Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Da Capo Press (Aug, 2000)
“I am a homosexual. I am a drug addict. I am a genius.” —Truman Capote
Between July, 1982 and August 1984, writer Lawrence Grobel recorded many interview sessions with Truman Capote for what they both agreed would be the definitive in-depth interview with the great writer. This book is the remarkable result of those conversations. As startling, candid, and controversial as the man himself, these interviews have become a key part of the Capote legacy.
I have always been enchanted by Capote’s stories, and reading this book I became mesmerized by the man behind those stories. He had a genius that elevated talk to art, and gossip to literature. He bedazzles with brilliant insight, and also reveals a condescending pettiness toward many of his contemporaries.
I found Truman’s revelations about himself both candid and illuminating when talking about his childhood, early fame, his sexuality, and his battle with drugs and alcohol. The author also has much to say about the rich and famous, including Jacqueline Onassis, Norman Mailer, Marilyn Monroe, Lee Harvey Oswald, Elizabeth Taylor to mention a few, and these conversations about others tend to reveal more about Capote than the people being discussed.
While discussing In Cold Blood, Capote said, “I came to understand that death is the central factor of life. And the simple comprehension of this fact alters your entire perspective…. The experience served to heighten my feeling of the tragic view of life, which I’ve always held and which accounts for the side of me that appears extremely frivolous; that part of me is always standing in ta darkened hallway, mocking tragedy and death. That’s why I love champagne and stay at the Ritz.”
This is a must read for anyone who enjoys Truman Capote’s stories.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Bear Bones Books
During the final days of the American Revolution, Drew, a Herculean Yankee, is captured by a ragtag Confederate band. He is put in the custody of Ian, a war-weary Southerner who has seen too much brutality inflicted on prisoners by his commanding officer, who also happens to be Ian’s uncle.
While on the run from the Yankees and being driven toward Purgatory Mountain, Drew is made a martyr, whipped and beaten and humiliated for all the sins of General Sheridan’s rampage and the frustration of the Confederates’ realization that they are losing the war. But then the unexpected happens, Ian and Drew—captor and captive—find themselves drawn together. As a fragile love blossoms, Ian must find the courage to defy his uncle, and Ian and Drew must discovery a way to save each other from catastrophe.
This is an exquisitely written story. Jeff Mann’s command of prose is inspiring. He captures a voice that, line by line, is pure pleasure to read, to reread, to wallow in.
This story is never rushed. It takes place within the span of a week or two, and there is much packed into that timeframe. The pace is slow, often at a snail’s gate, giving the protagonist much time for reflection, and allowing plenty of time for a relationship to bud at a lifelike pace.
The tale is written in first person and present tense, which gives it an intimacy much like reading a personal letter or diary. However, I was not able to wrap my head around reading an historical account written in present tense. It simply felt strange, and I was unable to fully immerse myself in the story because of it.
For me, the book had two flaws. It took most of the story for Ian to do what he knew was just, which admittedly gave him a beautiful arc. But early on, I felt he was a coward, and I didn’t like him. By the time he finally grew a spine, it was too late for me. Along that same theme, I did not find it at all plausible that Drew could be so brutalized and dehumanized by his captors while Ian stood by, and still find it in his heart to forgive Ian, which, of course, was the point the entire story hung on.
Historical buffs will no doubt relish this story. Fans of gay romance who can easily suspend belief regardless of how implausible the story is will also enjoy this read.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Editions Cuir Noir
When the mother of a precocious fourteen-year-old gay boy claims she has evidence that mega-rock-star Jimmy Gilbert has been having sex with her son, Private Investigator Greg Quaintance is hired by Jimmy’s lawyer to thwart the mother’s multi-million-dollar extortion attempt. But only hours after Greg takes the job, the mother ends up murdered and her son goes missing. Greg’s job turns to finding the boy before any harm can come to him. From the streets of Manhattan to the home of presidential power, the bodies start piling up as Greg navigates his way through this plot of twists and turns.
The Rape of Ganymede is a murder mystery in the Greg Quaintance series. It is a story that tackles a difficult subject, child molestation, but rather than dealing with that issue effectively, the author turns this plot into a vehicle to showcase his sexy protagonist. The dialog is often clever, the plot highly imaginative, and a few scenes provide good action and are well written.
For the most part, I found this to be a mildly interesting storyline that was marred by poor writing, one-dimensional characters, and over-the-top situations that I found impossible to suspend belief.
My chief issue is that the story is mostly told through dialog. The author puts two people in a room and they talk for ten, fifteen, or twenty pages at a time, over and over again. There is much talking and precious little action. Admittedly, when there was action scenes, they were well written. Telling a story through dialog, however, quickly turns dull and tedious, which is how I found of most of this story.
The author does an excellent job of delving into his protagonist, who has several layers, but every other character had little or no depth. I think this is because these other characters have so little time on the page that the reader never gets to know them.
Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of mystery novels, but I have read several that impressed me. This was not one of those.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Saturday, July 7, 2012
Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Back Bay Books
In Naked, gay author David Sedaris presents seventeen autobiographical essays that are hilarious, elegiac, and often outrageous. The author has apparently had an exceedingly rich life with family and friends and unique adventures, and he writes about them with take-no-prisoners sensibilities. From dealing with a sharp-tongued mother, to his Kerouackian wanderings with a quadriplegic companion, to family gatherings in the face of imminent death, the author presents his distinctive view of the world with razor sharp wit.
Although this book has sat on my shelf untouched for several years, once I started to read, I was hooked. It is one of the most entertaining reads I’ve had in years. There was never a dull moment, never a dry spot where one skims through looking for another interesting part. This is a fast paced read with unforgettable characters popping out of the woodwork on every page. He brings people’s flaws and foibles into a deliciously funny light that I found brilliant.
Naked is a fresh, comic look at the world, with much wisdom at its core. I can highly recommend this book to all readers.