Reading is fundamental
“If you go home with somebody, and they don't have books, don't fuck 'em!”― John Waters
I, of course, agree with John Waters. I once went home with a very, very attractive man with extremely outstanding qualities. OUTSTANDING, I'm telling you. Don't you know that when we got to his place, his mattress was on the floor, he only had water and cereal in his kitchen and there was not a book, magazine or newspaper in sight. I left. He was flabbergasted (and erect) but I was unmoved. He lived like he had just moved there. He had been in that place for a year! How could somebody so perfect not have ANY printed material in his house?
But this post is not about me not giving the semiliterate Adonis some ass. It's about the bibliography of my life (annotated). Here’s some books I think many gay boys could read just for the kick of it. This post was inspired by dear Walter, who basically gave me the idea when I posted about the soundtrack of my life. So here we go:
Years later I knew that they had made a movie out of it, but I was not interested. The book was in my collection for years! I think I donated it to an LGBTQ club in college.
When I read David Leavitt's novel, I did not know what to think. It has required several readings for me to get into it. The most striking metaphor is that of the child who behaves like the cranes he sees from his window. He is left alone for hours and his only contact with humans is the cranes used to work on buildings far away. It also freaked me out because both the father and the son end up being gay and I had to process that.
I was reading very strange books at that time and this was one of those that stayed with me. I recently got it back in my collection as a gift from my friend Abandon, who found it in their collection and remembered a discussion we had about it. Funny, how books you've read so many years ago can be re-read with new eyes. Experience, I guess, is 20/20.
Even though there seems to be no intersectionality in the novel (all the characters are white) it is told from the point of view of a black man. I think that at the time it was written, Baldwin would have had to choose one of the two and he chose homosexuality, which I think was as brave as if he would have chosen race.
When I found Maurice in a pile of books in a bookstore in Pittsburgh, I knew I had to read it. I find books published after the writer is dead to be strangely cathartic. Forster obviously never wanted it published while he was alive because of the prejudice against gay people. I wonder what he would have thought about all the lives he touched after the book saw the light of day.
Maurice touches on class and social status and it's essential reading for every gay man! It's a love story that does not kill or maim one of its protagonists and it has a happy ending. To me, that was absolutely refreshing. I was tired of reading love stories in which one of the men died or where the relationship found some insurmountable obstacle. It was luminous, it was sexy and it was romantic. What can I do? I like gay romances that end well. So sue me.
When I read Chbosky's novel I was living in Pittsburgh and of course I related. It's almost too YA but everybody can relate to that awkward period when we are too young to be a man but too old to be a boy. It is gay-adjacent, because Charlie is not gay but one of the other characters is, so you see homosexuality though somebody else's eyes.
There is a movie that was made based on this, too, and I think Chbosky adapted. This was also one of those 'banned books' because it touches themes like suicide, sexuality and mental illness. I, of course, had to read it.
Now, you know I had to write about Augusten. Running with Scissors is a brilliant, hysterical and poignant memoir of sorts. Remember when memoirs were the shit and everybody was writing one? There were scandals, because some people invented half of theirs and even Oprah got involved. This one tells us about Augusten's teen years and it's the most bonkers description of somebody's adolescence and at the same time it's a gateway book to anything memoir. The absolutely sui genesis mother, the distant father, the bonkers household where he goes to live, the older man he falls for. It was basically my life. I know there's a movie version of this, but the book is absolutely fantastic. Really. If you haven't read it, do it.
I have read five or six of Augusten's book (Sellevision is a hoot!) and I strongly recommend them as Summer reading. It was a toss-up between Augusten and David Sedaris and Augusten got the tails.
I think it's a fascinating book. The butch lesbian experience is the mirror image of the femme gay boy experience and this book gives us a round trip in the life of somebody who founds themselves through trial and error. I'd recommend it. I believe Leslie had a very rough period and was ill for the longest time. I don't know if they have published anything lately.
And this is getting way too long. I'm a pretentious egghead, what can I say? This ended up being bent (LOL sorry not sorry) towards the LGBTQ but hey. You feel me?
Oh, and some honorary mentions follow. And you? What's your fav book? Should I read it? Go ahead, give it to me.