Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: The Boys on the Rock


The Boys on the Rock
The Boys on the Rock by John Fox

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Probably my favorite "Coming Out" story.



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Review: Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America


Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America
Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America by Christopher Bram

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I found this to be a very accessible and informative read (two traits that don't necessarily coincide). Personally, I would have liked more depth earlier on (re Vidal esp.) rather than the later works (Angels in America, etc.), undoubtedly because the latter works are more familiar to me.

I do wonder about those neglected entirely (Jon Fox anyone? He wrote one of my favorite books!) and those (Joseph Hansen!) mentioned only in passing. Again, a personal quibble. I've read far more Hansen than any of the other writers mentioned in the book and assume he was something of an outlaw.

I suppose Bram wanted to concentrate on the "important" writers. Unfortunately, the more "mainstream" a gay writer was (Vidal, Williams, Capote and Baldwin), the more, it seems to me, they capitulated to the system. Which makes them somewhat less outlaws, no?




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Review: Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America


Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America
Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America by Christopher Bram

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I found this to be a very accessible and informative read (two traits that don't necessarily coincide). Personally, I would have liked more depth earlier on (re Vidal esp.) rather than the later works (Angels in America, etc.), undoubtedly because the latter works are more familiar to me.

I do wonder about those neglected entirely (Jon Fox anyone? He wrote one of my favorite books!) and those (Joseph Hansen!) who were mentioned only in passing. Again, a personal quibble. I've read far more Hansen than any of the other writers mentioned in the book and assume he was something of an outlaw. I suppose Bram wanted to concentrate on the "important" writers. Unfortunately, the more "mainstream" a gay writer was (Vidal, Williams, Capote and Baldwin), the more, it seems to me, they capitulated to the system. Which makes them somewhat less outlaws, no?




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Friday, October 10, 2014

Review: Giovanni's Room


Giovanni's Room
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars



An awful book about awful people being awful to each other...With the worst of the bunch narrating the whole unhappy affair in a whiny, navel-gazing voice.

Let me begin with an interesting (to me) side note: There is a somewhat famous gay bookstore in Philadelphia called Giovanni's Room. I've never been, but heard about it when it nearly closed it's doors recently and there was a push in LGBT circles to save it. I gathered from what I heard of the bookstore (and from the crusade itself) that the bookstore had long provided a sort of haven for the local gay community--a safe place to gather and, of course, explore gay fiction and poetry. That led me to believe that the book Giovanni's Room would be about a refuge that allowed two men to explore their attraction to one another.

Now, having read the book, I wonder if the people who opened the bookstore and named it Giovanni's Room had read the book. In the book, the room is a sort of nadir of cosmic horror and repulsion. It acts on those who enter it in a palpably malevolent fashion, crushing them between it's dank and dirty, claustrophobia-inducing walls. It drives one of the men, ultimately to murder. In fact, now that I'm really considering the story, I guess what I'd most liken it to would be one of the early Lovecraft tales--you know, where not much actually happens, but the author paints a word picture of man's futile struggle against an either malevolent or indifferent universe. Giovanni's room (the place in the book, not the bookstore, nor the book itself) is like dreaming Cthulhu or, better yet, Azathoth.

Was it well-written? Most assuredly. Baldwin knows his way around prose. And he occasionally uses colons to off-set his dialogue tags, which I also like to do, but which has recently become something of a no-no, apparently. But the story could never rise to the level of the words telling it.

Reading the other reviews I'm honestly wondering if I didn't read some other book! Another check on my "501 Must Read Books" List that fails to live up to the hype.




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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: The Nephew


The Nephew
The Nephew by James Purdy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars



Jeez, what a disappointment. This book has been on my reading list for some time, and, when I finally managed to get my hands on a copy (it's a rare item in my neck of the woods), I was so excited to read it.

The excitement didn't last long. Just so-so for most of the length and then really fell to pieces in the final act. Talk about authorial interference. Nothing in the final quarter of the book seemed to happen as an organic progression from what came before; instead we got a lot of author makes things happen to...And here I'm stuck with "...to what?" Make a point? Teach a lesson? Exhibit his total abhorrence of moral turpitude?

Ugh. Just ugh.

Technically, the level of polish also seemed to diminish toward the end. He started off rather technical sound--nothing particularly special, but certainly more than serviceable. At the end he really just seemed to be trying to crank it out and reach the finish line.



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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories


The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Argh! I really wanted to love this book. And I went in expecting to love it. I was excited--filled with anticipation. And then...Well, it really turned out to be a slog.

Amazingly, I was not, prior to reading the first of this collection's stories, familiar with the Bluebeard tale. Obviously, post investigation, I admit to having encountered various "Popular Culture" references to the story, but I read Carter's version with very fresh eyes. Nevertheless, I thought the build up did not match the denouement, and the whole "Mother rides in on a charger" thing just had me sort of going..."Un, how far til I get to The Company of Wolves?"

That story (TCOW) was the basis for one of my favorite movies of the 80s (actually, according to wiki, Carter wrote the screenplay based on her own story). If you've seen the movie, you know what a strange child I am admitting to having been. If you haven't seen the movie, rent it! Go in for the werewolves but stay for the giant teddy bears, Neil Jordan, and Angela Lansbury's ferrets.

Unfortunately, TCOW was next to last in this collection (with only Wolf Alice--which I suspect also worked its way into the movie TCOW) trailing after it like a sad coda. In between were what felt like innumerable reworkings of Beauty and the Beast--some played disappointingly straight and one where the couple turned out to be tigers. (?) There was a Puss in Boots story that I admit to liking better than the movie (FULL DISCLOSURE: Carter's P-in-B has nothing to do with the Pixar movie). But my one shiny favorite here was The Lady of the House of Love. It was one of those stories that really reminds you of something you can never quite put your finger on).

Needless to say (altho I shall say it), Carter writes magnificently. I've punished myself with some poorly written works of late, and her command of the English language was a very welcome respite. But ultimately I was piteously disappointed by the collection over all.



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