July 31, 2014

‘A Safe Girl to Love’ by Casey Plett

Posted on July 20, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

Relationships, friendships, fleeting acquaintanceships, sexual encounters–throughout Casey Plett’s debut short story collection, A Safe Girl to Love, none end in a way that’s neat or satisfying. Shards of them–of the tiniest moment of letdown, words unsaid, a fumbled revelation–become lodged deep in the protagonist until they work themselves up to the surface again, often coming out sideways. The pain and the lessons cycle through heartache, awareness, perhaps something resembling peace, until the next encounter that sets off the balance again. Stumbling towards love–from others, from the self–is a messy affair for the twenty-something not-children yet not-quite-adults of Plett’s worlds. (more…)

‘The Walk-in Closet’ by Abdi Nazemian

Posted on July 20, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

Kara Walker—the protagonist of Abdi Nazemian’s first novel The Walk-in Closet—is ready for a new life. And she’s not exactly picky. On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, still reeling from an old break-up and stuck in a dead-end Hollywood job, Kara is ready to make some compromises if it means she’ll experience something close enough to happiness. But close enough, we learn, is intolerably far from the real thing. (more…)

‘O, Africa!’ by Andrew Lewis Conn

Posted on July 14, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

There are many ways in which Andrew Lewis Conn’s new novel could have gone wrong. Mixing fact and fiction; combining silent filmmakers with Harlem gangsters, and Jewish Americans with ‘Darkest Africa’; and featuring both straight and gay interracial romances, Conn is walking a very fine line with this book. That he manages to pull it off and O, Africa! works so effectively—being by turns amusing and haunting, serious and sly but ultimately moving—is quite a triumph for its author. (more…)

‘Haffling’ by Caleb James

Posted on July 8, 2014 by in Fiction, Young Adult

Sixteen-year-old Alex Nevus lives in the East Village with his family, attends Stuyvesant High School, and generally tries to keep his world from falling apart. Admirably, he has succeeded in doing so—until the morning his schizophrenic mother goes AWOL and misses her annual redetermination review with the Department of Social Services; unless he can find her, and convince the review board that she is at least minimally functional, both he and his younger sister Alice will be taken from her custody and placed back into foster care. Using the GPS on his cell phone, he tracks her to Fort Tyson, in the northernmost remote corner of Manhattan—and finds himself in another place altogether. And then Alex’s life really implodes. (more…)

‘Pissing in a River’ by Lorrie Sprecher

Posted on July 6, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

Amanda, the narrator of Lorrie Sprecher’s Pissing in a River, is a sort of human radio. The station format? Mostly British punk, with a little airspace left for guiltier pleasures such as Heart and Oasis. She interprets her life through lyrics—a Patti Smith song supplies the book’s title–and can barely go a full conversation without name-dropping a band or album title. We meet her as a college student on a study-abroad year in Exeter and check in with her periodically as she embarks on a career as an AIDS activist and Ph.D. student. (more…)

‘A Room in Chelsea Square’ by Michael Nelson

Posted on June 26, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

A Room in Chelsea Square by Michael Nelson was first published anonymously in 1958. It was reprinted in 1986 by Gay Modern Classics and is now being re-introduced by Gregory Woods in a very recent—and very handsome!—reprint from Valancourt Books. All in all, a nice package: a contemporary gay poet who hails from across the pond introducing a novel by a bygone gay Brit. (more…)

‘Corona’ by Bushra Rehman

Posted on June 23, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

In her 2014 Lambda Literary Award nominated debut novel Corona, Bushra Rehman describes a life in vignettes; a young second-generation Pakistani woman named Razia Mirza, who is passionate, drifting, bright, and unshakably resilient. In a fine rebuke of linear chronology, Razia’s tales dart back and forth from her childhood in Corona, Queens to a wild tapestry of locations, all filled with characters both odd and entirely believable. Her adventures find her hitchhiking through Florida, navigating the Bhangra scene of New York City, working as a tour guide in a Massachusetts Puritan Colony, living with drunk anarchist Italians, and falling in love with unlikely people and places. (more…)

‘Wonderland’ by Stacey D’Erasmo

Posted on June 14, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

I’m of the mind that pretty much everything in life is better with a soundtrack, and that includes books. I tend to make my own, because, despite the fact that novels often contain more rich themes and images to be paired with bits of musical genius than films and TV shows, paperback playlists are not a common phenomenon. So, when Stacey D’Erasmo’s fourth novel, Wonderland (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), arrived with a press kit filled with a pre-assembled list of songs—many of which I enjoy—well, let’s just say a chord within me was struck. (more…)

‘Who the Hell is Rachel Wells?’ by J.R. Greenwell

Posted on June 12, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

There is an abundance of down-home charm in this new collection of Southern-themed stories by J.R. Greenwell, Who the Hell is Rachel Wells? It is rare to come across such rich layers of humanity in contemporary literature. Here, Greenwell serves as a tour guide, taking his readers on a love-fueled ride through the back roads and highways of his beloved Kentucky, making certain to stop along the way just long enough to shine a heartfelt light on moments that resonate with a simple beckon for true compassion. (more…)

‘Last Words from Montmartre’ by Qiu Miaojin

Posted on June 8, 2014 by in Fiction, Reviews

Miaojin,

I know this letter will reach you too late. Almost 20 years too late, since you died at the age of 26 in 1995. This is the first of your novels to be translated into English, and before reading it, I hadn’t known of your influence on the gay and lesbian culture in Taiwan and in the Chinese-speaking world at large. I wonder what you would have thought of the ascendency of the Internet and the instant globalization of art, literature, ideas. (more…)