Briefly: A weighty novella with images that will linger of a transvestite beautician whose beauty parlor transitions from its intended function of the
Briefly: A weighty novella with images that will linger of a transvestite beautician whose beauty parlor transitions from its intended function of the enhancement of appearance to that of the Terminal (the only proper noun used in the novel)—a place where those who suffer from an incurable, fatal, unnamed disease come to die. The operator’s attempt to make his parlor more beautiful, more interesting by incorporating numerous aquariums full of colorful fish, foreshadows the inevitable in a tale that feels as if Saramago met Pedro Lemebel. No city is ever named, no disease identified, no people called by name—a vast, tragic wasteland of isolation, compassion, dismal inevitability. Not for everyone, but it should be.
This title came to my attention through an article: Top 100 Novels of The Spanish Language in the Last 25 Years, which must have been printed around 1982 or so. (HTTP://WWW.SEMANA.COM/CULTURA/ARTICUL...)
In excruciating detail, a host of unreliable narrators post reviews of a male hustler on an internet website and in discussion threads, evaluating his rendered services and their own basest desires, while comments from others claiming to know the hustler (more or less, but mostly more, intimately) provide slightly variant perspectives on the character (including his own perspective)—all under the shadow of that peculiar realm, full of opportunity for deceit, that is the internet.
Years ago, when I first started learning my way around the internet, I found a (now-defunct) gay chat room where a bunch of guys would hang out, say the most outrageously funny things, and generally have a pretty good time while ignoring the occasional Private Message opportunities that would sometimes arise. It was a fun place to be, a no-holds-barred opportunity exchanging humor and, believe it or not, occasionally even talk about books. Then came the Drama. Then the exposure of lies. Then the website just went away, as had all but the die-hards who were there for something other than the one-handed typing. The good ol’ days.
That’s not what this book is. This is the underbelly of that world. The Private Messages writ large. Brutal. Self-serving and entirely one-sided. Nothing beautiful. Nothing insightful. Yet, Real in ways Westboro Baptist only imagines.
but equally creepy, is Fernando Vallejo’s Our Lady of the Assassins. How did it
Not to be confused with Our Lady of the Lavatory:
but equally creepy, is Fernando Vallejo’s Our Lady of the Assassins. How did it ever occur to someone to ensconce images of their deities in half-buried bathtubs? Something about it just seems odd.
Ryan's review is probably the best place to begin consideration of whether or not to read this one—this definitely isn’t a book for everyone. Of OLotA, Mario Vargas Llosa said, “Rooted in heartbreaking experience and crackling with humour, insolence, and diatribes.” Maybe. The humor is there, black humor. The diatribes are present, with a vengeance. But ‘heartbreaking’ will depend on the extent to which one can identify with the protagonist narrator (there are no heroes in this one). One could, I suppose, be brokenhearted over the appalling conditions of Columbian life as presented by Vallejo, but if MVL is speaking of the loss suffered by the narrator, it’s too easily accommodated for, too easily moved beyond, and it’s for that reason that, I suspect, this novel won’t appeal to most LGBT readers, or as likely, any other readers. For me, the narrator was a curmudgeonly queen on a steroid-induced rage—anger and disappointment, fickleness and a propensity toward the young (not the inexperienced young, mind you, but young nevertheless), intolerant, manipulative, and selfish. All in all, I kinda liked him, and the novel—Humbert Humbert as conceived by Wm. S. Burroughs, situated by Bolaño, informed by Céline, and motivated by Cormac McCarthy. Helpful?
There is no battlefield on which Lemebel—cross-dresser, militant, third-world champion, anarchist, Mapuche
Of Pedro Lemebel, Roberto Bolaño has said:
There is no battlefield on which Lemebel—cross-dresser, militant, third-world champion, anarchist, Mapuche Indian by adoption, a man reviled by an establishment that rejects the truth he speaks, possessor of a painfully long memory—hasn’t fought and lost. *
Before going on to say: In my opinion, Lemebel is one of Chile’s best writers and the best poet of my generation, though he doesn’t write poetry.
Bolaño recalls a conversation with Lemebel:
They can’t forgive me for having a voice, Robert, says Lemebel at the other end of the line. Santiago glitters in the night. It looks like the last great city of the southern hemisphere. Cars pass under my balcony and Pinochet is in prison in London. How many years has it been since the last curfew? How many years will it be until the next? They can’t forgive me for remembering all the things they did, says Lemebel. But you want to know what they really can’t forgive, Robert? They can’t forgive me for not forgiving them.
There’s an authenticity in the narrative that provokes the feeling of an autobiographical novel. The language is, at times, bewildering—the gaudy, overstated description of the rooftop apartment seems decorated, like the apartment, a poverty-stricken attempt at beauty—the blatancy of the artifice constitutes the success of the art. Readers are privy to the Queen’s voice and vision. The mundane at the border of the sublime.
So lonely, so trapped within his own cocoon that he can’t even cry without a spectator to appreciate the effort it takes to shed a tear onstage.
The impoverished life of the protagonist, the Queen of the Corner, is set against the excess of Pinochet’s opulence. Her (his) nosy neighbors and meddlesome ‘sisters’ are preferable to the constant nagging of Pinochet’s wife. A feeling of dread pervades the novel—something as inevitable as Pinochet’s fall. But, then there’s Carlos…
Some readers will find Lemebel’s longish paragraphs, with multiple voices and without the benefit of the conventions of written dialogue (quotation marks, indication of who’s speaking) confusing or some fault of the translator’s. I, on the other hand, thought it was perfect. Just perfect.
4.5 stars—it’s not perfect, but it’s fun. I’m ever-so-gently inching back from my string of 5 star reviews in a feeble attempt to attain some sort of
4.5 stars—it’s not perfect, but it’s fun. I’m ever-so-gently inching back from my string of 5 star reviews in a feeble attempt to attain some sort of legitimacy knowing, full well, that’s it’s often your fault that I’m reading as many good books as I am. I can only feel so bad about that, and you…you’ll just have to live with the guilt you share for recommending so many of them. Deal with it.
Don’t ask, don’t tell.
Well, the novel doesn’t ask, and it doesn’t tell. It tells quite a lot, but doesn’t tell.
Meet Bertam Cope, a handsome, (I was going to say ‘comely’—but I know how some of you are—this is not that kind of review or novel) 25-year-old, though boyish, instructor at Churchton who’s been taken under the protective wing of Mrs. Medora Phillips, a widowed socialite who organizes parties, dinners, outings, etc. for the purpose of introducing her young female borders to visiting distinguished guests, members of the Churchton elite, and young Cope. Some contemporary readers may suspect she’s somewhat ‘cougarish’—not the only problem some contemporary readers might have with this tale.
While being guided through Churchton’s social maze, Bertram corresponds with his close friend, Arthur Lemoyne, who he hopes will join him at some point in the near future, and he also attracts the attention of the older Basil Randolph (egad! 50ish). Anyone’s ultimate interest, including Cope’s, remains determinedly subtle.
Through a series of mishaps, Cope somehow becomes engaged, somehow attracts the amorous attentions of both Medora’s niece and her secretary, and gains the special privilege and favor of Randolph, before all wander off-stage to their respective fates/lives/loves/whatevers.
The novel has been called the ‘first American gay novel’ and it may be, but its gayness is veiled, certainly nothing like Forster’s Maurice. Cope and Lemoyne’s orientations are suggested but never confirmed, nor are Randolph’s. They’ll seem blatant enough to contemporary readers, but readers of the early ‘20s, well, who knows what they must have thought. As it is, it’s very tame—no sex, no scandal. A novel of manners yields to become a comedy of manners (read diligently with haste, especially the last half). It was my good fortune to read this so soon after The Importance of Being Earnest. There’s a sensibility about the whole thing, a humor that develops with the pace. Imagine Jane Austen channeled by Harvey Feirstein.
Some ebook readers can get this title for free (gotta love the public domain titles); I got my copy through amazon, and it was worth every one of those non-existent pennies.
The Mysteries of the Joy Rio An aging ‘illegal’ who had been taken in some 18 years earlier by an elderly, ailing pat
Desire is a lonely state of mind.
The Mysteries of the Joy Rio An aging ‘illegal’ who had been taken in some 18 years earlier by an elderly, ailing patron who ran a clock-repair shop, seeks comfort and release in the dark closed-off levels of an old theater where he, once again, is given safety, love and the gift of time by his benefactor.
One Arm A one-armed young man, an ex-boxer and ex-hustler, sits in his Death Row cell awaiting execution with his stack of “unpaid bills”—letters from men whose lives he touched.
Desire and the Black Masseur A small, insignificant white man and a giant, imposing Black masseuse in a high mass Passion play.
Hard Candy The elderly, secretive, and obese Mr. Krupper annoys his equally obese, obnoxious family a final time before becoming another of the mysteries of the Joy Rio theater mentioned above.
The Killer Chicken and the Closet Queen A 30ish, single, Wall Street lawyer, finds unexpected deliverance after deceiving his wealthy mother concerning the reality of a long-time girlfriend, but then…
Moody. Gothic. Sensual. Bleak. One very funny story, but most are ulitmately sad—very sad—perhaps most likely to strike chords in readers of a certain age who know that in the days before Pride, there was much not to be proud of.
Gore Vidal’s foreword, in toto:
Tennessee’s stories need no explication. So here they are. Some are marvelous—“Desire and the Black Masseur”: some are wonderfully crazed—“The Killer Chicken,” “The Mysteries of the Joy Rio.” So what are they about? Well, there used to be two streetcars in New Orleans. One was named Desire and the other was called Cemeteries. To get where you were going, you changed from the first to the second. In these stories and plays, Tennessee validated with his genius our common ticket to transfer.”
The stories and Vidal’s ‘foreward’ are extracted from Collected Stories, and the stories, like Vidal’s foreword, are just enough....more
It’s taken as long to write a review for this book as it did to read it—I keep starting and stopping, starting anActually, 4.5 stars, but why quibble?
It’s taken as long to write a review for this book as it did to read it—I keep starting and stopping, starting and stopping; in the same way I kept picking it up and setting it down, I start writing and stopping over and over. Anyway, …
Fascism. What is it about fascism that has captured the attention of some of my GR buddies? They’re reading books on the subject; LIKEing each other’s reviews; queerying each other about the subject and other books. I can’t get away from the topic. Javier Mariás’ Your Face Tomorrow: Fever And Spear (vol. 1) and vol. 2 and vol. 3 flash back to the era of Franco’s Spain, Little Ashes, a film about the relationship between Federico Garcia Lorca and Salvador Dali (the dick) couldn’t avoid it, Lorca’s In Search of Duende is working its way up my TBR list, and now, in my one respite from reality, my monthly foray into the undemanding world of genre-reading (the monthly recommendations of Queereaders) I’m confronted with this novel. There’s no escaping the subject all of the sudden. What’s next for me—Hemming-freakin-way? I think not. Oh, and just in case you’re interested, this was a great choice made by the group—something outside the genre-tedious mold. Outstanding!
So what’s to like about The Carnivorous Lamb? Well, there’s:
1) The language 2) The transgression 3) The language 4) The love/hate relationships between family members 5) The language 6) Clara, the Everything 7) The language 8) The cataclysm 9) The language 10) The disappointment and the ecstasy 11) The language
The narrator’s story is framed by his anxious/dread-filled anticipation of and preparation for the return of a lover he hasn’t seen in seven years and the lover’s eventual return. Constantly addressing his thoughts toward the returning lover, the narrator describes his tight-fisted, eyes-clenched entry into the world only to open them after 16 days to fixate on his brother, to the horror (view spoiler)[delight (hide spoiler)] of his mother who quickly relinquishes parental responsibility for the infant to his five-year-old brother who assumes his role as primary care provider with a passion.
Did she not understand that I put off opening my eyes as an act of courage, so as not to mix up the world I was coming from with the one I was to live in? … And that love, more alive than ever, can never die because it comes from the purity of sin. It was born in you and me the day the gates of heaven swung shut, far back in some time only our genes remember.
His hatred for his mother (unlike Mother/Son relationships over-generalized by some Freudians to account for gay boys) predates his birth and grows throughout his formative years:
Fully aware that we were fast running out of money, Mother worked hard to give me expensive tastes when I was a child, the better to underscore the misery of my adolescence. When it comes to revenge, we all have our own style. Mother’s ran to delayed action, like a time bomb. She was a terrorist, in her fashion.
While bitter resentment of his mother grows, his father is isolated, his intimacy with his brother intensifies, he’s exposed to a punishing republican tutor and a disturbing priest who prepares him to receive the Sacraments—each of which are transgressed with his beloved brother—and the entire family is watched over by the omnipresent, longsuffering, household maid Clara.
It would be easy to assume the narrator is a passive recipient of the actions of others, but he is not without strength and his own forms of aggression:
My mind had enjoyed the freedom of solitude and the isolation of thought for far too long. It already knew what it had to destroy. At any cost.
Franco’s Spain is not merely setting and background to the story; it’s fundamental. It dominates the lives of everyone whose stories are revealed. TCL is the author’s commentary on life in Spain during the era and suggests his motivation for self-imposed exile in France. The novel stands as cultural commentary on Franco’s regime and an indictment of the Catholic Church by using shock and transgression to their maximum affective opportunity.
The cheesy cover belies the content, the extraneous supplemental material seems present more for a type of justification of (a receipt for) the novel’s legitimacy, unfortunate copyediting can be distracting—hence the 4.5 stars. There’s no indexed entry for the novel in Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage, however there is a two-page entry in the slightly more recent The Gay Canon: Great Books Every Gay Man Should Read. If you’re a fan of shock-and-awe fiction, if there’s no love lost between you and the Catholic Church, if you like fiction that can turn from heartbreak to humor to transgression to romance over the course of just a couple pages—well, then, this might, might just be one for you.
With a title like The Immoralist, you might expect something along the lines of Sade. You’d be way off base. Instead, this novel is more subtle, moreWith a title like The Immoralist, you might expect something along the lines of Sade. You’d be way off base. Instead, this novel is more subtle, more like Death in Venice, complete with its themes of a septic environment, tuberculosis, and, perhaps, pederasty. The protagonist, Michel, is captivated by healthy and strikingly handsome boys and young men, and of those young men, he is attracted to those who are most rugged and handsome, with their own secrets, or the most dissolute.
At best, or at worst, this is the story of a turn-of-the-century bisexual, not a gay man. To his credit, he nurses and cares for an ailing wife in the same manner that she tended him during his own bout with dangerous illness, and then slinks off to join the company he prefers at night while she rests. In many ways, Michel is rather the stereotype of the predatory gay man who leads a secretive existence—an existence that one is decreasingly likely to encounter other than in the most dangerous of environments, or among those men whose circumstances compel them to a double-life hidden from family, or among the religious. Michel never acknowledges sex with males (men or boys—the only admitted encounters are with his wife and the female lover of a boy who he admired earlier, and that, while the boy was present). It is, however, suggested by the female lover that he does prefer boys.
Rather slow-moving (like the wearisome travels of Michel and his wife when one or the other were ailing); the sex, other than that mentioned above, is, at most, implicit. The story is told in the first-person, as a story within a frame. Well worth the brief time it takes to read. ...more
This one languished on my shelves a long time before I got around to reading it. My loss for putting it off so long. As Doug’s review suggests, any reThis one languished on my shelves a long time before I got around to reading it. My loss for putting it off so long. As Doug’s review suggests, any review of this title is fraught with opportunity for bad puns…and it’s tempting, very tempting. There, again, is a pun—the novel is about temptation, and lust, and longing. The real novel is about those urges left unrequited; the story-within-the-story is anything but unrequited. It is not for the squeamish or prurient.
For my money, this has been a too-easily overlooked title—few reviews, few ratings. By implication, it’s one that doesn’t merit much attention, and that’s a shame as it is an incredible work of fiction. What Dowell does well, he does very well.
The story, the real story, is in and of the frame story. What matters most is conveyed in the frame. The framed story (Miss Ethel’s fictive novel) informs the frame. It’s easy to get caught up in the story-within-the-story; that’s why it works. It’s the bulk of the novel—where all the action resides. BUT the frame is where the reader’s concern for the characters will ultimately prevail.
Miss Ethel’s tale—“lives” and “lies”—is every bit as shocking as the title summary (above) suggests. William Faulkner meets Samuel R. Delany; Miss Emily meets Hogg (from the novel of the same name). If your sensibilities aren’t too prudish, if your tastes run toward the brooding melancholy of the Southern Gothic, this is one to be read, reread, passed on (with appropriate disclaimer), and savored like a sweet potato pie. ...more
I recently watched the film version of The City of Your Final Destination and liked it enough to pick up my copy of this book, by the same author, which has been gathering dust here for a couple months. For whatever reasons, the description on the cover just never seemed compelling enough to pursue the content, and while I could kick myself for putting it off, I find that I’ve now read it at the right time, and like so many others, have only the best to say about it. Cameron simply does a lot well with this coming of age novel.
For STPWIBUTU, I prefer bildungsroman, or foundational novel, because neither implies the formulaic limitations found in many YA coming-of-age novels. But calling this a YA novel might be hasty. In this case, even the publishers (FSG Books for Young Readers for the hardcover and Picador for the paperback) seem at odds as to whether the novel is YA or not. The Picador version is clearly not marketed to the teen reader, and that’s as it should be. Often reviews will say something like “appropriate for young adults” or something to that effect, which can imply both a high interest level and a vague sense of appropriateness (i.e., not too much ‘adult’ language or content). This definitely has the high interest level (for some), language like you’d expect in any high school hallway, and NO sex. Yeah, that’s right, no sex—so what makes this a gay novel? Well, like it’s YA status (or lack of it), it’s also not exactly a gay novel either. It might be.
The description on the GR title page is adequate to give you a sense of the story, although ‘devises a fake online identity in order to pursue his crush on a much older coworker’ overstates both the protagonist’s intent (pursuit?) and the ‘much older’—ness of the coworker. This is a fast, funny read with a memorable protagonist whose woes aren’t those of typical YA fiction and presented without the angst that makes them tedious. Equally suited to adults and older teens. I like what the Horn Book review said of this title: a spare, spacious, quietly dazzling book for teens and former teens.It will satisfy any mature reader.
Aciman takes a privileged young man (Elio, age 17) who resides in a household of intellectual abundance, and lets him narrate his own story of comingAciman takes a privileged young man (Elio, age 17) who resides in a household of intellectual abundance, and lets him narrate his own story of coming of age and coming to love. At once peevish and peculiar, vulgar and verbose, precocious and pretentious, Elio’s story—every thought and emotion, every slight and every erection—is laid bare for the reader. Aciman walks a fine line revealing a young narrator who is carnal, caring, and confused and brings him to an adulthood as complex as his youth, and he does it all in a voice one can believe is Elio’s own. He does not reveal the answer to every question. He doesn’t wrap everything up with tidy endings that make us all feel good. Readers never know as much about Elio’s love interest (Oliver) as they know about Elio, and that’s as it should be—it is Elio’s story, not the story of a couple. With Call Me by Your Name, Aciman takes a place alongside Jamie O’Neill (At Swim, Two Boys), Edmund White, Thomas Mann, etc., and he distinguishes himself from Gordon Merrick, Rita Mae Brown, and other writers of popular gay fiction who have contented themselves with a ‘really good story.’
Gay Literature is not, and never will be, simply another way of saying ‘gay fiction.’ Literary Fiction is not, and never will be, simply fiction. Readers who begin a literary title, expecting Dan Brown or Danielle Steel, are very likely to be disappointed—they may cast it aside unfinished, they may write it off as ‘boring,’ they may consider the author ‘unskilled’ or ‘flowery’ or ‘stupid’ or decide that he or she just doesn’t ‘make sense.’ It seems all too often a disappointed reader will post a mindless review, give it the inevitable one star, and in doing so, insult every reader who found the same literary work remarkable. It just never seems to occur to some readers, often avid readers who seem to think reading says something about themselves, that they have simply picked up the wrong book. Readers of a certain age, perhaps, will recognize the one-word, one-star for what it is—the hit-and-run equivalent of ‘it’s got a good beat, but you can’t dance to it.’
Once upon a time (around 1986 or 1987?), I had an opportunity to meet Samuel R. Delany at an ALA or ABA [now BookExpo]. Taking advantage of my positio
Once upon a time (around 1986 or 1987?), I had an opportunity to meet Samuel R. Delany at an ALA or ABA [now BookExpo]. Taking advantage of my position as a buyer for a large book distributor, I monopolized some of his time in the Bantam booth while he waited to do a signing—something that is surely tedious for many authors, some of whom will seek diversion with anyone willing to talk with him or her. In our brief discussion, I remember him most for being surprised at his students’ reluctance to spend $80.00 for a two-volume edition of some work by Lacan. Not wanting to appear unknowledgeable (who the hell was this Lacan fellow?), I merely shook my head to acknowledge his frustration at the short-sightedness of some students who didn’t recognize the value of such a purchase (how quickly we forget the outrageous prices of some collegiate texts). Why does that matter? It doesn’t. What does matter, at least to me, is that Lacan has come to be one of the many languages I don’t speak but will occasionally recognize when I hear it. Delany speaks Lacan. Not just Lacan, he also is fluent in Marx, and Freud, and Jameson, and all the other languages that make his texts so dense, and wondrous, and intimidating. He’s also fluent in pornography, which admittedly, had something to do with my initial interest.
By the time I’d read SiMPLGoS (1985), Dhalgren was already atop my Favorite List; other Delanys had been dutifully accomplished or would be—the Neveryón series, The Tides of Lust, Hogg: A Novel and The Mad Man, et al. And so after my Delany period, I reapproached him with reluctance—my taste in reading has changed, and I wondered if his initial appeal would endure (I’ve restarted Dhalgren numerous times only to decide: Not yet).
When one of my groups decided to read this one, I thought I was ready. It begins with the story of Rat (the narrator’s big-O other or little-o other; I’m not fluent in Lacan, but dammit, it’s one of them) before moving on to the narrator’s seemingly endless account of his world, other worlds, terrains, suns and moons, planets and space travel. To be honest, I thought the middle section would go on forever—it was slow, I was slow, and then…finally, the narrator encounters Rat (now Rat Korga). The pace quickens towards an inevitable end. Inevitable but necessary. Necessary and sad. Themes of loss, memory, desire (that damn Lacan!), overwhelm the Real. The sublime yields to desire. Desire falls victim to Authority to loss and memory.
Someone once pointed out to me that there are two kinds of memory (I don’t mean short- and long-term, either): recognition memory and reconstruction memory. The second is what artiststs train and most of us live off the first—though even if we’re not artists we have enough of the second to get us through the normal run of imaginings. Well, your perfect erotic object remains only in recognition memory, and his absolute absence from reconstructive memory becomes the yearning that is, finally, desire.
I’m glad I reread this one, although I retain the five-star rating primarily because of the way the novel impressed me the first time I read it. Something that does strike me about it—especially when compared to other Delanys—there’s actually very little sex in this one, precious little should that be what you’re looking for.