African-American, Andy Behrman, Book Review, Drama, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay Lit, J.D. Salinger, Langston Hughes, Rick Riordan, Scott Heim, Shakespeare, Short Story

Review: Previously Read, Briefly Reviewed

Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

This collection of short stories has been sitting on my shelf for about a year. I love J.D. Salinger, but I suppose I was a bit leery of reading his short stories, as I’ve only read his novel The Catcher in the Rye and his dual-novella Franny and Zooey (Both of which I highly recommend). I had nothing to worry about, though. These short stories – admittedly, some more effective than others – are pure Salinger. They’re witty, sarcastic, sad, entertaining, and original. I particularly enjoyed the elliptical stories (the first and last stories in the collection) “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “Teddy.” They were incredibly moving and fantastically written. I will definitely read most of these stories, if not the whole collection, many times over.

Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim

Probably one of the best gay fiction(?) novels of all time. Painful, funny, dangerous, sexy, mature, and playful. Fantastic read.

Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania by Andy Behrman

Nothing special. Behrman tries too hard to be psychotic.

The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes

Absolutely beautiful collection of short stories, chronicling race relations in the American Jazz Age. Hughes writes a stunning anthropological study of the white race, in response to Dubois’s The Souls of Black Folk.

The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan

Just another fantastic installment of the great “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. Each new story is better than the last – the action is getting more intense, the danger more real and more powerful. Plus, Riordan’s knowledge of Classical Greek Mythology is superb. He turns that knowledge into something both useful and entertaining – education can be fun! I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoyed Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or similar fantasy genre series’. It’s not nearly as sophisticated as Lord of the Rings and the narrative construction doesn’t “progress” through time the way that the Harry Potter novels do, but it’s still a worthy, exciting read. Light but fruitful. Can’t wait to get number four!

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s exploration of the human conscience – the meaning of “madness” – is what made this play so revolutionary and it is what has kept the play so popular for over 300 years. Hamlet breaks tradition from previous revenge tragedies of the Jacobean, Elizabethan, and classical tragedies in that Shakespeare provides a “method” for the madness. The purpose of the “ghost” of Hamlet’s father remains debated today. The discussion of protestant vs catholic vs pagan beliefs is exciting.

The Arden edition is especially beneficial to students of literature or of Shakespeare because it provides excellent explanatory notes, appendices, introductions, etc.

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African-American, Book Review, Expatriate, Fiction, Gay Lit, Literature

Review: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

It’s hard to describe what James Baldwin has done with Giovanni’s Room. In some ways, oddly enough, this novel reminds me of Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple. Young (though not so young) confused loved. Passions and promises, forsaken and broken. The main character, David, seems to be a homosexual in denial; whereas, his love interest, Giovanni, turns out to be a heterosexual “made” gay by a tragic, heartbreaking loss, which is explained in the latter part of the novel. I think Baldwin makes the situation more complicated than it needs to be, but in a way it’s understandable, as proposing homosexuality to be innate, something other than “choice” in the early 1950’s would be preposterous, even if the story does take place in Paris, France. I suppose Baldwin had to tip-toe around the subject, while simultaneously facing it head-on. An interesting feat that, somehow, Baldwin ultimately accomplishes. I thoroughly enjoyed Giovanni’s Room, despite the presence of any “natural” gay male (those who are included are all “effeminate fairies” – despised by each of the novels’ three major characters). I don’t entirely disagree with Baldwin’s portrayal of the openly gay homosexual men, and their habitues, but I do wish that either David or Giovanni would have, in the end, broken the mold. In any event, the story was painful and beautiful – I read through its two-hundred plus pages in a day because I couldn’t put the book down, and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen between the two lovers (though sometimes I cringed at hints of the finality to come). What almost outshines the homosexual aspect of the novel is that this is a novel of Americanism in France – it is a study and critique of American culture, seen through the eyes of Europeans. It fits in quite naturally with the works of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Stein (among others). If you’re interested in historical gay fiction or homosexual relationships, or if you enjoy or are fascinated by expatriate literature and love affairs – Giovanni’s Room is probably a good bet for you.

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African-American, Alex Sanchez, Book Review, Criticism, Ernest Hemingway, Feminism, Gay Lit, J.T. Leroy, K.M. Soehlein, Literature, Margaret Fuller, Zora Neale Hurston

Reviews: The Earlies Part 4

So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez

Meh. Sanchez’s novels are okay for pre-teen/teen readers, I guess. They’re simple and generally truthful. But, if you or someone you know is interested in really good, moving young adult fiction involving gay characters or themes, check out Boy Meets Boy by Levithan or The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Chbosky.

Woman in the Nineteenth Century by Margaret Fuller

A critical work about the “feminist” movement, though Fuller’s idea of feminism leaves much to be desired. She is, I suppose, a voice for change in her time, but she seems to have been locked in that need to balance even the feminist movement with the needs of males. Perhaps this was a necessary concession for publication in such a patriarchal time and profession – but she (and Wollstonecraft, to be honest), while heralded as a liberating mother-figure, seems more of a moderate than a liberal.

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Heartbreaking.

The World of Normal Boys by K.M. Soehnlein

It’s forgettable but it’s god for what it is… an easy read on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

A quick but worthwhile read. I think what most interests me, though, is Hurstons own story – and the study which Alice Walker did into Hurstons life, the revival.. the reclaiming of Hurston into literary prominence, etc. A discussion of this is included in this edition of the novel.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

For some reason, I thought I didn’t like Hemingway much. I enjoyed Old Man and the Sea.. plus some of Hemingway’s short stoires. But I still dreaded reading a full-length novel. I’m not sure why. After reading A Farewell to Arms, I know how ridiculous I was being. Absolutely lovely – and easy to get through.

Sarah: A Novel by J.T. Leroy

Hm. Interesting – lacking in lucid detail, but that’s probably a good thing, considering the subject matter.

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