Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thoughts on our next novels

You read novels. Some you enjoy. Some you are impressed by. Some you recognize as deserving their high reputation. But some simply stick with you, irrespective of your enjoyment, their quality, their reputation. Something about them is so original and well ... novel that they draw you back to them, repeatedly, without your effort. One of not even a handful of books like that I've read in the last dozen years is Barry McCrea's The First Verse. We read a selection from it in the anthology Fresh Men two years ago. That selection gives a good taste of his writing and a nearly complete version of the homosexuality of his gay male narrator. What only the novel can give, however, is the obsessiveness of the cult he falls into, a cult of reading, of reading not inbetween the lines but beyond them, beyond the words even, and how obsessive our own reading of these readings becomes, an obsession akin to infatuation or any of the arts of cruising. There's no book I'd rather re-read with our group.

As for the rest, though I expect I would enjoy reading any combination of the Leavitt, Hollinghurst, or Cunningham, we've already read works by these fine writers (Specimen Days would be our fourth Cunningham). We've also already read Gore Vidal and Armistead Maupin. I loved Tales of the City in its time but wonder how long in the tooth I want to see Michael Mouse. I read Myra Breckenridge twenty-five years ago and wasn't swept away but it's an iconic work and I'd be willing to give it another shot. (I'm considerably less attracted to one of Vidal's historical novels, whoever the titular subject is.)

I read The Object of My Affection when it came out, grew tired of the wise-cracking self-deprecating narrator well before book's end and have no confidence I'd get past the first chapter on a re-read. Blurbs by Mr Kite Runner and PW warnings of the "overly sentimental" make me leery of the Greer. And though I have some interest in being exposed to the E. Lynn Harris phenomenon, I have no interest in shelling out big bucks in hard times for a deluxe hardbound edition.

That leaves me with Mack Friedman's Setting the Lawn on Fire, with blurbs I can believe in and a favorable memory of the selection from it we read in Between Men a year ago. Plus The Pilgrim Hawk, Queen Lucia, and Wicked (all by writers we haven't read). Oh yes, and of course, Barry McCrea's The First Verse. Please give that your most serious consideration.

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