Posted in Events, LGBT, Literary Others Event

Master Post: #TheLiteraryOthers LGBT Reading Event!

4a81c8a7-05ac-47b4-964b-5869f5a8e838_zpsirguiazbWelcome to the Master Post for The Literary Others Reading Event!

This is a one-month event focused on all things LGBT, in honor of LGBT History Month (USA). Reading that will count for this event include any novels, short stories, essays, memoirs, biographies, poetry, plays, audiobooks, graphic novels, etc. written by an author who identifies as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender. Also, any works written by heterosexual authors, but whose primary plot/characters revolve around LGBT issues will count as well. See this post for more information and some suggestions. 

In early August, I announced sign-ups for the event, and was very happy to see that so many folks were interested and eager to get involved!  Thank you all for your positivity and encouragement, and for spreading the word about this event (please continue to do so! Twitter/Instagram/Facebook, etc: #TheLiteraryOthers)

I have a lot of things planned for this month, including giveaways, guest posts from authors and allies, and of course, my own reading and reviewing of LGBT works. First, let’s talk logistics.

2016hmholderWhenever you review a book or write a post related to the event, please link to it in the comments of this very master post. Please include the title or subject of whatever your post is about so that other participants can scan through to see what looks interesting! I will make sure that the button on my blog will take you to this post. Please make sure to only link-up your posts on this main Master Post so that we can keep everything organized. 

When you leave a qualifying link to one of your posts for this event, you will become eligible to win the giveaways that I will be hosting here throughout the month. The only way to be entered for these prizes is to make sure your posts are linked in the comments on this post (this includes reviews of the books you’ve read, commentary on LGBT topics, or any other posts directly related to this event).

There are also going to be quite a few giveaways hosted by participants of the event (thank you for your generosity!).  Specific details for each of these giveaways may be different, so be sure to read the rules on those giveaway posts carefully and enter if you are interested!  For any of the giveaways, here or at other participants’ blogs, you will need to be pre-registered (by October 5th) for this event in order to win.  

My first read is: Strange Brother (1931) by Blair Niles. What’s yours?!

Posted in Uncategorized

Please Welcome Garrard Conley! #30Authors

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Reviewing Author: Garrard Conley

Book Reviewed: Pilcrow by Adam Mars-Jones

Intro

#30Authors is an event started by The Book Wheel that connects readers, bloggers, and authors. In it, 30 authors review their favorite recent reads on 30 blogs in 30 days. It takes place annually during the month of September and has been met with incredible support from and success in the literary community. It has also been turned into an anthology, which is currently available on Amazon and all author proceeds go to charity. Previous #30Authors contributors include Celeste Ng, Cynthia Bond, Brian Panowich, and M.O. Walsh.

To see this year’s full line-up, visit www.thebookwheelblog.com/30authors 

Or follow along on Twitter @30Authors.

Review

2525792            Adam Mars-Jones’s Pilcrow (Faber and Faber, 2008), a novel about a young English gay boy growing up in the 50’s and 60’s within various slipshod medical institutions, belongs to that rare list of literary works intent on reconstructing and honoring childhood experience. “I wanted to know the proper outside words for things,” narrator John Cromer tells us early in the book. The phrase is the perfect embodiment of psychosexual development à la theorists like Julia Kristeva, signifying a world in which coming of age means entering the clinical world of men, where language is stripped to utilitarian purposes.

Cromer resists the outside world as much as possible even as he is fascinated by it, living within the fantasies and interiority of childhood, illness at times providing a metaphorical and literal cocoon (the Tan-Sad, a complex stroller built for older disabled children, shielding him from the world while also allowing him to explore more of it), though as the narrative progresses and puberty hits, Cromer becomes more and more fascinated by the world of men. And it is exactly within the linguistic border between John’s interior and exterior world that Mars-Jones has crafted a truly unique narrative voice.

In an equally hilarious and tragic scene at the end of the novel, Cromer seeks solace from a mentor who informs him that disabled individuals were once considered sacred by “primitive” societies. True, in a way, the adult narrator cheekily tells us, if you omit the fact that these individuals were prized because of their prime value as human sacrifices. Mars-Jones cues the other shoe to drop almost immediately following one of Cromer’s wishes. Cromer’s desire for human touch leads to a terrifying confrontation in a pool. His sexual curiosity leads to exploitation. Growing up always involves these exchanges, and only after the process is complete can we see just how much tectonic world shifting has occurred—though, as this novel’s nuanced attention to detail reminds its reader, most of us lack the courage to do the math.

Pilcrow belongs to a rich tradition of queer literature dealing with illness and childhood identity, though it is unique in its virtually complete omission of shame. Cromer may be a victim at times, but by the end of the novel he reshapes and repurposes his experiences to fit into a rich interior life that leaves no room for self-loathing.

What better symbol for this than the pilcrow?

About Garrard

Garrard (pronounced without the final ‘r;’ a family oddity) Conley is the author of the memoir, Boy Erased, out from Riverhead (Penguin) May 2016.

His work can be found in TIMEVICECNNBuzzfeed BooksVirginia Quarterly Review, and many others. He has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and Elizabeth Kostova Foundation Writers’ Conferences and has facilitated craft classes for Catapult, Grub Street, Sackett Street Writers Workshop, and the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown. If you are interested in contacting him, you can find information here.

After growing up in a small Arkansan farming community, heading to a liberal arts college a few hours away, completing service for Peace Corps Ukraine, and attaining a Master’s degree in creative writing and queer theory, Garrard taught literature in Sofia, Bulgaria at The American College of Sofia. He now lives in Brooklyn and teaches in NYC.

He has way too many coffee cups and never enough coffee.

Many thanks to Garrard for taking time out of his busy schedule to share with us this great review of another author’s work! Fans of Garrard Conley or Adam Mars-Jones, or those newly interested, might also want to join us here in just a few days as we kick off THE LITERARY OTHERS, a month-long event celebrating LGBT History and Literature.

Posted in Blog Post, Monthly Review

Month in Review: August 2016

SeptemberHappy September! 

This time of year tends to be my favorite. Even though it means the ushering in of another academic year, a busy semester bringing with it all sorts of extra commitments, last-minute meetings, unanticipated problems and such things as come with being an educator, nevertheless it also means fall is on its way. Autumn is a beautiful time of year in this part of the world — the colors, the crispness, the weather. And of course Halloween! So, I usually find myself becoming energized… this year the race toward rejuvenation is more of a slow stroll, but I do still feel a bit of that old magic returning. 

For much of August, I was pretty sick, so I did not get as much done on the blog (or anywhere else) as I would have liked. I did post some thoughts on “genius,” as well as an event sign-up for something I’m excited to host again this year. I also managed to read quite a bit in August because I was mostly immobile for a few weeks, so there wasn’t much else to do (not that I should complain about guilt-free reading opportunities!).  I have had to update my Goodreads reading goal for the year twice because I’ve gone over the number I expected to reach. 

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One item of significance is the return of THE LITERARY OTHERS reading event. This is an LGBTQ+ reading event that I’ll be hosting in October, as part of LGBT History month. You can follow that link to read more about the event, sign-up, and consider volunteering to host a giveaway or write a guest post! If you’re on Twitter, we’re using the hashtag #TheLiteraryOthers. 

Now, to recap!
Books Read in August: 1151nX2wGTFXL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (5 out of 5)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (5 out of 5)
  • A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf (5 out of 5)
  • Darkness Visible by William Styron (5 out of 5)
  • milk and honey by Rupi Kaur (4 out of 5)
  • It by Stephen King (4 out of 5)
  • 10% Happier by Dan Harris (4 out of 5)
  • Still Side by Side by Mioki (4 out of 5)
  • Side by Side by Mioki (3 out of 5)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (3 out of 5)
  • The Wave by Morton Rhue (Todd Strasser) (3 out of 5)

Not listed are a number of comics that I read this month as well. 

Blog Posts:

That’s my month of August in a nutshell. I’m looking forward to getting more accomplished in September, including a couple of poetry project posts (up next is Ovid’s Metamorphoses). I’ll also be reaching out to the volunteers for The Literary Others to make plans and schedule posts. 

What have you been up to?  I’d love to know! 

Posted in Blog Post, Personal

The Death of Genius?

contentItem-6493112-52396551-zgw8xb4h1ypag-orI recently finished reading Virginia Woolf’s diaries (collected as A Writer’s Diary). It did more than just solidify Woolf’s permanent position on my “forever favorites” shelf, but perhaps there will be time to elaborate on that further another day.

The death of genius haunts me. I think of the wonderfully, terrifyingly talented souls who have left us recently (from Prince to Alan Rickman to Muhammad Ali) and fall down the rabbit hole, following that train of thought backwards in time to think about all of the greatness and wonder that has left this world, from Shakespeare to Woolf to Tennessee Williams. We’ve been graced with their lasting gifts, creations of art, cinema, music, thought. Still, I can’t help but feel that the best of the world and all it has to offer is not ahead of us, but behind.

Yes, this is a cynical thought from someone who typically tends toward the optimistic. But this feeling comes stronger and stronger as the days go by. We still have brilliance among us, of course. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bob Dylan, Stephen Hawking, and I suppose countless others, including my personal favorite genius who goes unnamed (because I’m selfish and possessive). I still don’t know what my generation will leave for the future, though, and why it is so difficult for genius to survive, thrive, shine, be acknowledged. Maybe that’s the way it has always been and maybe other people in other generations have sat and wondered the same thing, lamented the same concern.

I can’t shake it, though. To me, lately, the world seems to be growing colder, angrier, drearier as the days go by. We’re a disturbingly promising species, and yet we’re destroying ourselves and our planet. Why? As I said to Jane Goodall: Ego, I think. Our own “I am” and “I want” and “I need” comes before anything else. This could be a byproduct of being American in the Trump era; I do hope it is very different in other countries, but is it? What is human nature? Throw the dice and you’ll probably get an equal number saying “to strive for individual greatness” and “to make the world better for all.”

And which camp do I fall into? Is it possible to have it both ways?

Talk about anxiety. Self-consciousness. Fear of, what, being inconsequential? I sit here and think about genius, about my generation and my place in it, and I wonder: just what the hell am I supposed to be doing? Is it enough to, perhaps, make a small difference in one or two small lives every now and then? What do I – what can I – leave behind when I’m gone?  

Posted in LGBT, Literary Others Event

The Literary Others: An LGBT Reading Event (Sign-Up Post)

4a81c8a7-05ac-47b4-964b-5869f5a8e838_zpsirguiazb

 Welcome to the sign-up post for:

The Literary Others: An LGBT Reading Event!

I am excited to be bringing back THE LITERARY OTHERS reading event this October, for LGBT History Month. 

What is LGBT? LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. For the purposes of this event, “LGBT” works will refer to those which are written by a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender author, or to those works whose major themes/characters are LGBT-centric (Books with a gay protagonist, books dealing with homophobia, poetry by a lesbian, stories where a character is dealing with gender identity issues or changes, etc.). 

I know my blog readers are an eclectic bunch. We have lovers of literature and the classics and lovers of Young Adult fiction. We have lovers of fantasy, science-fiction, poetry, and drama. We have non-fiction readers, audiobook listeners, and those wacky dystopian fans!

Well, did you know that, across all these genres and media types, there exists a wide-range of very powerful, very entertaining LGBT material?  For many, this event could be an opportunity to read your very first gay classic; for others, it might be a time to re-read or re-visit favorite authors and share why you love them and their works so much. 

So, for this event, the goal is to read as many pieces of LGBT literature as you want/are able to, during the month of October. Biographies, audiobooks, and re-reads count.

I will post throughout the month on different subjects related to the study of LGBT literature and history, as well as my own reviews of the LGBT books I finish. I will also be offering giveaways, and I am hopeful that some participants will be interested in writing guest posts or hosting giveaways of their own, to make this more interactive.

If you are going to participate, then simply plan to read books by LGBT writers, or books whose primary themes/characters are gay/lesbian, etc. Below are a few representations of LGBT works within the many possible genres. This list is by no means comprehensive, it is simply a starting point.

Literature & Classics

  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  • Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
  • The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
  • Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
  • At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill
  • The Persian Boy by Mary Renault (historical fiction)

Contemporary Fiction

  • Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
  • Annabel by Kathleen Winter
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt
  • Memory Mambo by Achy Obejas
  • Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja
  • The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst

Young Adult

  • Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
  • I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip by John Donovan
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
  • Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
  • Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Science-Fiction/Fantasy

  • Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman
  • Jumping off the Planet by David Gerrold
  • Shadow Man by Melissa Scott
  • Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
  • Huntress by Malinda Lo
  • The Last Herald Mage series by Mercedes Lackey

Poetry & Drama

  • Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
  • Angels in America by Tony Kushner
  • Howl by Allen Ginsberg
  • The Complete Poems by Sappho
  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  • The Satyricon by Petronius

Non-Fiction/Memoir

  • Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel 
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
  • A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White (semi-autobiographical)
  • Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
  • Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums
  • Boy Erased by Garrard Conley

Explicit/Erotica (Literary)

  • Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal by Oscar Wilde
  • Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet
  • The Wild Boys by William S. Burroughs
  • Le Livre Blanc by Jean Cocteau

Volunteers Needed!

If you would like to host a giveaway or provide a guest post, please: CLICK HERE

And if you want to sign-up to participate in The Literary Others Reading Event, simply leave a comment on this post saying YOU’RE IN! Maybe include some of the books you hope to read, too. I plan to read Twilight Men by Andre Tellier, Strange Brother by Blair Niles and The Young and Evil by Charles H. Ford & Parker Tyler. 

Please also post the button somewhere on your blog (in an announcement post or in your blog’s side-bar) so that we can spread the word, gather excitement, and encourage participation. It goes without saying that this is meant to be a positive, fun, and educational event, so bigotry of any kind will not be tolerated.

Sign-ups are open from now through October 5th.  If you sign-up after October 5th, you can still absolutely participate, but you may not be eligible for some of the early giveaway prizes. 

To Share/Discuss on Twitter, Use Hashatag #TheLiteraryOthers

Posted in Monthly Review

Month in Review: July 2016

 

month-august-sparkler-8666899Yes, indeed, August is here! The eighth month of the year, which means July is somehow already gone, past, behind us. How exactly did that happen? 

August means back-to-school month, although that’s not quite accurate for me, considering I taught all summer long, too. Still, there’s something helpful about the routine of “going back to school” in the fall, and preparing for/planning the “year” ahead. There are things to do this fall, things to do next spring, and yadda yadda. 

But today is all about what happened in July, here on the blog. I’ve definitely been more active, and plan to continue on with that trend; however, I don’t plan on any kind of regular posting — when something comes up, when I feel like reviewing something or writing about a topic, I’ll do it. Otherwise, not. Isn’t that liberating!? 

One plan that is in the works, however, is the return of THE LITERARY OTHERS reading event. This is an LGBTQ+ reading event that I’ll be hosting in October, as part of LGBT History month. A sign-up post with call for volunteers will be posted here in the coming days, so please be on the lookout, and consider joining us! I’ll be looking for guest posts, author interviews, and giveaway hosts, too. 

Now, to review!

26114444Books Read in July: 9

  • A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis (3 out of 5)
  • The Nonbeliever’s Guide to Bible Stories by C.B. Brooks (3 out of 5)
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne (4 out of 5) 
  • The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Kurt Vonnegut (4 out of 5)
  • More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera (5 out of 5) 
  • Grace without God by Katherine Ozment (5 out of 5)
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (5 out of 5) (re-read)
  • Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (5 out of 5)

Blog Posts:

Poetry Project Posts: 

That’s my month of July in a nutshell. I’m sorry that I didn’t get around to hosting Austen in August this year. I’ve been so busy that I completely forgot! I was asked about it just a few days ago, but of course it was much too late to plan and prepare at that point.

What have you been up to?  I’d love to know! 

Posted in Blog Post, Personal

Hold(en) Me Closer: A Reader’s Journey

Rye_catcherRecently, I re-read J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, following a re-read of the entire Harry Potter series. I guess you could say I’ve been in a nostalgic state, lately, and that mood has been manifesting itself in my reading choices. Much of what I’ve been choosing to read lately, aside from what I need to be reading for my work, has been books that I really connected with years ago or books with topics I’m very personally passionate about right now (writing, social justice, and religious studies).

Over the years, many books have influenced me in one way or another, whether it be in the way I read, in the way I treat people or the environment, or in the way I approach social, philosophical, religious, or educational ideas. One that I often think about, though, is a book that has had a profound impact on me as a person, not just as a reader: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The “why?” to this question is a bit difficult to answer. The relationship between Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, who suffered from schizophrenia (or bipolar disorder, there is some debate) and who was ultimately institutionalized, was the inspiration for the story. The main characters, Dick and Nicole Diver, are imprints of Francis and Zelda.

In my own life, a long time ago, I was mired in a similarly turbulent relationship. It was an experience which changed me immensely, for good and bad. For a long time during and after that relationship, I suffered from feelings of blame, remorse, and self-doubt; but, fortuitously, just as I was beginning to move forward, I stumbled across Tender is the Night. The story was so close to my heart, so similar, and so inspirational (not in-and-of itself, but to one with a similar history), that it truly connected me to my pain and allowed me to begin the healing process. It was one of a few distinct moments in my life when I realized that literature really does have the power to influence people, permanently.

Thinking about this has led me to consider, again, what brought me so passionately close to literature. What turned me into not just a reader, but a reader of this certain type?

It is difficult for me to pinpoint a single defining moment when I suddenly made a change, or became changed, in my habits, my attitudes, or what have you. There is a distinct difference, I think, between being a “reader” and being “literary.”  So, where did I “turn the page”?

When I was young, I certainly was not a reader. My family is probably still surprised that reading has become such an enormous part of my life. Had you asked any of them, even as I started college, what they thought of my eventually studying English and Literature in college and at the graduate level, and then teaching it professionally, they would probably have been rather baffled.

I was the “analytic” of the family, destined to be a lawyer or a doctor. I rarely read for pleasure as a child, aside from some Goosebumps and Hardy Boys books, now and again. In middle school, I was introduced to some books that began to needle at me, forcing me to look at reading as something fun and worthwhile. I distinctly remember reading The Giver and And Then There Were None in seventh grade, and I was shocked to have been so moved (by The Giver) and so entertained (by And Then There Were None).

Did I run out, right then and there, to start buying books and reading more?  No. But I was a bit more amenable to the idea. Similar experiences happened in high school, with books like Kaffir BoyLord of the Flies, and Of Mice and Men. The reading-level went up, and so did my enjoyment of the experience. I started to learn how to evaluate plot and structure, how to appreciate a good message, and how to look for story elements like themes, motifs, setting, and characterization. I even (naively) began to believe I could recognize what made a “good” story.

And then Harry Potter came along.  Suddenly, going into college, I was reading all the time. I devoured the first few Harry Potter books (at this point well below my reading level, but so fresh, so well-written and interesting, they couldn’t help but pique my need for even more good books). I took the “required” English courses for all students (I was, at the time, a Biology/pre-Med student) and then, on a whim, took an extra elective outside of the “Freshman Composition” realm – in American literature.

694681When I hit my junior year in college, I was introduced to writers like Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, and the Brontes. That was it for me. The Harry Potter books kept coming out, and I was always first in line at the midnight releases; but now, while waiting for these books, I found myself visiting the Literature section of the book store as well, picking out books like Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea to supplement my J.K. Rowling. I was having so much fun that, by senior year of college, most of my small apartment bedroom had turned into book storage, and I had changed my major to English. I can’t help but smile at this, today especially, as I prepare to attend tonight’s midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I imagine I’ll also probably pick up some Virginia Woolf or Stephen King while I’m there at the bookstore counting down the hours with all the other fans, young and old. Some things never change.

So for me, “going literary” was somehow a slow and an instantaneous process. It feels like I went, overnight, from becoming someone who reads only what is required for class, to one of those obsessive junkies who, when reading one book, writes down every other author or book referenced in that book so that I can go out and read those, too. Indeed, this was a vicious cycle I was trapped in for a while, always trying to connect the dots between books and their influences, and those influences’ influences, and on and on.

I would have to say, the final turning-point was probably when I read The Mayor of Casterbridge for a senior-level English Literature class. I remember thinking, upon finishing: Well, Mr. Hardy, you’ve gone and done it. I am now hopelessly devoted to literature – and you’re to blame for this!

It’s nice to think about this journey, sometimes; it’s nice to reassess, from another vantage point in time, how I’ve become who I am. This is just one aspect of my self, of course, but it’s an important one. This last year, I stepped away from blogging and reviewing and much of the social media world in general, but I don’t think I could ever go away completely. I daydream about pulling the plug, but this space represents so much of who I am, influenced who I would become, and allowed me to go deeper and deeper into my own literary quest. Still, somewhere along that road, I detoured. I let the wrong things, the wrong goals and motives, take over. I lost who I was and what I had been trying to do all along.

If re-reading Catcher in the Rye has convinced me of anything, other than that I still adore that book and have been reminded, again, that each experience with a great book can reveal new things, it’s that it’s time for me to get back to taking my reading seriously, and to get back to the blog. But I want to do it “the right way” this time, by which I mean, the right way for me in this current phase of my life.

I imagine it’s going to be a very slow and painful process. But why should it be anything else?