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Guest allansmith63

Well, I've been hanging around this site for almost a year. My life has changed drastically over that time - from married to not, from totally closeted to closeted in my home town only, from living in total fear to spreading my wings and embracing great new experiences. It's been a wonderful journey, and helped along in many ways by all of you guys on this board.

 

I need to learn lots more about me and the life I'm living. So, I need some (more) help - I need recommendations for some definitive books on: gay culture, gay health and gay relationships.

 

Thanks guys.

 

Allan

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Hi,

 

Being functionally illiterate, out for so long that I don't remember my own coming-to-terms-process and any books written then might not really be up tod date anyway, I'm going to take the easy way out and recommend a movie that you'ld probably be able to rent on video. It's called "Word is Out" by the mariposa group.

 

While also being a little dated, I rented it about a year ago because my boyfriend had never seen it, and still found it intensely moving. You will see a diverse array of gay people from all walks of life in all sorts of relationships.

 

It's one that I wanted my parents to watch ...

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I hope that you are not only looking for nonfiction. Fiction can be so inspiring or just plain explain feelings better at times. Many of the books by Mercedes Lackey (if you like fantasy fiction) contain gay characters, but I would particularly recommend one of her trilogies which zeroes in on a tragic gay love affair and then how the "widowed" man goes on to have a romantically beautiful love relationship with another man. The titles all have the word magic in them. I think the first one is "Magic's Promise." If you prefer detective fiction, there are now a great many titles to choose from there. One of the earliest series, still one of the better ones, features the charaacter David Brandstetter and is, I think, by Michael Nava. Ooh, this is such a good topic that I will shut up for now and look forward very much to other's answers. (My mother was a librarian. Can you tell?) But don't be surprised if I bop in here again myself!

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Gosh, there are so many good choices. Good mysteries, classics, thought-provoking works of all kinds, short stories, plays, hilarious comedies, trashy romance novels -- if you are just starting, I envy you: the chance to read many of these books for the first time is a real joy.

 

My first recommendation to you is a sort of "begin at the beginning": read Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar. It was written (I think) in 1948 and revised in the mid-sixties, sometime around 1965. I think it was one of the first American books to deal frankly with homosexuality. It's a classic, it's a terrific read and a great place to start.

 

Then try a few books that run the gamut: try a mystery, a romance, a short-story. Get a feel for the genre.

 

Keep in mind as you read through some the works that AIDS has been a watershed in gay literature and that the waters have flowed differently on this side of the chasm. Many of the works have been sadder, darker, more serious. You should read some from both sides.

 

The Nathan Aldyne series are fun. (I think Vermillion was the first, followed in some order by Slate, Cobalt and Canary.) If you are lucky enough to find them all, do read them in order. The characters are the same and you will enjoy them more in the order in which they were written. Sadly, there will be no more because both halves of the partnership that was Nathan Aldyne have been long deceased due to complications of AIDS.

 

Richard Hanson's Dave Brandstetter series really is terrific but are a good example of gay literature in which the gayness of the central character is not the central thing about him. The series is long -- perhaps 15 or 20 short-ish novels -- and have been acclaimed by many, including the New York Times. Other mystery series worth reading include Michael Nava's novels, Richard Stevenson's Don Strachey novels (ditto) and Richard Mark Zubro's series. With all three, try to read each series in the order in which they were written.

 

Read The Dancer from the Dance. If you are gay, male and breathing it will affect you. It's a really rather wonderful novel that can be challenging, especially now when it is read not in the context of the times (pre-AIDS) in which it was written. But there are moments of real truth in this book and you should have the chance to find them. One scene will be with me until the day I die. Holleran also wrote Nights in Aruba, also worth reading.

 

The Tales of the City series will bring new friends into your life. Again, read the series in order. Do read them and I guarantee that when you turn the final page of the final book you will be sad because there are no more pages to turn. They are inspired and fun and funny.

 

If you want to try some old-fashioned romance in the dime store tradition, try The Lord Won't Mind and then, if you are amused, try more in the same series. These books are not great literature and don't pretend to be. But they are definitely full of hunks and the boy always gets the boy.

 

For short stories, check out the Men on Men series. The first few were edited by George Stambolian, a fellow Bostonian who was bright and witty and charming. I had the great pleasure of sharing a few dinners with him. Alas, he also no longer walks with us and we are the poorer for his passing what must now be more than six years ago. If you can find Men on Men 1, 2 or 3, you'll begin to see how gay fiction changed over the period during which AIDS began to emerge. The Men on Men series has been passed on and the new volumes are also worth reading.

 

Another fellow Beantown resident is Stephen McCauley. I hope that you have not read or seen The Object of My Affection, because then you will have the pleasure of doing so in front of you. The book is a delight, much like Stephen, and you will find it charming and fun and full of characters you quickly come to care for.

 

There are more, many more, to recommend. If you live in a larger city, you should go to a gay bookstore and find selections that interest you. If you don't live in city with a gay bookstore, I can find and post contact information for you for a gay bookstore here in Boston that I'm sure would be happy to locate things for you and ship them. You are fortunate, because many of the works that I've mentioned have actually gone through a period of having been out of print and have been re-issued.

 

Your question has brought many fond memories to the surface. I've smiled as I've written this, remembering fondly friends I had forgotten -- characters in these books and, in some cases, their authors. Thank you for a chance to walk down memory lane.

 

You have so much in front of you. I wish you happy reading.

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LAST EDITED ON Apr-13-01 AT 01:06PM (EST)[p]LAST EDITED ON Apr-12-01 AT 04:29 PM (EST)

 

I suggest reading Call Her Miss Ross. The catfight between Diana and Martha Reeves over a wig (or was that Patti Labelle? It's been a while) will explain everything there is to know about being a gay man.

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LAST EDITED ON Apr-12-01 AT 04:51PM (EST)[p]For autobiography (sub-genre: coming-out memoir) start with the best: Paul Monette's books, "Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story," "Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir" and "Last Watch of the Night: Essays Too Personal and Otherwise." A brilliant memoirist, though I was disappointed in his fiction.

 

Also, a funny and moving writer on the subject of his own sexuality is Andrew Tobias, whose "Best Little Boy in the World"(under the pseudonym John Reid) and "Best Little Boy in the World Grows Up" inspired me.

 

I know a lot of Edmund White ("The Joy of Gay Sex") fans, though I've found his autobiographical fiction slow-going. Try his collected essays, "The Burning Library."

 

Then anything by David Sedaris or Dan Savage will allow you a good laugh at all of it.

Enjoy!

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Here are three of my all-time favorite books, all of them serious literature:

 

James Merrill, A DIFFERENT PERSON. This is the memoir of one of this country's greatest poets, recently deceased. It is so beautifully written that I read it straight through in one afternoon. It's set in Rome in the 1950s, when Merrill was in his twenties.

 

Paul Elliott Russell, SEA OF TRANQUILITY. This is a novel about a young gay man and his father, an astronaut. For its metaphorical power alone the book would be worth reading; but its characters are also deeply sympathetic, the dilemmas facing the family real and nuanced, and the interractions between father and son are heartbreaking.

 

Edmund White, THE BEAUTIFUL ROOM IS EMPTY. A distinguished novel by our most distinguished gay writer. If you are of the generation that found the closet familiar if oppressive, safe if smothering, this is the book for you.

 

And for the wonderful Rick Munroe, I recommend a novel by the late Robert Ferro, SECOND SON. It's about a nice boy from New Jersey and it even has cat-fights.

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>I recommend a novel by

>the late Robert Ferro, SECOND

>SON. It's about a

>nice boy from New Jersey

>and it even has cat-fights.

 

 

Hm ... I'm a nice boy from New Jersey ;-) (and I like cat fights too) ... it sounds like its right up my alley. Thanks! (Did someone say Barnes and Nobel?)

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Guest Monopolizer

I like Edmund White's The Farewell Symphony which for me shed some light on subjects as unrequited love, gay male friendship, attraction, cruising, etc.; plus his writing is absolutely stunning and beautiful.

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This is the best literary thread we've ever gotten going! Even though it does practically start out with me being caught out at putting the wrong author to the wrong series.

 

If you want to put gay lit in historical perspective, I would like to suggest (again I'm not looking at the books so expect snafus)

 

Mary Renault - particularly "The Mask of Apollo" and "The Bull from the Sea"

 

"Front Runner" - sad ending, as was typical of that day, but meant a lot to a lot of our brothers and was nearly made into a movie several times

 

"Consenting Adult" - the best one I've ever read about a mother dealing constructively with her gay son's coming out

 

"The Catch Trap" - Actually, I never finished this one. It is beautiful and romantic but has a tragic ending that you can see coming a mile away and I loved these characters so much I didn't want to see it happen to them.

 

After we all get basically through making this list, hopefully several weeks from now at the earliest, I, for one, definitely plan to make a full copy of it. It's that good.

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Guest allansmith63

Bilbo

 

You brought back memories for me - I read "FrontRunner" when I was 18 - first gay book I dared look at. Bawled my eyes out at the ending and at my own life at the time.

 

Thanks to everyone!!!

 

Allan

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Leave us not to forget the happier side of queenly wit, like almost anything by "Patrick Dennis", (not just Auntie Mame), of whom there is a new biography out that I haven't gotten ahold of yet myself. "Genius" is his book about when Hollywood near hasbeens invade Mexico. One of the real female queens wears a lacquered cockroach on a tiny chain as a pet.

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Allan,

 

For a serious study of what it means to live as a gay man, I strongly recommend LOVING SOMEONE GAY by Donald H. Clark, Ph.D. (currently available from Amazon.com).

 

The first edition, published in 1977, was a groundbreaking study of the differences between gay and straight relationships, the relationships between gay men and their families, and the role of gay men in society.

 

The current edition (the third) was published in 1997 and apparently was extensively rewritten to reflect current social conditions.

 

Although the author is a psychologist, the book is remarkably free of psychobabble. It's an insightful, genuinely helpful guide to living a rewarding life as a gay or lesbian.

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If you want to go way back, way past THE LORD WON'T MIND, I want to second BostonGuy's nominating Gore Vidal's THE CITY AND THE PILLAR, a Must Read. But also, and even earlier, is James Purdy's masterpiece, EUSTACE CHISOLM AND THE WORKS. Any literate gay man should also have read Christopher Isherwood's BERLIN STORIES (on which "Cabaret" was based). Earlier still, of course, is E.M. Forster's wonderful MAURICE.

 

I have never understood why the revolutionary and (to my mind) dazzlingly brilliant writer John Rechy is not better known, as he ought to be. CITY OF NIGHT was one of the most important books I ever read, and his other novels are also great.

 

Outside the English language there shines Jean Genet. You pick it, it's great: OUR LADY OF THE FLOWERS; QUERELLE OF BREST; THE THIEF'S JOURNAL. Genet may well be THE greatest literary artist who dealt directly and unflinchingly with gay themes, a greater artist even than Forster.

 

In poetry, besides James Merrill, there is W.H. Auden.

 

Plato, THE SYMPOSIUM.

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Guest allansmith63

I can't thank you guys enough!!

 

This is the reason I stay on this site - for the incredible help everyone has been here for me.

 

THANK YOU!! (yes, I'm yelling, so everyone hears me.)

 

Allan

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Hi, guys. I surprised myself when the first gay title that leapt to mind was the ages-ago (1971) "Fortune and Men's Eyes." I hadn't thought of it for years. When I first saw it in 1977, in an East Hastings theater in Vancouver, it had a powerful effect on me. The video, based on Michael Greer's play of the same name, is dated now. But at the time, when I had just come out, it seemed like a revelation.

 

FYI, the title comes from Bill Shakespere's 29th sonnet:

 

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself, and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,

Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

 

Thanks, guys. I enjoy reading your posts here.

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In addition to all the references given to you, let me suggest a great novel, err autobiography that I read 20+ years ago which I really identified with. It is titled, THE BEST LITTLE BOY IN THE WORLD.

 

Iam not sure of the name of the author but search for it. If you come from the same type of upper middle class background as I do, from a totally WASP community, I am sure you will identify with this book. It is about all of us and is very good reading. It is so accurate it is scary. I do not know why it has not been made into a movie, a legit movie, as it would be terrific. :D

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