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Author Topic: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)  (Read 707344 times)

Offline FoS

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4005 on: January 04, 2021, 02:04:02 PM »
In the footsteps Mary Renault, Charles Lloyd published a homoerotic novel, The Walls of Sparta earlier this year (Lethe Press).

Drawing on the biography by the Athenian historian Xenophon who knew the warrior king personally and the biography by the later historian Plutarch, the author tells the story of Agesilaos II who ruled Sparta from roughly 400 to 359 BCE. a period when the city-state reached the peak of its power and began its decline. He fought into his 80s in Greece, Asia Minor and Egypt.

Charles Lloyd portrays this interesting figure through episodic chapters told from the point of view of the real men and women he depended on: his wife Kleora, his sister Kuniska, his son Arkhidamos, his older lover Lysandros, his seer Agias, the famous warrior Isadas and Xenophon.

Underlying almost everything and especially pivotal moments is homoeroticism. Agesilaus along with most of the Spartan male characters are involved in the culturally central relationships of a whisperer, an older, more experienced young warrior citizen who courted and educated a listener, a younger warrior.

Writing for a gay readership, Charles Lloyd invents a wide array of interweaving male characters including friends, military subordinates, political rivals, scribes, heralds, Persian boys and slaves. Through them, he depicts nuanced relationships and men in love in ways more familiar to present-day gay people.

The result is a vividly engrossing, detailed portrait of Spartan society and culture with many romantic and explicitly erotic scenes.

Charles Lloyd is an emeritus professor of classics at Marshall University in West Virginia.

Tony, I have just finished reading "The walls of Sparta" as you recommended.
And i was so very drawn into the story.
Thank you so much for recommending  .
« Last Edit: January 06, 2021, 09:08:35 AM by FoS »

Offline tfferg

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4006 on: January 04, 2021, 02:28:32 PM »
I'm glad you found it absorbing.

Offline tfferg

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4007 on: January 04, 2021, 02:47:21 PM »
I found My Cat Yugoslavia, the prize-winning debut novel by Pajtim Statovci published in 2014 quite a challenging read. It's a very readable English translation by David Hackston of the original Finnish Kissani Jugoslavia.

It begins with list of text messages from a gay hook-up site and a resulting catch. In the next chapter the first person narrator buys a boa constrictor, leading to an extraordinary scene when he takes it home. Next comes the first chapter in the second first-person narrative set in spring 1980 in an Albanian village in the mountains outside Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. Emine is a teenage girl in a very patriarchal Muslim society.

The book then alternates between the dual narratives, with the gay man in Finland, Bekim, meeting and falling in love with handsome talking cat in a gay bar and inviting him to move in to his apartment.

We learn that the university student Bekim is Emine's son and that the family flee the oppression of Kosovar Albanians after the death of Tito and the subsequent war, finding refuge in a town in Finland.

While the novel is by no means didactic or preachy, it is very timely in this era of little understanding of or empathy with refugees.

Pajtim Statovci gives a straightforward depiction of the family's cultural background and experiences in Kosovo and Finland over 20 years or so from the different points of view of the mother and son on the one hand and the magical realist story of Bekim's relationships with the boa constrictor and the cat.

The novel is quite a tour de force in the way the author weaves together so many disparate elements into a coherent whole with unifying themes.

It was with great relief that I read the very final chapters with both Emine and Bekim developing happier lives and relationships.

When Pajtim Statovci was two years old in 1992 he moved with his family from Kosovo to Finland where he continues to publish successful novels.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2021, 03:35:06 PM by tfferg »

Offline tfferg

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4008 on: January 10, 2021, 10:41:20 PM »
I recall my gay friend Bob, who before he became legally blind used to meet a lot of gays, telling me that young out gay men he met had no problems with anybody about their sexuality. I guess he didn't think of the evidence of bullying in schools and higher rates of depression, self-harm and suicide compared with the general population.

Melbourne writer Ronnie Scott's 2020 novel The Adversary (published by Penguin) is set in inner suburban Melbourne some time after the same-sex marriage laws were passed in 2017 when there was alreadyready access to antiretroviral treatment for HIV and PrEP. What is life like for young gay men here now?

The novel which I think is entirely fictional focuses on the relationship of two young gays, the unnamed 20-21 year-old student narrator and Dan, his only friend and housemate who he is platonically in love with. He becomes emotionally and psychologically very distressed and stuck in his habitual ways of living as Dan changes.

The formerly rebellious Dan has graduated with his degree and got a job in an interior design company. He is getting closely involved with Lachlan and spends more and more nights in his apartment in inner suburban Fitzroy where there are a number of gay venues. Lachlan shares the gentrified warehouse apartment with another young man, Chris L.

The story develops over the eight weeks of summer and the Christmas and New Year holidays and the long university vacation as Dan pushes the quite reclusive narrator into occasions where Chris L is present. Chris L is involved somehow with decade-older Vivian who is visiting from New York.

Dan can be kind, generous but very critical and at times manipulative, During the winter, in order to get the narrator out of the house more, he had given him a month's membership of the gym at the nearby Brunswick Baths (Not a gay bath house. My father taught me to swim there and my high school's annual swimming carnivals held there. Come to think of it, it was where I first admired male swimmers' bodies).

The narrator meets up via Grindr with a regular user of the Brunswick Baths gym who drives there from the more upmarket inner suburb of Richmond where he has an apartment. They meet several times Over the summer, but the narrator never learns his name. He finds Vivian is staying in the apartment block opposite.

The narrator is well aware of his attraction to other young men, is out to his family and hopes vaguely to find a boyfriend, but like Andre Aciman's Elio he is an overthinker. However he misses or misinterprets a great deal, gets things wrong, tells lies and treats people badly. He wants friends and acts on lustful feelings, but he doesn't like touching or sexual interactions.

The story is not about romance. The author examines the interactions and friendships among the six young middle-class gay white men. There are no speaking parts for any other kind of people, which must be quite unrealistic considering the diversity of people in inner suburban Melbourne.

The not very insightful narrator is finally jolted into changing a crucial aspect of his behaviour by straightforward feedback from Dan and the novel ends on a positive note.

Since I read the book, I've read that it is among the top 5 selling books at the gay bookshop in Fitzroy.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2021, 11:34:54 PM by tfferg »

Offline frokes

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4009 on: January 14, 2021, 04:03:51 PM »
I started reading Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters. It is the author's debut novel and one of the supporting characters detransitions. Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

"A whipsmart debut about three women--transgender and cisgender--whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn't hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn't happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese--and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames's boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she's pregnant with his baby--and that she's not sure whether she wants to keep it--Ames wonders if this is the chance he's been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family--and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can't reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel." 

So far I think it is fascinating and I look forward to reading the rest of it!
An affair with the G train, he smirked into the floor, his eyes filling with tears. - The Bellwether

"Jack felt D hard beneath his hand. He leaned his forehead against Ds again. You feel it, he whispered, barely breathed, not really a question." - Zero at the Bone

Offline tfferg

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4010 on: January 20, 2021, 12:30:10 AM »
Shuggie Bain, the debut novel by gay Glaswegian-born-and-raised writer Douglas Stuart, focuses on the 16-year relationship between the young boy Shuggie and his proud, hardworking, working-class mother  Agnes (who he admires as glamorous. She becomes an alcoholic after her womanising taxi-driver husband dumps her and his three children in an isolated outer suburban housing settlement for families of miners who are all unemployed after the closing of the coal mine in the early 1980s.

I kept reading this long book even after a particularly harrowing scene in the second chapter and despite already knowing from previous reading what Glasgow was like at the time.

Little Shuggie becomes more and more aware that he is different from the hard-bitten boys and men around him. He is cruelly mocked as "no right" because of the way he speaks - like his mother, the Queen's English -and the way he walks, even after he tries to walk "like a real boy"as his older brother teaches him. He has no friends.

Agnes and Shuggie love each tenderly. He keeps on doing his best to support her and tries very hard to save her. The novel is not autobiographical, though it was inspired by Douglas Stuart's experience of living with beloved mother who died of alcoholic disease when he was 16.

Except for a few bright spots and a year in which Agnes stops drinking, the story is bleak. However, Douglas Stuart's prose is clear, easy to read, with precise descriptions, wry humour and what Colm Toibin calls "sour poetry". It is characterised also by Glaswegian language and slang and dialogue full of swearing.

Through his focus on the small family, Douglas Stuart is subtly able to create a portrait of the whole society of Glasgow in the 1980s. The policies of Prime Minister Thatcher, the closing of the coal mines and the whole Clydeside shipbuilding industry have robbed skilled tradesmen and their sons of their livelihoods, futures, way of life and "their very masculinity".

He portrays the crushing poverty, hunger, widespread alcoholism, domestic violence, sectarian prejudice and division, misogyny, racism and homophobia, but he writes with emotional intelligence and doesn't judge his characters even as they create misery and havoc. They are emotionally complex.

Shuggie Bain earned Douglas Stuart the 2020 Booker Prize. It is to be adapted as a TV series by Stephen Daldry with the author.


« Last Edit: January 20, 2021, 01:11:31 AM by tfferg »