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Author Topic: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)  (Read 824389 times)

Offline gattaca

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4140 on: March 18, 2022, 01:13:38 PM »
Wingmen, by Ensan Case, was brought to my attention when I first read the gay history book Coming Out Under Fire by Allan Berube. In a chapter titled The Legacy of the War he writes about authors who started to write about their WWII experiences, both gay men and lesbians, and straight men who'd witnessed or come in contact with the subject.

Lyle - COUF finally surfaced in my reading list.  THANKS SO MUCH! 

I'm several chapters in and am blown away by the amount of REAL boots-on-the-ground Berube did on this subject.  Talking to all these men and women - first hand - while they were still alive.  He's done the LGBTQ+ community a great service and left a lasting legacy.  Just knowing those letters were tossed in the trash, then saved, got my attention!    Post more when I complete the mission.  V. 
« Last Edit: March 18, 2022, 01:34:20 PM by gattaca »

Offline Lyle (Mooska)

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4141 on: March 19, 2022, 11:24:55 AM »
Lyle - COUF finally surfaced in my reading list.  THANKS SO MUCH!

Glad to know you're reading it!

I'm several chapters in and am blown away by the amount of REAL boots-on-the-ground Berube did on this subject.  Talking to all these men and women - first hand - while they were still alive.  He's done the LGBTQ+ community a great service and left a lasting legacy.  Just knowing those letters were tossed in the trash, then saved, got my attention!

Yes, that's always stuck in my mind...finding those letters in the trash! Can you imagine? It's so dramatic. Saving history, actually.

I don't know if you read any books this way, but while I was reading that one, I'd always look at the footnotes indicated in the text, because many times there was more interesting information to read. Not always the case with footnotes.

When that book came out in 1990 (I had to look it up to recall exactly) I hadn't really known any historical context of gay people living in other time periods at that point. It was so extremely fascinating to me to relate to gay people from the WWII era. This book is how I came to know about Wingmen and some other books and stories. It led me to read a few books of published diaries of gay men from that time, like Vol. 1 of Donald Vining's A Gay Diary and one called Jeb & Dash, and a memoir of a gay G.I. titled Stars & Garters among other things. One thing I've always wanted to read but it's not generally accessible: In a part of COUF, maybe it's in the footnotes, he quotes a gay sailor's letters. The sailor was stationed on the hospital ship Solace stationed in Pearl Harbor, who corresponded with his boyfriend. They are available to read in person in a library or archives in San Francisco. Once when I was possibly going to visit S.F. years ago I contacted the library about how to go about doing that if I showed up there, but I didn't end up going. (Maybe I should find out if perhaps now this has been digitized and is available online in some capacity. Something to pursue. Who knows?)

I used to work near a gay bookstore, The Unicorn, where I'd bought this book, and on my lunch hour I'd often go in and pay a visit there and talk to the employees I'd gotten to know and check out new releases and such. While I was in the process of reading that book I went into the store one day and the guy behind the counter was talking to someone and when I popped in he looked at me and said "Hi" and then said to the guy he was talking to:  "Here's someone who purchased your book recently."

It was Allan Berube! I got to meet him! He asked me what I thought of it and I was quite effusive, telling him how fascinating I thought it was and excited I was to be reading it. After I'd finished it, that meeting has been a special memory associated with it, especially because it was out of the blue. I'd have to say it's one of my favorite books I've ever read in many ways. Just glad right now that you're enjoying it! Thanks for mentioning it Vincent!

Offline gattaca

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4142 on: March 19, 2022, 12:11:05 PM »
^^^^ ^^^ WOW!  What an honor to have met him. He died in 2007!   

That saved correspondence links lives - lost to time. Those people mattered greatly. Just consider, someone kept those letters. They meant something to them - a great deal probably.   Who knows, maybe a relative or landlord tossed them out after that person had moved or died.

Written letters are rarer and rarer as our "immediate culture" expands to email, texts and phone calls - all vanish in time.

TLDR;

I've continued to hand-write the very few holiday cards I send yearly.  This past February, I got a delayed response from one of my college buddies. When I opened it, it was note from his wife.  My friend had died in late 2021.  She was still in shock.  I did not know and no one called or emailed because of COVID. He lived in FL.  She conveyed that he always delighted in reading my cards and had kept them all over these many years b/c there were hand-written and were far more than a simple "Happy Holidays" greeting. (I typically fill up the white space and sometimes continue on the back!)_ 

So what's the point with all this?  Why do I still do hand-write when most people have stopped writing or sending cards or just include type-copied letters of family updates.  Sure efficient but that's not what the real purpose is and becomes.

True story, about 4 decades ago, I was coin hunting one beautiful Sunday afternoon with my dad at a very old, abandoned country farm house I'd ridden by 1000 times. It was only ~ 3 miles from my home.  Sometimes, coins fall through the floor-boards of these homes, literally. So on a whim, I shimmied underneath the edge of the home to check things out - all the while keeping eyes out of snakes and other critters you do not want to meet in such places.   There resting by a brick pillar was an old WWII letter from a Private to his brother - still in the envelope to where you could read the name and address clearly.  The letter, which had somehow fallen there, or maybe it was hidden there, had not gotten blown away all these years was unmistakable and even writing this sends shivers down my spine.

So,  I took the letter home, read it, and put it in my dresser.  I almost tossed it but something stopped me.  IDK what b/c I had no hope of finding the owner.  As I recall, I could not even drive at the time.  Fast forward another 25+ years when my parents died.I was cleaning out that same dresser and the letter surfaced again!   By this time, I used the internet to locate a possible SON of the writer who lived in major city several hundred miles away with the similar / same first, last names which was not a common surname.  I gave him a phone call and got an answering machine.  A day or two later, he called back and thought this was some sort of "scam" or prank - at first.  We talked a while and I explained where and how I'd found his father's letter.  He wanted to know more b/c his mom had tossed out all of his father's war letters when he died and they moved many years earlier.  His family did not recall him EVER living in this house.  No one could explain how the letter came to be there which made it even stranger - an entangling enigma.   

The letter was ordinary and mundane - just a catch up with family at home:  hoping to get back and what should be happening on the farm. there was only so much they could convey - censors.  I returned the letter to his son, via registered mail.  From my research the, the son was more than just some John Doe.  He was a doctor or psychiatrist if I recall and active in the AIDs / LGBTQ / PFLAG community. To this day, I still remember the feeling of "saving his history" and changing at least this man's life, even slightly, by giving him a piece of time, history and his father's thoughts he would have never had or seen.  When I returned the letter, I included the full provenance of how/when I'd found it plus the geo-coordinates of where.  That old homeplace was long ago razed to ground so it was all trees now. 

That's what really grabbed me about COUF and would have driven me too had I found the same as Berube.  Sometimes, history grabs you by the @@ and sometimes it's decades later.  Talk about a flashing episode of déjà vu!.  Oh, yeah. That's also why I still hand-write holiday cards.    V.

Excepts from my letter to the son:

"Enclosed is the original personal letter we discussed on 20 Feb 2010 from your father Pvt. xxxxxxx to his brother xxxxxxxxx dated Monday, 23 Oct 1944, Belgium."
...
"Cherish this letter from your father as it provides a unique glimpse into your father's past and specifically what was "on his mind" during the events of 23 Oct 1944 in Belgium during the war. The letter has been folded all of these years in its original envelope, and given its rarity, I advise speaking with a state archive / conservator about de-acidifying and preserving it in Mylar to prevent further degradation. "
« Last Edit: March 19, 2022, 01:24:58 PM by gattaca »

Offline Lyle (Mooska)

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4143 on: March 19, 2022, 01:15:11 PM »

Really great story, Vincent, thanks for sharing it!

I always make it a point to handwrite cards. During the pandemic for many months a bunch of friends of mine, and also me, of course, we all sent out a lot of handwritten cards of different kinds for months. It was so great and I've kept all of them. As things are returning to "normal" (?) this habit has stopped for the most part. Too bad!

Written letters are rarer and rarer as our "immediate culture" expands to email, texts and phone calls - all vanish in time.

I've recognized that for a few decades. Sometime in the 90's a friend and I were on the Warner Bros. lot (my friend had some business there for his job) and he invited me to come with him. On the lot, Warners has a museum that I resume is part of their Studio Tour. Anyway, we decided to visit it. There were so many interesting letters and such highlighted from Hollywood celebrities, moguls and such that were fascinating. I remember at one point turning to my friend and asking: "What are museums going to be like in the future? Are they going to show texts or emails someone wrote on a computer?" Letters are something the person in question physically wrote and you can feel a connection to that person from a letter, a note, even a personal check they wrote. You can picture a person writing what you're looking at. There's no such personal connection to some words someone wrote that is highlighted on a computer screen.

Speaking of Christmas cards, did you know that President Roosevelt (FDR) collected Christmas cards and apparently every one he ever saved, all the way through his Presidency, are at his Hyde Park home/now a museum. Those would be interesting. During WWII there were a lot of interesting card designs during that time, often incorporating patriotic notions. (I just did a photo search of "WWII Christmas Cards." Some are tear inducing and yet others are wildly hilarious! They run the gamut!)



Offline michaelflanagansf

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4144 on: April 10, 2022, 09:07:12 PM »
I just finished My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. It's the book I'm leading discussion on for my library this Tuesday. It's a short (under 200 pages) novella on a woman who becomes a published author during the course of the novel. But where it starts out is really what interests me - it starts in the Midwest (Illinois) where she is raised in extreme poverty. Her family is first living in the garage of a great-Uncle and eventually (after his death) moves into the house, which is also extremely cold in the winter.

What's particularly interesting to me is that it's not dissimilar to things I grew up with. By the time I was born my father's business had been taken for eminent domain and we were living off of Social Security. It's also interesting because Lucy escapes by reading and going to college - again, not unlike my life.

The central part of the novel takes place when Lucy is in the hospital for an infection related to an appendicitis operation. Her mother comes to visit for 5 days at the behest of her husband. And Lucy and her mother revisit the time in their shared home.

This all takes place in New York in the 1980s, so AIDS is a background theme of the novel as well. It also deals with issues related to an author finding her own voice. A character in the novel (another writer whose class she is in) tells authors that they only have one story and they retell it in their novels over and over again. This is a philosophy I've heard before, although I don't agree with the notion.

All in all a good short novel. I would read something else by her, and if you can say that after reading a novel I feel that the author has succeeded.
I do my thing, & you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other - it is beautiful. If not it can't be helped.

Fritz Perls - A Gestalt Prayer

Offline michaelflanagansf

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4145 on: April 12, 2022, 09:01:13 PM »
I've just finished the book group for My Name Is Lucy Barton and it went very well. This is one of those novels which grows on you after you've finished it. It's about family (both abusive and good families), connection and memory. It's short (under 200 pages) and a good read. Plus the author did 2 other books with these characters in it, so she obviously like them too.
I do my thing, & you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other - it is beautiful. If not it can't be helped.

Fritz Perls - A Gestalt Prayer

Offline michaelflanagansf

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Re: What good book have you read lately? (New or old)
« Reply #4146 on: May 10, 2022, 02:45:33 PM »
My book group read Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell this month. It's a fascinating reimagination of the life of Shakespeare's child Hamnet. Hamnet is basically the same name as Hamlet, so it is assumed he is the inspiration for the play.

Agnes/Anne Hathaway-Shakespeare is reimagined as a sort of wise woman herbalist who has a trained kestrel (like a falcon) and is consulted by the people of the village. Shakespeare's father John is imagined as abusive and Shakespeare goes to London to expand John's business as a glove maker.

It's generally known from Shakespeare's biography that Hamnet died at age 11 (so it's not a spoiler), but the way O'Farrell writes it involves "tricking death."

All in all it's a fun book. I do worry that people will confuse fiction for non-fiction, but that's just me.

https://www.npr.org/2020/07/21/893184307/the-real-hamnet-died-centuries-ago-but-this-novel-is-timeless
I do my thing, & you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other - it is beautiful. If not it can't be helped.

Fritz Perls - A Gestalt Prayer