Twenty years ago, at fourty-four, Mark Merlis published his first book, a post-war gay novel called American Studies [Kindle] which went on to win the Ferro-Grumley and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction. Four years later came An Arrow's Flight [Kindle], which won the Lammy for its inventive tale of Achilles' gay son Pyrrhus who's now a waiter/stripper/hustler. Five years after that Merlis released his third novel, Man About Town [Kindle], about a middle-aged man in DC newly looking for love after his longtime partner dumps him for a younger guy. Closing the eleven-year gap, the University of Wisconsin Press has scheduled his fourth novel, JD, for this fall. Click here to read the first chapter, from the p.o.v. of a Baltimore widow whose son was killed in the army and whose husband might have been bi.
Super gay literary couple Donald Windham and Sandy Campbell endowed these big awards administered by Yale, which today named eight recipients of $150,000 each:
Read Windham's gay novel Two People, a lovely surprise from 1965 about a married American man's affair with a teenage boy in Rome. An actor, writer, and editor, Sandy Campbell published his thoughts on two very famous authors in Mrs. Joyce of Zurich and Mr. Forster of King's.
Here's the longlist for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, formerly the Orange Prize. Above are judges Mary Beard, Denise Mina, Helen Fraser, Caitlin Moran, and Sophie Raworth.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
- Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam
- Suzanne Berne, The Dogs of Littlefield
- Fatima Bhutto, The Shadow of the Crescent Moon
- Claire Cameron, The Bear
- Lea Carpenter, Eleven Days
- M.J. Carter, The Strangler Vine
- Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries
- Deborah Kay Davies, Reasons She Goes to the Woods
- Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things
- Hannah Kent, Burial Rites
- Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers
- Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland
- Audrey Magee, The Undertaking
- Eimear McBride, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing
- Charlotte Mendelson, Almost English
- Anna Quindlen, Still Life with Bread Crumbs
- Elizabeth Strout, The Burgess Boys
- Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
- Evie Wyld, All the Birds, Singing
Shortlist of six, later. Winner, June 4.
The three PEN Faulkner judges -- Manuel Muñoz!, Madison Smart Bell, Achy Obejas -- considered more than 420 submissions to select these five finalists. :
Daniel Alarcon, At Night We Walk in Circles
Percival Everett, Percival Everett by Virgil Russell: A Novel
Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Joan Silber, Fools: Stories
Valerie Trueblood, Search Party: Stories of Rescue
The winner receives $15,000 on April 2.
With their expanded shortlists of up to eleven titles in some categories, the Lammys now honor as a finalist one in every four books submitted for consideration. Generous but not rigorous. They are diluting their meaning. This year they introduced an award for graphic books; they still need one for humor. Of 742 submissions here are the 187 finalists:
GAY GENERAL FICTION
LESBIAN GENERAL FICTION
LGBT DEBUT FICTION
LGBT GRAPHIC NOVEL
Calling Dr. Laura, Nicole J. Georges, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
"In a book as informative as it is entertaining, Bering argues for the efficacy of science and logic over irrational morals when addressing sexual deviancy. Citing numerous studies and historical sources, Bering makes the claim that, deep down, we are all sexual deviants in one form or another—and that sexual deviancy is, in fact, not deviant at all... Laws and medical diagnoses controlling sexual activity should investigate whether the activities in question cause harm (though harm itself is subjective, and is therefore also a problematic way to assess behavior), rather than whether society is merely grossed out by them. This is clearly a personal topic for Bering, who is gay and, in fact, discusses his experiences of self-loathing and discrimination. . . a delightful, intelligent, and thought-provoking addition to the growing body of our sexual knowledge of self."
The book was a NYT Editors' Choice and highly praised by the Boston Globe, Kirkus, Booklist, Laurie Santos ("fascinating and surprising"), Dan Savage ("peerless"), Paul Bloom ("unusual and wonderful"), and The Scientist which said, "Against a colorful backdrop of science, history, and psychology, Bering calls on human society to stop judging people’s sexual preferences based on a personal belief about what’s normal or natural, instead asking what is harmful. [He] throws a bucket of ice-cold water on topics that often become overheated by the fires of morality, religion, and politics."
In fact, the only gay in the village lives in West Hollywood with Rebel Wilson and plays Derrick on her show Super Fun Night. Eight years after Little Britain, Matt Lucas has been Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Benny in Gnomeo and Juliet, and Kristen Wiig's roommate in Bridesmaids. He and longtime collaborator David Walliams reteamed for a BBC mocumentary called Come Fly with Me and more recently he guested on Community and Portlandia. In December 2006 Lucas and Kevin McGee, his partner of four years, celebrated their civil partnership with an over-the-top ceremony at which the elaborately costumed guests included Elton and David, Neil Tennant, Courtney Love, Graham Norton, Stephen Gately, Will Young, and novelist Ben Elton. Within two years they divorced and ten months later Kevin killed himself. Today, Matt is forty.
Poet, philosopher, novelist, newspaper columnist, playwright, painter, actor, and atheist, Pier Paolo Pasolini was also a communist until he was kicked out of the party in 1949 for being gay, which they discovered when he was charged with corrupting minors and obscene acts in public. He was twenty-seven and he was not convicted, but he had to leave their small town northwest of Trieste. With his mother he moved to Rome. Enduring difficult years being unemployed or underemployed, he published his first important collection of poems in 1954, followed the next year by his first novel, Ragazzi di vita [Boys of Life], which caused a sensation for its raw look at the aimless lives of petty criminals and sometimes hustlers in Rome's roughest neighborhoods.
In 1957 he helped write Fellini's Nights of Cabiria, and three years after that he landed his debut acting role. The following year, 1961, he directed Accattone, the first of his twenty films. In Teorema, Terrence Stamp plays a stranger who moves in with family in Milan and one by one has sex with everyone: the religious maid, the artistic son, the frigid mother, the wallflower daughter, and lastly the father, then leaves and they all fall apart. That was an original screenplay, but many of his later and most celebrated films were adaptations of classics, often infused with nudity and sex: Oedipus Rex, Medea (starring Maria Callas, not singing), The Decameron, Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights, and 120 Days of Sodom. Several of his movies featured Ninetto Davoli, his boyfriend since 1963 when he was fifteen.
Throughout the summer of 1975, as he was trying to complete his version of de Sade, Pasolini warned friends he would be killed by the mafia. In November, he picked up a seventeen year-old hustler and was murdered by being run over by his own car. In 2005, the hustler recanted his confession and said three men with Southern Italian accents killed Pasolini. Key details of the crime make it seem impossible to have been perpetrated by a lone person. A longtime friend, the artist Giuseppe Zigaina, is just one of many who believes the always theatrical, always contrarian Pasolini organized his own death. He was fifty-three. Forty-one years after its release, 120 Days of Sodom was named by Time Out's Film Guide as cinema's all-time most controversial film. Steve N. says you must experience Anna Magnani in Mamma Roma.
So, you're a hot straight German cop, your wife is pregnant, the two of you have just moved into a new house near your parents, and you really don't get along with your partner at the academy... until you have sex with him. Then, complications. Notable at last year's Berlinale, out today on dvd, Free Fall [watch now] never got an indie release in the U.S. but it did play several festivals including New Fest, where the NYT called it "one of the strongest...an upsetting and believable study of the disruptive power of unleashed desire."
Big congrats to the women of Wolfe Releasing for not degaying the dvd cover.
Criminals, cops, hidden lives, and that "disruptive power of unleashed desire" also define the Austrian thriller Revanche [watch now for $2.99] which was an overlooked Oscar nominee in 2009. Too tidy, but I loved it.
Since his fiction debut 44 years ago, Ghost of Henry James, David Plante has written a new book every couple years. His best known works form the gay-vague Francoeur trilogy -- The Family, The Country, The Woods -- about a French-Canadian American family with Native American ancestry and seven sons, just like his own.
In 2009 Plante published his wonderful 19th book, The Pure Lover [Kindle], a remarkably concise memoir of his nearly forty years with his Greek partner Nikos Stangos, four years his senior. Richard Labonté chose it as a favorite of 2009 and Pulitzer- winning critic Michael Dirda said, "out of the fragments, Proustian moments and sharply felt memories of a happy and painful past, David Plante has made a lovely book, joyful, plangent and true."
Last September he published his diaries, which Caleb Crain named his favorite queer book of 2013: "Halfway through Becoming a Londoner [Kindle], a diary of the years 1966 to 1986 illustrated with photos and art, the novelist David Plante records that two friends 'tell me I drop names.' Indeed, Stephen Spender, Frank Kermode, Francis Bacon, Harold Acton, David Hockney, R. B. Kitaj, Philip Roth, and Sonia Orwell are major figures, and Forster, Auden, Isherwood, and Ashbery make cameos. Plante is amusing and illuminating about all. Even better, the diary is a moving portrait of the love that Plante shared with his boyfriend Nikos Stangos, a celebrated editor."
Since he signed with the Nets, Jason Collins' jersey has been the top seller at NBA.com. He chose number 98 to honor Matthew Shepard who was killed in 1998. Last week in Denver to play the Nuggets, he finally met Judy, Dennis, and Logan Shepard. The NBA announced they are donating the profits from sales of Collins' jersey to GLSEN and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
Time: "The Walt Disney Company announced Saturday it would withdraw funding from the Boy Scouts of America beginning in 2015 unless the scouting organization overturns a policy banning gay leaders."
New York and Boston mayors refuse to march in St. Patrick's Day parades that exclude lgbt people. Bill de Blasio did appear in yesterday's Queens inclusive parade. No word yet if the first compromise in twenty years from the Boston bigots -- who now say they will allow gay vets to march in the military section -- is enough to get Martin Walsh in step.
George Will appeared on Fox to discuss Arizona SB1062 and offer his view that the victims are the bullies: "...This too must be said: It's a funny kind of sore winner in the gay rights movement that would say, 'A photographer doesn't want to photograph my wedding -- I've got lots of other photographers I could go to, but I'm going to use the hammer of government to force them to do this.'... It's not neighborly and it's not nice. The gay rights movement is winning. They should be, as I say, not sore winners."
Nineteen years ago Clifford Chase published his first memoir, The Hurry-Up Song, about his gay brother's death from aids. He followed it with a favorite anthology, Queer 13, and a strange, satiric novel that David Rakoff loved called Winkie [Kindle] about a teddy bear charged with treason, terror, and witchcraft.
Now comes his second gay memoir, which Amazon named as a Book of the Month and Lisa Cohen chose for Thebes' poll. In brief fragments reflecting the broken nature of memory, The Tooth Fairy [Kindle] covers his boyhood misery and his longtime boyfriend, his ailing, angry parents, his joy in the B-52s and his brother, and his confused affair with a woman. As he writes, "I like to mingle love with panic, self-doubt, and conjecture."
The Minneapolis Star Tribune praised him for "resisting the urge to rationalize and overexploit. In the process, he avoids writing the tidy tales of self-redemption that so many memoirs are. So many memoirs strive to simplify lives. The chief virtue of The Tooth Fairy is how well it complicates them."
Wayne Koestenbaum: "I’m wild about The Tooth Fairy, a riveting and deeply moving creation. Clifford Chase transforms sex and grief into exquisitely tuned sentences, whose wit and concision magically neutralize loss. Line after line, he feeds the reader a concentrated opiate of insight, hilarious as stand-up comedy, and as glittering as an imagist poem."
Caleb Crain: "Clifford Chase’s memory has sent him a series of telegrams—precise and tender observations that call to mind the 'I Remember's' of Joe Brainard. They’re sad and they’re funny, and they tell a brave and moving story of loss, survival, and belated understanding."
Lisa Cohen: "Clifford Chase reinvents the memoir—thrillingly—with these stanzas in meditation, excruciation, and exultation. His profound self-scrutiny, aphoristic elegance, lyrical gifts, and cracked hilarity unlock ‘crucial but shrouded’ moments of personal and collective history, and are a tonic. Read this book out loud. Believe in it."
Even though second-tier Stephen Spender delayed publication of his fine first novel, The Temple, for fifty-nine years (until 1988, when he was seventy-nine), you shouldn't expect its gay content to be as important as in E.M. Forster's Maurice (delayed fifty-eight years, until his death). The protagonist doesn't like his same-sex encounters in pre-War Germany, and much of the book's focus is political. In real life, after a series of affairs with men, Spender married twice and began to renounce his gay past, although the photo above, in which he is flanked by Auden and Isherwood on Fire Island, was taken six years after his second wedding. Later, he began to rework the past by rewriting selected lines from his eighteen books of poetry. He changed
Whatever happens, I shall never be alone. I shall always have a boy, a railway fare, or a revolution.
Whatever happens, I shall never be alone. I shall always have an affair, a railway fare, or a revolution.
In a similar vein, he became increasingly sensitive to how other people portrayed him, even when it might not have been him. In 1994, he sued David Leavitt and Viking for the novel While England Sleeps, which he claimed was based on his life and charged that the gay scenes were "pornographic." They settled out of court, and Leavitt altered certain passages for subsequent editions. Spender died the next year. Among his other legacies were many books of nonfiction (biography, criticism, travel, memoir), two plays, and two children. His daughter Lizzie married Dame Edna.
Buy this book. Like so many stars -- Raymond Carver, Jeffrey Eugenides, Robert Stone, Allan Gurganus, Justin Torres, Jesmyn Ward, Tobias Wolff, Stacey D'Erasmo, Vikram Seth, Ron Hansen, Scott Turow, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Harriet Doerr, Wendell Berry, Thom Gunn, and Andy Towle -- Mark Wunderlich was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Out this month, his third collection The Earth Avails was a pre-pub favorite on Thebes' queer lit poll. It comes ten years after his second, Voluntary Servitude, ("haunting, bold, memorable"--Mark Doty) and fifteen years after his Lammy-winning debut, The Anchorage. PW already selected The Earth Avails as a Book of the Week with a starred review saying, "Humility, practicality, self-chastisement and hope emerge, in unrhymed couplets, musical paragraphs, and stately free verse, through language at once restrained and humane... Wunderlich became known for warm, urbane poems, often of same-sex eros. Here he switches his stylistic allegiance to plainspokenness, to the speech of the hills and plains, striking a hard-to-match tone of gentle humility, expanding his poetic powers." Arthur Sze calls it, "terrific."
Derren Brown does his tricks on stage for money. Since 2000, he has been on British television annually blowing viewers' minds and effing with their senses through his signature mix of "magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection, and showmanship." The forty-one year-old professional illusionist, mentalist, and skeptic makes no claims of psychic or paranormal ability; indeed, he scoffs at those who do so. Beyond his seven tv series and eight specials, he has created five stage shows including the last year's Svengali, which the Daily Mail critic called "the eeriest, most captivating, brain-baffling show I’ve ever seen." He has published four books, the best-reviewed of which is Tricks of the Mind. In his spare time, Brown paints oversized, exaggerated portraits of famous people and has gathered more than one hundred of them in this book. Let's leave to romance writers the humid analogy that the most mysterious magic of all is love, but after coming out in 2007, Brown has finally found it for himself. He says, “I spent a lot of time thinking about me and working on what I wanted to be before I came into a relationship. In some ways, it’s bad because you come into relationship quite late without a lot of experience and you have a lot to learn. But that can also be exciting. Certainly, it’s lovely to have somebody love you and it’s lovely to love someone else.”