Entertainment :: Books

The Books of Late Summer

by Gregg Shapiro
Sunday Aug 25, 2013
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Poets’ Corner

Award-winning gay Latino poet Richard Blanco continues the roll that began in early 2013 when he read his poem "One Today" at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. "Boston Strong: The Poem" (U. of Pittsburgh Press) is a commemorative chapbook-length poem, sales of which benefit The One Fund Boston following the Boston Marathon bombing.

Gay poet Frank Bidart, who was recently singled out and praised in a critical piece by Joel Breuklander in "The Atlantic Monthly," returns with Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), the award-winning writer and educator’s first new book of poems in five years.

In "Peyton Place: A Haiku Soap Opera" (Turtle Point Press), gay poet David Trinidad’s 516 haikus range from plot summaries to commentaries, alternating between funny, sexy and bitchy. As he writes in Haiku 151, "So many bad lines/and actors to poke fun at,/so few syllables."

Published late last year, "Appetite" (U. of Pittsburgh Press) by gay poet Aaron Smith is just as enticing and tasty as the day it was released, featuring a series of accessible yet personal poems that speak to the contemporary queer experience.

"Silverchest" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), the new book by prolific gay poet and writer Carl Phillips, who teaches at Washington University in Saint Louis, is his 12th. In the publisher’s words, it features "poems shot through with his signature mix of eros, restless energy, and moral scrutiny."

Due out in November 2013, "Alternative Medicine" (Duke University Press), the sixth poetry collection by Rafael Campo, a gay poet, doctor and educator, explores the "primal relationship between language, empathy, and healing."

"Skin, Inc." (Graywolf) poet Thomas Sayers Ellis was recently featured as one of the "23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013" on flavorwire.com. Originally published in 2010, Skin, Inc. makes its paperback debut, with such poems as "Ways to be Black in a Poem" and "The Obama Hour."

Novel Approaches

A novel in rhyme that would be just as at home in the Poets’ Corner above, "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish" (Doubleday), the final book and first novel by the late, beloved gay humorist David Rakoff, is an essential part of his legacy.

Y/A novelist Bill Konigsberg’s "Openly Straight" (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic) follows gay teen Rafe across the country, from Boulder, CO to Natick, MA, from public school to boarding school, where he attempts to reinvent himself with unexpected results.

To commemorate the upcoming Christopher Isherwood centennial, three of his novels, 1946’s "The Memorial: Portrait of a Family," 1959’s "Down There On a Visit" and 1964’s "A Single Man," have been reissued in handsome trade paperback editions by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

In her October novel "Bodies of Water" (Kensington), straight writer T. Greenwood tells the story of an unexpected relationship between two women in the suburban Massachusetts of the early 1960s, and the impact that it had on everyone involved.

Set in the summer of 1979, Lambda Literary Award-winning novelist Z Egloff’s second novel "Leap" (Bywater Books) follows the exploits of Rowan during her "last carefree summer vacation" in the time between high school graduation and the beginning of college.

A "cat-and-mouse-friendship" is at the heart of Mario Lopez-Cordero’s debut novel "Monarch Season" (Magnus Books), which is said to elevate the gay beach-read to another level entirely.

For "Gorgeous" (Scholastic Press), Paul Rudnick’s first novel since his 1989 comic masterpiece "I’ll Take It," the acclaimed gay playwright/screenwriter/humorist turns his attention to the Y/A audience. It’s the tale of 18-year-old Becky Randle’s transformation.

Praised by John Irving, Michael Cunningham, Jayne Anne Phillips, Michael Chabon and David Leavitt, "The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells" (Ecco) by novelist Andrew Sean Greer begins in 1985, following the passing of the title character’s gay twin brother, and moves through time while Greta undergoes electroconvulsive therapy.

The forthcoming "Hild" (FS&G) by award-winning lesbian writer Nicola Griffith is an epic work set during the early medieval age, bound to appeal to devoted followers of "Game of Thrones."

"Note to Self" (Faber and Faber) is the debut novel by acclaimed singer/songwriter and art-school grad Alina Simone, who applies humor to situations involving cubicle serfdom, craigslist surfing, the art-world and unexpected pregnancy.

The U.S. debut of London-based novelist Sophie McKenzie, "Close My Eyes" (St. Martin’s Press) is an "addictively chilling" novel of suspense along the lines of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

Essay What You Will

Containing essays and reviews written between 1996 and 2012, gay poet and essayist Wayne Koestenbaum’s "My 1980s & Other Essays" (FSG Originals) conjures Fran Lebowitz and David Trinidad while celebrating the lives and careers of Lana Turner, Debbie Harry, Cary Grant, and gay poets Frank O’Hara, John Ashberry, James Schuyler and Hart Crane.

With an introduction by Yusef Komunyakaa, "Among the Bloodpeople: Politics and Flesh" (Akashic Books) is a collection of essays by O. Henry and Lambda Literary Award-winning writer Thomas Glave, known for his novel "The Torturer’s Wife."

"The Art of Intimacy: The Space Between" (Graywolf) by lesbian writer Stacey D’Erasmo (Tea and others) explores fictional relationships by examining the work of Joan Didion, Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf, and the photography of Nan Goldin and others.

Queer contributors Margaret Cho and Susan Norfleet, as well as Nora Dunn, Beth Lapides (who includes a lesbian couple in her piece), Amy Stiller and Charles Busch’s close friend Julie Halston, have essays in the anthology "No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood" (Seal), opening with a foreword by Jennifer Coolidge.

To Tell the Truth

In the memoir "Eating My Feelings: Tales of Overeating, Underperforming, and Coping with My Crazy Family" (Three Rivers Press), now fit-and-trim gay blogger ("The Single Life of a Manhattan Homo") Mark Brennan Rosenberg "leaves no stone unturned and no bucket of chicken uneaten" as he takes readers from his childhood to his adulthood, satisfying readers’ hunger for humor and scandal.

Tony Award-winning gay theater director Jack O’Brien nimbly navigates the worlds of theater and the memoir in his delightfully theatrical book "Jack Be Nimble: The Accidental Education of an Unintentional Director" (FS&G).

"Rivington Was Ours: Lady Gaga, The Lower East Side and the Prime of Our Lives" (!t Books) by Brendan Jay Sullivan, aka DJ VH1, an old friend/collaborator of Lady Gaga’s, paints a colorful portrait of NYC’s hippest neighborhood in the mid-2000s.

"In Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence" (Duke University), historian Christina B. Hanhardt draws on extensive research in NYC and SF to create a portrait of the challenges and rewards facing the LGBT community in urban enclaves in major metropolitan areas.

Beat Scholar

Hilary Holladay’s "American Hipster: The Times Square Hustler who Inspired the Beat Movement - A Life of Herbert Huncke" (Magnus Books) arrives just as the movie version of "On the Road" (with Kristen Stewart) bows on Blu-ray, setting the Beat Generation revival in motion.

Tel Aviv-based feminist bisexual and genderqueer activist and writer Shiri Eisner is the author of "Bi: Notes for a bisexual revolution" (Seal), a handbook/radical manifesto to give voice to a silenced community with something to say.

Jesse Bering, author of "Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?", returns with "Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us" (Scientific American/FS&G), based on the premise that we are all sexual deviants. It bears the dedication, "For You, You Pervert, You."

Copyright Bay Area Reporter. For more articles from San Francisco's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.ebar.com

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