Saturday, October 27, 2007

Empedocles at Etna

I mentioned in our discussion the legend of Empedocles throwing himself into the volcano at Etna. I hadn't checked this legend by the time of our discussion, as I had hoped to, but having done so now, I think it's an integral albeit ambiguous aspect of Forster's story. The philosopher Empedocles is supposed to have thrown himself into Etna for a variety of reasons but they all seem to have had something to do with belief (others, in him) and with his own (belief) in the transmigration of souls. It's not obvious to me how this relates to Harold except that he too has thrown himself into something similar and with somewhat similar expectations.

I appreciate other people's valuing the story more highly than I did and taking Harold's story more seriously. Having reread "Albergo Empedocle" (Empedocles' Inn), I'm more of their mind. Certainly "Tommy" the framing narrator, whose company Harold beseeches, who believes his presence might have saved Harold and who is still present with Harold in the sanitarium, takes Harold's other life, his greater and better life in Acragas, seriously. The story is a nice treatment of imagination and reality and the pretense toward either. The part I still like most is the mind of Mildred at work in reassessing herself and her fiancée once her pretensions toward a remembered life at Acragas have been blown.

Virginia Woolf wrote somewhere that the hardest part of fiction was getting one's characters into and out of the rooms one wants them in. I think Forster might agree with her considering his own difficulties in the climactic scene in the albergo's "dirty little sitting-room." Mildred is alone there with "a stiff-backed lady" when she reassesses her prior life in Acragas and her present life with Harold. After that, Harold enters to tell her her father has found the key for his Gladstone bag. He tries for a kiss, she leaves in a rage (calling him a "charlatan and a cad"). Suddenly Sir Edwin is in the room, quickly departing after his elder daughter, leaving his wife and younger daughter, suddenly there. Very awkward, and not just a slip—it catches the reader up and causes genuine confusion.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Alex Sanchez's new book

From a listserv I get, here's information about Alex Sanchez's, author of Rainbow Boys, newest book. Alex also has a home page

"First, I received an email from one of our first authors, Alex Sanchez. He has come out with a new book, The God Box, about gay Christian teens. Alex will be in town to do a reading. Says Alex: "I'm doing well, enjoying Thailand, and writing heaps of manuscripts. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church gave a wonderful quote: 'Alex Sanchez evokes the crucifying experience of adolescents wrestling with their sexual identity and their identity as Christians. This book is a gift not just to teenagers, but to those who love and work with them.' " Alex has written a series of groundbreaking novels about gay teenagers.Please stop by, buy a copy of The God Box, and have Alex personally inscribe it for you.When: Wednesday, October 17Time: 7pmPlace: Lambda Rising on Connecticut Ave. in Dupont Circle"

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Aciman at DCJCC

André Aciman, whose novel call me by your name we're quite likely to discuss next year, will be signing copies of his book and commenting on it at the Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW this coming Tuesday (10/9), at 7 p.m. Admission is $8. For further information call 202-777-3250. (I'm hoping someone will go and tell me how his name's pronounced.)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The First Verse

We've just finished Edmund White's anthology of new gay fiction, Fresh Men. One of the stories there was an extract about a Dublin student who gets caught up in a strange "reading" cult (Book Men DC !?). Many of us found it captivating. I've read the novel by Barry McCrea and predict that if you found that extract about obsession obsessively readable, you'll probably find the whole novel that way as well—a considerable achievement, considering that it's sustained over a space ten times as long! What's more, despite my lengthening backlog of books unread, I'm up for a re-read if there's general interest. Check it out at Lambda Rising.

A Dangerous Mind

For those of you who have been attending for a while and are curious about what ever happened to Mark Rice, you can read a whole ton about him (by him!) on his blog, which coincidentally has ended just as we've moved on over here to Blogspot. We miss you, Mark!

Small Town Gay Bar

What's it like to be in the Bible Belt, a hundred miles away from anything gay? Well, see some of the people who live it in this worthwhile documentary about "Rumors" in the tiny town of Shannon, Miss. (pop. 1,657). Has all the vividness of our earlier reading, Men Like That, with none of its tendentiousness. For a preview, go to Netflix.