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Author Topic: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)  (Read 714736 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 D’s 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 »

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4011 on: February 03, 2021, 07:10:02 PM »
City of Night, by John Rechy.

This is a very old book; it was first published in 1963. I have a 1984 edition. It's considered a landmark and a classic in gay literature.

I'm not clear if the book is strictly autobiographical, but it is certainly based on the author's experiences as a hustler in New York City, L.A., San Francisco, and elsewhere before the unnamed narrator winds up in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. The book is sort of like a series of character studies all linked by chapters that are all named "City of Night." Some of those character studies--Skipper, Sylvia--are quite affecting. For a book that centers on the experiences of a hustler, there is almost no mention of sex.

For me, Rechy's style can be a bit off-putting. He runs words together (e.g., "young man" becomes "youngman"), omits apostrophes from contractions ("don't" becomes "dont"), and uses capital letters in ways that I can't figure out. Also, anyone reading it should be prepared for its reflection of the period in which it was written and the years, the early 1960s and maybe even the late 1950s, that ran up to its writing. It reflects attitudes, racial and or sexual, and language usages of the period. Thus "queen" and "fairy" are used quite freely, and in places also "spade." If you can tolerate that, this is a very good read with an important place in the history of gay literature.

Offline tfferg

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4012 on: February 04, 2021, 01:35:06 AM »
The title Guapa led me to anticipate something Hispanic, but Saleem Haddad's 2016 absorbing novel details the emotional turmoil experienced by his gay narrator, Rasa, over 24 hours in an unnamed Middle Eastern city in the years of the aftermath of the failed Arab Spring of 2011 in which he protested with his friends in the streets.

Gay author Saleem Haddad who has worked for Doctors Without Borders in countries like Yemen, Libya and Iraq, did not want to to risk exposing any particular queer community to new oppressive scrutiny, so he created in his unnamed city the defiantly resourceful lesbian Nora's underground bar named Guapa with its basement drag show featuring Rasa'a best friend Maj, who works as a dauntless human rights activist. Guapa brings together aspects of similar bars the author knows of across the Middle East.

The book opens as Rasa is traumatically shamed when his grandmother Teta screams as she spies on him through the keyhole and sees him in his bedroom with his secret lover Taymour who flees in the small hours.

Rasa has been brought up by Teta in her apartment since his father died and his beloved mother disappeared when he was a boy. The crafty, shame-wielding Teta will not tell him what she knows about his profundly-missed mother's whereabouts.

Rasa spends the day desperately trying to get a response from the deeply-closeted Taymour and trying to locate Maj whose mother has appealed for help because Maj has not made it home after leaving the bar. Rasa gets himself to the office where he works as an interpreter with their practical gay ally Basma and the insistently nosy straight Nawaf. He travels with Laura, an American reporter, from the more privileged part of the repressed city to the dangerous slum area to interpret for her as she interviews a jihadi extremist leader and his wife.

The middle part of the novel is a flashback to Rasa's years as a university student in the US. Hoping to work out his identity as a gay man there, he is confounded when his arrival coincides with the 7/11 attacks and he is alienated again by American people's suspicion and treatment of him as an Arab Muslim.

The denouement sneaks up on readers in the third section when Rasa goes to a lavish wedding in the evening in his home city.

The novel is not the romance readers might hope for but as educated, English-speaking men with jobs and somewhere to live, Rasa and Maj support each other and survive.

« Last Edit: February 04, 2021, 02:47:43 AM by tfferg »

Offline ingmarnicebbmt

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4013 on: February 04, 2021, 03:30:55 AM »

Thanks a lot, Tony.

I will and examine read your review again in detail when having finished my own reading of that novel.

For the time being, I look forward to that 'fresh' experience.

(I can deal with spoilers, since I'm never interested in plots but in style and architecture of literary writing.)  ;)
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Offline frokes

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4014 on: February 04, 2021, 01:02:09 PM »
I have added Guapa to my reading list now. Thanks for the recommendation!
“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 D’s 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 #4015 on: February 04, 2021, 03:52:55 PM »
You are both welcome.

I tried to avoid spoilers..

The novel draws on number of influences in the history of gay literature and post-colonial writers.