I got about halfway and then gave up. The concept is kind of interesting (a presidential assassination and the resulting grabs for power) yet the stor...moreI got about halfway and then gave up. The concept is kind of interesting (a presidential assassination and the resulting grabs for power) yet the story is less about a potential future and more about political ranting. There is so much ranting against the evil Leftist government that the story is lost. The author clearly believes George W. Bush to be have been a liberal so you can imagine that kind of radical right wing ideology is that is touted. Additionally the entire story is told to the reader in minute detail. Every single action is told and the reasons - for example someone picks up a cell phone and pretends to have a conversation and the book spends several paragraphs explaining why this is clever and important. There is no mystery since the story tells you exactly who did what, why, and their radical left politics.
Unfortunately I couldn't stomach anymore of this.(less)
Although this was originally released in 2000 to rave reviews, the test of the author’s work and skill shows as the story is equally moving and releva...moreAlthough this was originally released in 2000 to rave reviews, the test of the author’s work and skill shows as the story is equally moving and relevant today as it was then and also when Wilde originally published The Picture of Dorian Gray. In this thought provoking and masterfully written take on the timeless story of obsession, avarice, decadence, and the quest for endless beauty, Reed has delivered a poignant adaptation able to delve more deeply into themes the original shied away from.
Liam Howard, a photographer and artist, spies an innocent Gary Adrion on the el train and can’t help following the younger man to ask Gary to pose for him. After seeing the disturbing brilliance of Liam’s unique work, he agrees and sets into motion unexpected but far reaching implications. Liam creates a hologram of Gary’s youthful beauty, shinning brightly with the evidence of Liam’s love for his subject. In a flash of fearful mockery, Gary offers to give up his soul to remain as beautiful as the hologram forever. Of course Gary’s wish is fulfilled, allowing him to live a bacchanalian lifestyle full of anonymous sex, endless parties and drug cocktails with no fear of repercussions. Eventually the emptiness of his life and lack of morality begins to eat at Gary, forcing him to face the reality of his so-called gifted existence.
Gary is the embodiment of privileged youth from his emotionless upbringing to his entitled gallivants through endless parties, shopping sprees, and drug and sex escapades. Confident in the knowledge his hologram bears all ill effects of his actions; Gary employs an out of sight, out of mind philosophy to avoid the any consequences of his behavior. Blithely altering and ruining numerous lives in his destructive wake, there is no limit to the depths Gary sinks within the seemingly charmed life he leads. Not even cold-blooded murder shakes the foundation of his empty life and it takes true despair for him to realize that even his acts of generosity are selfish in origin. This mirror on the attributes and priorities of past and present society is a stark and vivid characterization.
Told in alternating first person point of view, each character gives their thoughts on Gary, his actions, and their philosophy on life. Each figure is fully developed and thoughtfully written from Henrietta’s carefree theories with an obsession about youth and beauty to Liam’s cautious unrequited love. Reed’s powerful writing style evokes vivid meaning without long, flowery prose allowing the story to move swiftly without the slow dragging buildup of the original. Rotating viewpoints allows a refreshing change and reprieve to the escalating intensity and dramatic tension of the story.
Although Reed’s take is more explicit, it does allow more depth and attention to be paid to various homoerotic elements such as Gary’s appetite for sex and his willingness to take either sex partner for the thrill of release. Additionally the character of Henrietta as his best friend who happens to be a drag queen adds another layer of sensibility to the story in sharp contrast to Liam’s gentle forbidden love for Gary. While this book is not necessarily gay fiction, Reed doesn’t shy away from sexuality in any form as exemplified in the scene of Gary’s corruption by Lucinda.
Gary’s perpetual life amidst the underground partying circuit of urban Chicago is often viscerally charged, urged on at every turn by Henrietta and her belief in the shallow delights of life as the only interesting topic of conversation and action. Even though Henrietta ends up alone and unable to escape the ravages of time, she clings to the bitter end to her carefree philosophy and best described by Gary as “endlessly entertaining but rarely compassionate”. Although not necessarily a likable set of characters, each fulfills the purpose of echoing society’s endless fascination and obsession with youth, beauty and chemical delights.
It’s arguable whether the subject matter is more applicable today versus in the past, but the themes are undoubtedly timeless as is the excellent writing. Not always an easy book to read, the greatest compliment that I can pay the author is that this book will remain in my thoughts for a very long time to come. It may not surpass the original, but it certainly is a brilliant adaptation that is comparable. Is eternal youth and beauty worth your soul? If you need further help to find the answer, I definitely recommend this wonderful take on a classic dilemma.(less)
I’d never heard of this book until it started showing up on a lot of author lists of their top 10 favorite books of all time. It’s been described as a...moreI’d never heard of this book until it started showing up on a lot of author lists of their top 10 favorite books of all time. It’s been described as a gay classic and authentic to San Francisco in the 1970’s. Since this story was first published in the newspaper as a serial in the 1970’s, it has gone on to be a miniseries that garnered several award nominations. Even reading the book today, it remains a whimsical delight that clearly set the stage for many such spin offs in the future. The beginnings of the crazy, pot smoking city dwellers as they live their lives and look for jobs, love, and happiness still resonates with humor, quirky characters, and a timeless elegance that keeps this series in style no matter what year it’s read. If you haven’t read this fabulous book – you definitely should.
In the first installment of the series, of which there are seven, the various whacky and crazy residents of 28 Barbary Lane are introduced. There is Mary Ann Singleton fresh from Ohio that decides to stay in San Francisco after 5 days on vacation. She meets vivacious and hopelessly romantic Michael Tolliver, a gay man from Orlando nicknamed Mouse, at a grocery store dating event. There is Michael’s best female friend in Mona, a quirky sexually confused ad executive that explodes during a pantyhose presentation over where the word “crotch” should appear. There is Brian, a straight man in a predominantly gay city trying to find lady right but settling for lady right now. The landlady extraordinaire is Anna Madrigal, the mysterious pot growing, joint gifting delight that runs the house. There are a bevy of secondary characters that move in and out of the inhabitants’ lives from bosses to lovers to blackmailers and any assorted schemes for life, love, and coping.
The book may be almost 400 pages long but it reads incredibly fast. In fact you’ll devour this fascinating story in just a few hours due to the quick pace and numerous scene breaks. The style is clearly a serial as there isn’t a cohesive narrative to the story but that isn’t a problem as there is are numerous connective themes evident. The various members of the large cast all have a turn to expose their actions, thoughts, and reasoning in often laugh out loud hilarious ways. Even given the large number of people and names floating in the book, every one is memorable and stands out. This is an incredible feat in itself and several of these characters are clear representations of people from that time and style in SF. There is ad business mogul dying of kidney failure trying to assure his company’s future and etch out some happiness of his own and his selfish son in law, a closet gay man struggling to find himself among the rich, cultured society. These are just a few of the outstanding portraits painted by Maupin.
Alongside the memorable characters that will have you hooked on this series, there is the equally important and stunning setting of San Francisco and the political climate of the time. The story doesn’t dwell on politics too much in the first installment but it doesn’t shy away from exposing the partying atmosphere for what it is. The bath houses offering porn and orgies are given a sly wink with many characters – both gay and straight – enjoying the fruits of their offerings. The various bars are mentioned and included where to go for which type of cruising spot. The atmosphere of casual sex is juxtaposed to characters that all yearn for something real, something deeper but play the game since they’re lost in how else to find happiness. Here especially the characters come alive with Michael going through man after man, falling in love and hoping for that real, solid relationship. He even quips that he gets married four times a day in his head on the morning bus ride.
One of the best aspects of the book is the integration of the city and people. There are the rich descriptions of the cable cars, the bars, the parks, the fog, and the various landmarks that brings the city alive to readers both familiar with the city and not. The writing is crisp, funny, and often tongue in cheek, inviting readers in on the joke. The various communities and groups of people from desperate cruisers to high society all mingle together. These aren’t stories about gay or straight men and women in a city during the 70’s but more so all of its quirky, fabulously insane people that work, live, and love together. None of them are perfect, but all of them are perfectly outrageous. This timeless classic is great now as it no doubt was in the late 1970’s. If you haven’t heard of this gem, don’t wait but go out and get it now.(less)
The tagline on this book is “A dippy happy gay teen book.” This definitely describes the gay utopia atmosphere and the purposefully happy focus of the...moreThe tagline on this book is “A dippy happy gay teen book.” This definitely describes the gay utopia atmosphere and the purposefully happy focus of the book and its message. Boy Meets Boy is a fantasy story set in a contemporary time. If you can indulge in the crazy city with its over the top antics, the story doesn’t fail to entertain and delight. The characters and details are whimsical and fantastical from the day trading janitors to the transvestite drag queens to the gay proud city. Yet the easy writing, witty prose, and fun characters carry the angst lightly and deliver a lot of fun. This is not an intense, true to life coming out story but a light hearted eccentric and thoroughly enjoyable tale about gay teenagers.
Paul is a sophomore in high school and he’s got a few problems. His ex-boyfriend Kyle can’t decide if he hates Paul or loves him while Paul’s best friend Tony is perpetually grounded. Paul’s other best friend Joni is dating a new guy Paul hates and Paul just met the senior of his dreams. As if all of this isn’t enough, the Dowager Dance is coming up and Paul agreed to architect it. Life as a sophomore isn’t easy.
This funny and entertaining ride is set in a gay utopia where everyone is proud of their differences and being gay or a drag queen is celebrated versus put down. The homecoming queen is also the star quarterback, a dramatic and over the stop character of Infinite Darlene, and the Joy Scouts broke away from the Boy/Girl Scouts due to their anti-gay stance. PFLAG is more popular than the PTA and no one thinks twice about differences. There are classic stereotypes thrown in but always with a humorous twist bringing all the antics over the top. Such as the school rally and the various clubs presented. The story constantly tries to inject whimsy and comic relief while acknowledging classic teenage angst. This may not be to everyone’s taste and it does make light of real issues. Sometimes this attempt to keep the story outrageous goes a bit far and includes a few too many details. This didn’t bother me but some may find the constant barrage tiresome after a time.
The characters are well drawn and exaggerated stereotypes while injecting realistic attributes. Each of these characters represents different kind of teenagers from Tony’s super religious parents to Joni’s early fag hag status with an edge of cruelty, mixed with Kyle’s confused bisexuality and even Paul’s mistakes. The characters aren’t fully developed and rely on these outlines but fit in well with the light hearted theme and intent. There is enough to get the idea the story is trying to present without spending too much time on background. Some of this leaves for some choppy moments such as why a senior would be so taken with a sophomore, given Noah’s past, but the easy prose, fast dialogue, and interesting cast all carry the story and smoothes over any problems.
There are a few hanging questions and some easy resolutions, but really this book highlights and celebrates the typical outcasts of high school in an amusing and entertaining manner. The story doesn’t take itself seriously so you can’t either. There is a lot of suspension of disbelief required but the comic overtones and willingness to laugh at itself allows this story and its characters to really shine. The shorter length ties really well into the story as the cute factor and over the top happiness at life may annoy some after a while. However at 160 pages, the fast writing has the story over before you can hate it for being too happy. It may not be a story you can read all the time but when wanting something easy, breezy, and engaging – check this out. Just sit back and enjoy the ride for what its worth.(less)
D*U*C*K is a series of vignettes put together featuring G-man and Rickey. They’re somewhat related but also has a random feel to the collection. I gue...moreD*U*C*K is a series of vignettes put together featuring G-man and Rickey. They’re somewhat related but also has a random feel to the collection. I guess there is an over reaching arc in that a former employee is rising to kind of challenge Rickey while Liquor is getting ready to serve at an out of town banquet featuring Rickey’s hero crush. The stories do have common elements but they also feel disconnected and arbitrary. That said it’s a fun, quick novella to read without the punch and impact of previous novels.
I’m reading the Liquor stories out of order so if there is anything that affects the knowledge and enjoyment, please let me know. I assume each novel can be read as a stand alone, they certainly seem that way, while the stories are more meaningful in the larger context of the series. D*U*C*K features G-man and Rickey as they go about their daily routine working in Liquor. These stories feel more like day in life slices than anything and they work decently as such. It’s an easy way to revisit the duo and New Orleans without a lot of drama or investment.
There is a pseudo plot revolving around a former employee that is now the head chef at a popular restraurant. This vignette revolves around how touch the job is, more difficult than Shake assumed, and pokes a little fun at both Rickey’s temper and Shake’s ego. There are some pretty funny scenes of Shake navigating the media (not well) and dealing with family and foodies. These scenes will likely be huge hits with any professional chefs as they’ll recognize the inside jokes and nods. For the lay reader they work just as well as it’s easy to envision these stereotypes existing.
The trip out of town for the banquet is amusing and easy to read but somewhat lengthy and without purpose. This story, kind of like the novella in general, feels directionless. While amusing and easy to read, the stories drift along without a firm sense of purpose. They’re fun, sure, but somewhat meaningless in the larger character and story arcs of the series. This isn’t a bad thing as it’s a nice way to revisit the characters without too much reading commitment and investment.
As always the New Orleans descriptions are incredible and bring the city to life with such vibrancy that these details alone are worth the reading. This isn’t a novella I’d read again but it’s a nice inclusion into the series. (less)
The Value of X is a prequel to Liquor, the story of G-man and Rickey as two chefs who decide to open their own restaurant in New Orleans. This novella...moreThe Value of X is a prequel to Liquor, the story of G-man and Rickey as two chefs who decide to open their own restaurant in New Orleans. This novella starts with both men as kids when they meet and bond a lifelong friendship/relationship. The writing is very good and filled with tons of New Orleans flavor. You can’t help but envision the city as it was, down to the last detail. Additionally watching how the two men grow up, change, and deal with individual challenges sets up the tenor and basis for their relationship. They’re not lovey dovey kind of guys but they have a rock solid bond that can’t be broken, though it can be tested.
I quite liked Liquor, which I read first, so it’s a nice change to see how G-man and Rickey came to be. The story offers a very realistic and believable look into how two boys grow up very close together to the point of worrying their parents. Here the story includes some religious elements – Gary’s mother in particular is very religious – yet this doesn’t have the doom and gloom of religious fervor that other books in this genre offer. Instead it feels honest and authentic, as do the various reactions of the parents. Nothing feels manipulated or overdone but instead a nice subtly to the plot that fits well with the character development.
The background of New Orleans is really one of the best things about Brite’s books. Fans of hers know that she’s intimate with the city and that translates incredibly well in the books. There’s a level of detail and knowledge that only someone who lives in New Orleans can have and that permeates the book everywhere. From the various jobs to the neighborhoods, the city attitudes, the religions and bias, the book lives and breathes the city in a way that’s almost never found in books. New Orleans is its own fabulous character and the one you fall in love with the most.
Of course Gary and Rickey are no slouches either and the coming of age story about their relationship is well depicted. It’s not cheesy but instead has a definite masculine feel that brings the characters to life with incredible depth and complexity. These two men never cease to grow and change and if there is any complaint it’s that both are a little too self aware at such a young age. Not in regards to their sexuality per se but in regards to their respective cooking careers. In some ways Gary is incredibly mature and insightful about his ambition, or lack there of, which seems a bit advance for his age. This however, is a minor complaint and doesn’t affect the enjoyment of the novella.
Overall this is an easy and very enjoyable story to read. It’s one I’ll definitely re-read in the future and can easily recommend it. (less)