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Out-and-Proud Reads

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Known as the “deer park” of Southern California, Palm Springs is historically the desert playground for Hollywood stars. Now it’s an artsy and gourmet town catered to the hip and chic crowd, including the gays. What do you do in Palm Springs if you’re into bar hopping and partying? You read! Grab a few books, sit on the chaise by the pool, and read up!

At my premium gay men resort library, I stumbled upon an issue of Out magazine in which Philip Hensher, British author and Booker Prize finalist, reveals his 10 must-read gay novels.

It’s safe to say that having read 7 in this list the gay card will not be taken away from me. Three of them—The Swimming Pool Library, Maurice, and Giovanni’s Room are among some of the most important, and most memorable, books that have shaped my adulthood and that I have re-read over the years. Maurice is Forster’s best although the subject matter was ahead of its time. The book was a pioneer in the way it portrays how people try to make sense of their desire with no precedent. Giovanni’s Room is the love story of an American in Paris and an Italian bartender. The Swimming Pool Library is the most dense book on the list. It also afford the stereotypically oversexed gay life.

The ones I haven’t read are The Bell, The Kills, and Christopher and His Kind. I’m very surprised to find out that Murdoch was somebody who was very interested in the gay male experience. The Kills is the only one I haven’t heard of. It’s a post-Iraq War epic story, and its size speaks for its epicness.

Out Magazine Recommendations

The Reader’s Digest of Out Magazine has a lit year round-up of literary favorites. I always keep my eyes on this special column for books/reading ideas that keep my gay card up-to-date. The 2011 selections have been culled by John Waters (director of Hairspray and A Dirty Shame), Edmund White (my literary guide to Paris), and Tarell Alvin McCraney (author of the Brother/Sister plays).

To support the local indies, I bought the entire haul from neighborhood bookstores:

Dead Funny: Humor in Hitler’s Germany Rudolph Herzog. Was anything ever funny if you were a Jew under Nazism? A quick riffle through this book decides that it’s for keep. Don’t be misled by the title. This is seriously and sober study of the most historically notorious event.
Full Frontal Feminism Jessica Valenti. Critic says this book should be “feet-wetting for everyone, especially men” because it explores how we see, distort, treat and undermine ourselves into gender.
The Pregnant Widow Martin Amis. I have avoided Amis because of his increasing popularity. That Edmund White calls this a rapturous, Nabokovian account of a horny teen’s summer closes the deal for me.
The Lazarus Project Aleksander Hemon. The classic story of a contemporary Bosnian in Chicago who tries of sort out the story of one of his fellow countrymen who was mistaken for a dangerous anarchist. The man was shot to death by the city’s police chief. This sounds like a very gripping read.
My Prizes: An Accounting Thomas Bernhard. Never heard of the book nor the author. But bought it anyway since, out of coincidence, both Out and the indie recommend it.
The Stranger’s Child Alan Hollinghurst. This is the one book that I most look forward to reading. Booker Prize winner Hollinghurst is known for lyrical, sumptuously descriptive, and contemplative prose. The new novel, his first since The Line of Beauty, actually covers English history for over 100 years. It concerns with the recipient to whom an important is dedicated.

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