In his debut novel, Revolutionary, author Alex Myers puts forth a refreshingly unique Revolutionary War story. While still rooted in the loss and triumph of bloody battles, Myers challenges the well-worn patriotâs tale by focusing on Deborah Sampson Gannett, a real-life historical figure who successfully disguised herself as a man in order to enlist in the Revolutionary army. Under the name Robert Shurtliff, Deborah shook free of her small town in order to get a taste of what she really wanted: freedom and opportunity, two highly American values that have been (and still are) denied to some citizens. (more…)
When people describe a book as a âreaderâs novel,â they usually mean that a novel is âreader-friendlyâ–itâs accessible, features an engaging plot, and is written with relatively simple and straightforward prose. But Rabih Alameddineâs An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press) sets forth a different definition of a âreaderâs novelâ:Â this is a novel for voracious readers of literary fiction and fiction in translation.Â (more…)
Novels about war, like novels about all-boys schools, are usually as much about male bonding as they are about war or growing up. In this regard, Tatamkhulu Afrikaâs Bitter Eden (Picador), which is set in a series of WWII POW camps, fits the mold. But this autobiographical novelâfirst published in 2002, when Afrika was 82âalso reshapes the mold by incorporating the subject of art. Afrika died shortly after Bitter Edenâs publication. His death notwithstanding, he accomplished all the above, and considerably more, through Bitter Edenâs central character, Tomâan accomplishment that in many ways does indeed merit the âmodern classicâ badge which Picador has slapped on this reprint. (more…)
‘The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy!’ edited by Tom Cardamone and ‘Al-Qaedaâs Super Secret Weapon’ by Mohammed alâMuhammad Mohammed and Youssef Fakish
As lgbt superhero teams proliferate, it only makes sense to showcase lgbt villains too; this fun compilation of stories sets out to explore that concept. One standout story, Damon Shawâs Light and Dark brilliantly portrays the colossal mess a superhero fight invokes (imagine blowing up the moon!). These tales feature superheroes and villains with especially imaginative super powers, like writer Rod. M Santosâ character Muse, whose power set is based on inspiringÂ others. These stories are filled with sexiness, fun word play, and insider jokes that comic book readers will love. The introduction notes that all the writers are gay men, in order to explore a shared boysâ mythological world inspired by comics, D&D, and an awakening gay sexuality.
The Lavender Menace:Tales of Queer Villainy!
Edited by Tom Cardamone
Paperback, 9781938720222, 232 pp.
Al-Qaedaâs Super Secret Weapon
This well-drawn spoof is based on the premise that once the U.S. military has decided to openly accept lgbt soldiers, the best way for Al-Qaeda to infiltrate their enemies is to get super-sexy gay operatives drafted, and destroy the U.S. military morale with weapons of mass seduction. Readers might chuckle at the word play and sex-related jokes, unfortunately, thereâs lots here that doesnât work, from the offensive fake Arabic pen names, to the already dated feel of the premise and assumptions about gay, Arabic, and Muslim behavior.
Al-Qaedaâs Super Secret Weapon
By Mohammed alâMuhammad Mohammed & Youssef Fakish
Paperback, 9781938730391, 72 pp.
Reading The Days of Anna Madrigal (HarperCollins), the ninth novel in Armistead Maupinâs Tales of the City series, is a little like attending the reunion of oneâs family–the logical rather than biological one, as Mrs. Madrigal might say. Characters some of us have known since the late 1970s are now in their sixties. Mrs. Madrigalâs former tenant, the now sixty-seven year old Brian Hawkins, is newly married to the big-hearted Wren, with whom he lives in a Winnebago. Brianâs former wife, Mary Ann Singleton, who returned to San Francisco in Maupinâs 2010 novel, Mary Ann in Autumn, is back (although briefly), as is Michael Tolliver, also known as âMouse,â now married to the much younger Ben. And of course thereâs Anna Madrigal, bestower of wisdom, still vibrant if not frail at 92, her lifeâs work now dedicated to âleaving like a lady.â
The Laboratory of Love, Patrick Roscoeâs first collection of fiction in over a decade, offers a series of stories that are as raw and as often terrifying as they are astonishingly calm in their exploration of the damaged lives his characters leadâlives that intersect, across these 33 stories in surprising, sometimes shocking, ways. His protagonists suffer absent mothers, withholding fathers, and manipulative abusers, surviving (occasionally) absence and loss, abandon and abandonment. (more…)
To those lucky saps who find themselves in possession of The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy (Liveright Publishing): be warned. The temptation to belly up to all 58 stories, written between the late 1930s and 2003, may be overwhelming. Eager readers who opt to binge will discover that Purdyâs particular prose is best consumed in small doses. John Waters, in his breviloquent three-page introduction, advises that these âgracefully disquieting stories for the wickedâ are best thought of as a âten-pound box of poison chocolates you keep beside your bed.â The aftertaste between stories swings from lurid to banal to bitter without warning. If you try to burn through the masochistâs buffet that Purdy left behind, you might find yourself reaching for the medicine cabinet. (more…)
Twenty-something Jacob Putnam leaves his native America for post-Communist Prague in an attempt to find himself. Yet this debut novel by Caleb Crain, Necessary Errors (Penguin), is far more than another tale of a gay manâs self-discovery. With delicate prose and probing insight, Crain touches upon an array of universally felt and emotionally fraught issues. (more…)
Imagine for a moment that, lost in a hallway, you open the first door you come to in an attempt to get your bearings. It’s a small room, and a bath has been drawn. The air is thick with steam and neroli blossoms. Surely someone will be right back, but you’ve slipped out of your clothes already and are lowering yourself into the water, the heat relaxing your muscles so it’s only when you’re completely submerged that you realize your feet can’t touch the bottom, and there’s darkness closing in above. (more…)
John Stewart WynneâsÂ The Red ShoesÂ (Magnus), set in contemporary New York City, is a beautifully dark queer re-visioning of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of the same title. Wynne immediately engages the reader with finely detailed descriptions, nuanced character development, and an air of mystery that makes the 428-page text read like a novella. (more…)