the life of Irish nationalist, early human-rights activist, and homosexual ("Black Diaries") Roger Casement.

The Metropolis Case. Matthew Gallaway.  2010, 384pp, Broadway Books, $15
Four people in 1860s Paris and 1960s New York brought together by "Tristan und Isolde".

The 19th Wife. David Ebershoff.  2008, 544pp, Random House, $15
Two polygamous Mormon families in as many centuries with of course some gay characters.

LovetownMichal Witkowski. 2005, 240pp, Portobello Books, $13
Culture clash between old queers and new gays as they meet in a Polish homo-haven where anything goes. 

Answered Prayers. Truman Capote.  1987, 176pp, Vintage, $15
About the high and mighty who shunned TC after these fictionalized revelations.

In Youth Is Pleasure. Denton Welch.  1985, 254pp, Exact Change, $18
"Holden Caulfield's better mannered, fey, hyper-perceptive English cousin."

Roman BloodSteven Saylor.  1991, 400pp, Minotaur, $17
Rome's first sleuth solves a real-life case for Cicero.

The Gallery. John Horne Burns.  1947, 368pp, NYRB Classics, $19
Nine portraits of American soldiers in post-WWII Naples (some Neapolitans too). Read all about it in this NY Times Magazine piece.

Billy Budd, Sailor and Selected Tales. Herman Melville.  1891, 464pp, Oxford World's Classics, $9
The "Handsome Sailor" in dumb confrontation with evil.


My 1980s and Other Essays. Wayne Koestenbaum.  2013, 336pp, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16
For a flavor of which, see Salon's extract.

Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution. Linda Hirshman.  2012, 464pp, Harper Perennial, $17
"How a despised minority pushed back, beat death, found love, and changed America for everyone."

Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America. Christopher Bram.  2012, 372pp, Twelve, $28 hardback / $13 kindle. [Note: This book will not have a paperback edition.]
An assessment by a gay writer (Gods and Monsters—discussed 1/2/13) who is eminent himself with the other outlaws he discusses.

AIDS, Culture, and Gay Men. Douglas A. Feldman (ed.)  2010, 296pp, University of Florida Press, $25
Essays investigating the cross-cultural parameters of men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) phenomena.

Queer in Russia: A Story of Sex, Self, and the Other. Laurie Essig.  1999, 272pp, Duke U.P., $24
A sociologist's personal field work from the late 1980s.


Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography. Richard Rodriguez.  2013, 256pp, Penguin, $16
A major reckoning with religion, place, and sexuality in the aftermath of 9/11.

Fairyland. Alysia Abbot.  2013, 352pp, Norton, $16
Growing up 30 years ago in San Francisco with an openly gay widower dad.

Lasting City: The Anatomy of Nostalgia. James McCourt.  2013, 336pp, Liveright, $17
Growing up gay in Irish-Catholic 50s Queens.


Left-handedJohnathan Gelassi.  2012, 128pp, Knopf, $17
"Charts the disintegration of the poet's marriage, his pursuit of a younger man who does not return his affection, and his continual search for the right missing piece."


Cock. Mike Bartlett.  2013, 108pp, Dramatist's Play Service, $8
A young man leaves his older lover and falls in love with a woman and … like everyone else is confused. She goes over to "their" place for dinner for all of them to "figure" it out and … there's a surprise guest.

Total Eclipse. Christopher Hampton.  1967, 96pp, Samuel French, $10
The play about Verlaine and Rimbaud on which the Thewlis – DiCaprio film was based.


Between: New Gay Poetry. Jameson Currier (ed.)  2013, 130pp, Chelsea Station, $14

With: New Gay Fiction. ed. Jameson Currier.  2013, 280pp, Chelsea Station, $18

Love, Christopher Street. ed. Thomas Keith.  2012, 422pp, Vantage Press, $19
26 memoir-essays of LGBT life in the Big Apple.

Gay American Autobiography: Writings from Whitman to Sedaris. David Bergman.  2009, 426pp, University of Wisconsin Press, $30

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Discussions, Readings, and Signings

The Literary Hill BookFest will be held Sunday, May 4th, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the North Hall of Eastern Market (225 Seventh St SE). The event is free and open to the public. (And volunteers are needed, if you wish to participate as more than a passer-by!)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Taste of Honey

I think we should meet for the May 7th meeting at Dulles Airport.  We can discuss "A Taste of Honey" and then board the 10:35 flight to London to see the play which is now on the Lyttelton stage of the National Theatre on the South Bank.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Answered Prayers: Kate McCloud

Boaty (the narrator) is invited to a dinner with Tallulah Bankhead, Dorothy Parker and Estelle Winwood. The dinner is given for Monty Clift after "Red River" is a hit. They are all drunk at the dining table and Monty passes out at the table:

   Miss Parker did something so curious it attracted everyone's attention; it even silenced Miss Bankhead.  With tears in her eyes, Miss Parker was touching Clift's hypnotized face, her stubby fingers tenderly brushing his brow, his cheekbones, his lips, chin.  Miss Bankhead said: "Damn it Dottie. Who do you think you are?  Helen Keller?"
   "He's so beautiful," murmured Miss Parker.  "Sensitive.  So finely made.  The most beautiful young man I've ever seen.  What a pity he's a cocksucker."  Then, sweetly, wide-eyed with little girl naivete, she said: "Oh.  Oh dear.  Have I said something wrong?  I mean, he is a cocksucker, isn't he, Tallulah?"
   Miss Bankhead said: "Well, d-d-darling, I r-r-really wouldn't know.  He's never sucked my cock."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Southern Gothic

Though I was unable to attend our March 5 discussion of Coleman Dowell's notorious 1977 novel, Too Much Flesh and Jabez, I did recently finish it. So I am taking the liberty of sharing a capsule review, in hopes it will encourage others who have read the book but were not at the meeting to do likewise.

While I found large chunks of the novel confusing and frustrating, I'm still glad I read it. I might even reread it at some point down the (country) road, if only to try to figure out some of what the author was aiming for. But the lurid promise of the title, so vividly expressed by the cover art on the edition we read, was not really fulfilled—though, upon reflection, that might be a good thing for those like me who have recently experienced cardiovascular issues! 

Beyond that, I would add that Dowell's setting and approach remind me quite a bit of the French-American author Julien Green (1900-1998).  It's been nearly 20 years since I read his Each Man in His Darkness, which I found in the remainders section of the 19th Street Olsson's Bookstore alongside his less impressive Moira.  I still remember being caught up the feverish world of the former novel, and feeling both disappointed and relieved to reach its end. 

Though I wouldn't recommend either book to someone not already well-versed in, and appreciative of, Southern Gothic literature, Green's style does fall into the well-worn category of "If you like that kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you'll like!" 

Which, come to think of it, might be a fitting comment about Dowell, as well.   

Cheers, Steve

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

India: You're Criminal If Gay

Vikram Seth's mother, a justice herself, comments on India's "high" court misruling last month.