[personal profile] nansense
Part 2 of 2 of my pro slash recs - enjoy!

Part 1 here.

Cinnamon Gardens
by Shyam Selvadurai
I feel like this list wouldn't be complete without a shout-out to Shyam, who is a former teacher of mine and an all-around delightful human being. I admit that I much prefer Cinnamon Gardens to Funny Boy, which is probably what he's best known for, but both novels present an immersive, florid view of Shyam's native Sri Lanka during the 1920s. A lot of the same themes as Funny Boy are explored in a more in-depth way, including homosexuality, family, societal expectations, culture. I responded a lot more to Balendran and Annalukshmi, the two main characters, than I did the characters in Funny Boy, and also found the story a lot more ambitious and moving.

The Dreyfus Affair: A Love Story by Peter Lefcourt
Baseball slash. Hilarious. Go read. Now.

The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer
Greer also wrote The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which I always thought of as the true story of Benjamin Button and a lovely homage to Greer's hometown of San Francisco. One of my favourite things about Greer's writing is his ability to weave a twisting and surprising tale without ever neglecting to provide the reader with all the facts beforehand (if they know where to look). His prose is extremely tight and a pleasure to read, and I love how sensitively he handles personal histories and intimate relationships, even if they can seem a little sentimental at times. He also handles the racial and sexual tensions of the 50s extremely well, adding to the authentic feel of the narrative and believability of the characters.

Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim
The movie adaptation of this book has gotten a lot more popular along with JGL's rising star, but it remains a favourite of mine and an absolutely haunting story. I cried at several points during this book (and admittedly the movie is what I saw first), but the telling of Neil and Brian's childhood trauma is so heartbreaking on paper that it was like experiencing it all for the first time. I wouldn't say that it's a perfect book, but there are such profound moments of beauty that the flaws are easy to ignore. Very triggery, as with the movie, but worth looking at if you can handle it.

Close Range: Wyoming Stories by E. Annie Proulx

The book that provided us with "Brokeback Mountain". This is really the only slashy story in the collection, but those who loved the movie and haven't read the story need to get their heads checked. "Brokeback" touched me so deeply that I literally screamed out loud when I found out they were making a movie adaptation; there are so many scenes in this one story that made my heart feel like it stopped in my chest, and in a totally different way from the film. She writes the style beautifully, and with such sparse prose, that I'm a little jealous every time I read it.

Ransom by Lee Rowan
Hilariously, I read this when it was just a piece of Hornblower fic, and Lee Rowan has managed to turn it around and market it as an original novel. Say what you want about its originality, Ransom was a great story and made for a great novel, with gorgeous language and a beautiful story. See, fanfic dreams really can come true!

The Players by Stephanie Cowell

Shakespeare slash, pure and simple. The Bard's Sonnets are a serious obsession of mine, so this delightful novel about their inception just hit all the right notes. Historically, it's superb, and the dialogue and characterizations are are spot-on. Cowell does a really fantastic job of interweaving the stories of Shakespeare's affair with his "dark mistress" Emilia, and his love for his patron, the Earl of Southampton, for whom the Sonnets were written. I can never stand to put this book down no matter how many times I read it, because it's a love triangle and a historical tour de force done to absolute perfection.

The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín
Although Tóibín is an Irish writer, I'm so enamoured of how painstakingly and realistically he recreates the atmosphere of Argentina during the Falklands War, while simultaneously drawing upon themes of political, cultural, sexual, and personal demons. He comes across as a very intellectual writer without weighing down the text--I feel like just about anyone could enjoy this book, whether they're looking for a genuinely great read, or hoping to look to the text for something deeper and more meaningful, and this is a rare combination.

The Lost Language of Cranes and The Page Turner by David Leavitt
David Leavitt is the gay writer's homeboy, I think, so it's not really surprising that so many authors cite him as one of their inspirations and favourite writers of gay fiction. He's also a fantastic nonfiction author who writes a great deal about his experiences in Italy, which is probably why his descriptions of people and places come through so vividly. In Cranes, the protagonist's coming out inadvertently reveals the truth about his own father's sexuality, and Leavitt portrays this domino effect and subsequent family fallout with a deft hand. The Page Turner, in the meantime, continues to be one of my favourite romances, perhaps because of my own musical background and love of the piano. Both definitely worth reading, along with Leavitt's other work.

The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren
Admittedly, I haven't read this one in a long, long time - but it's widely regarded as being a major work of gay fiction in the 20th century and is a sweet read. Boys in running short shorts - what's not to love?

A Separate Peace and Peace Breaks Out by John Knowles

I think that most people probably read A Separate Peace in high school, but it's one of those books that hooked me then and has remained with me ever since. I love how subtle the homosexual themes are, but also how poignant - I think part of the book's success is the fact that Gene and Finny's relationship can be read just as effectively (and easily) as an expression of gay desire as it can that of a profound boyhood friendship and bildungsroman, given Gene's subsequent loss and its affect upon his growth into adulthood. Then again, maybe it's just the UST that gets me every time. Peace Breaks Out is the pseudo-sequel that no one really seems to have read, but I went ahead and dove into it because I'm a geek that way.

Radcliffe by David Storey

To be honest, Radcliffe is almost universally panned by critics and readers, and I'm the first to admit that it's a bit of a mindfuck, and not necessarily in the best way. Written in 1963, it was rather racy for its time given the gay themes, borderline explicit descriptions of sex (again, for the time). I found it a pretty enjoyable read the first time through, if you can appreciate the experimentation Storey takes with the genre of Gothic/psychological horror, and his Lawrence-esque style of writing. I've tried to revisit it a few times since then, but it can be difficult to slog through when you know what's coming - usually I just skip to the slashy parts. ;)

The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker
Pat Barker - aka. my mistress. Not only is she an absolutely amazing writer in terms of the beauty of her prose and story construction, she writes so powerfully about WWII in this trilogy, addressing shell-shock/PTSD and the development of psychotherapy, soldier psychology, British cultural identity during the War, and also gay desire. The latter is not touched upon so explicitly in the first book, Regeneration, but is a much more prominent theme by the second, The Eye in the Door. I cannot recommend this series - or Barker's writing - enough, truly. 

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Annabel Lyon is a [relatively] new Canadian writer who was shortlisted for Canada's prestigious Governor General's award in 2009. I suppose I wouldn't necessarily call this book slash, as it is hardly its main focus, but by virtue of being about Alexander the Great it sort of goes with the territory. Fascinatingly, the whole book is told from Aristotle's POV, which to me is such an ambitious undertaking but beautifully executed. She manages to make the great philosopher into a very human character, and subtly conveys his disturbance and fascination with the adolescent Alexander. Even though we know how the story ends, it was so engrossing to read Lyon's take on the making of such an imposing historical figure. 

Michael Cunningham
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Michael Cunningham. I love his work and have read all his books, and I would heartily encourage you to find them immediately if you haven't already done so. His writing is beautiful, flowing and he writes characters that leap off the page; but he's mightily hung up on the AIDS epidemic. Obviously it is a very close subject to him, and he writes about it with sensitivity and grace, but after the 3rd book about it I was a bit facepalm-y. There are so many subjects that can be explored that incorporate gay themes or gay characters, that don't just have to be about that... I feel like the gay community is already associated with AIDS to such an extent that choosing to return to that topic again and again can become hurtful and reductive. I suppose it's better to have an author who can do so well, rather than one who does so poorly, but geez.

If you're interested in checking out some of the great reader's advisory websites out there, the two I'd recommend most are either NoveList or Books and Authors. Unfortunately both can only be accessed with a subscription, but if you're a member of a public library system, you might be able to access them for free. It's possible to search these databases for their indexed LQBT-Q materials, either alone or in combination with another subject heading.

As before, please let me know if there's something I left out!

Date: 2011-01-03 11:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] obstinatrix.livejournal.com
The Regeneration Trilogy pretty much defined my entire adolescence. God, it's good. I actually wrote a letter to Pat Barker, which now makes me cringe, wherein I complained about some remarks of Robert Graves's which she'd warped and used out of context. Now, of course, I am like - *slaps self in head* ARTISTIC LICENCE - but at the time I was fourteen and over-eager. She wrote back, at any rate, which was nice of her. I spent two years writing Graves/Sassoon fanfic because of those books.

Edited Date: 2011-01-03 11:03 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-01-03 11:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miki-moo.livejournal.com
so many books from my childhood/early teens - so much love for this rec list!

Date: 2011-01-04 01:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mementis.livejournal.com
Oh, wow. Thank you so much for this list (and part one, too)! I've not thought of some of these in ages, and a few are brand-new to me. I'm bookmarking these entries, definitely.



April 2011


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