Good Gay Books

Books, Boys (Girls), & Breakdowns: Queerty’s Tres (Quasi) Gay Summer Reading List

Fiction by Gay Dudes

Union Atlantic (Adam Haslett) is a social novel by the author of the well-regarded short story collection (You Are Not a Stranger Here), that features a similar cast of characters (the crazy lady, the sexually precocious gay kid) in another small town setting. A former soldier with a heart of stone, Doug Fanning is the hot banking executive & closet case who returns to his hometown and builds a gianormous mansion. The eyesore drives the crazy lady to crazy extremes (her death is, as he notes with admiration, that of a “professional soldier”) and finds some measure of happiness topping a sexually insatiable teenager. Implausible? Somewhat, but a page turner, timely, ambitious, and (mostly) satisfying.

Yield (Lee Houck) depicts a contemporary Manhatten, filled with characters who could be Edmund White’s grandchildren: languid they drift through turning tricks and falling in (and out) of love. Simon, the novel’s main character is a hustler / art fag and the book is gratifying not so much because of a compelling story but because there isn’t one – just life. “Witty and wrenching,” Vestyl McIntyre (Lake Overturn) blurbs, “Yield is required reading for anyone who wants to know what it means to be young, gay and without a roadmap.”

Reading Yield along with Justin Luke Zirilli’s Gulliver Travels is better than a Google Map to the heart of gay existence.

Pacific Agony (Bruce Benderson) follows the “depressed and cynical” Reginald Fortiphton on a journey to the Pacific Northwest. If there was ever an anti-tourist narrative this is it. Benderson, the winner of French’s Grand Prix for The Romanian and essayist (the seminal, Towards a New Degeneracy), turns his eye on an parochial America that’s rotten from the inside, and hypocritical enough to drive a grown gay man mad, darling, simply mad!

What We Do is Secret (Thorn Keif Hillsbery) draws from the author’s experiences in late 70’s L.A. punk scene and its spiritual leader, Germs lead singer, Darby Crash. Hillsbery gives shape to the mythic – yet elusive – era. Crash commits suicide on the same day John Lennon is shot (December 8, 1980) and becomes the rag tag group’s philosophical leader and main character’s soul brother: “part ringleader, part god, and all charismatic manipulator, Darby was as close to family as a hustler and street kid like Rockets might ever get.” A cross between James Joyce and JTLeRoy/Laura Albert’s work, WWDiS’s prose is flushed with teen boy angst. Like LeRoy/Albert, Kief Hillsbery side steps the popular, but often vacuous “young adult” novel, for something far more serious, and transcendent. Told in prose that oft-times verges on poetic, WWDiS is challenging, but well worth the effort. If you’re trying to remember what it was like being a hormone & sex crazed teen who gets a hard-on from a hand brushed against your knee – this is for you.

The Abomination (Paul Golding)

Size queens of the bookish sort will love Paul Golding’s strange yet mesmerizing story about a boy who’s sent to a boarding school, turned into a sex toy, and grows up to hire hookers. The Abomination‘s heft announces it’s a Big Book – the literary equivilent of James Mitchner’s Hotel, Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room, or Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (oops, Franzen – and his dead bete noire, David Foster Wallace – is literary in that big tome way.) There’s a quality of guilty pleasure in these books, “intellectualized” by their heft. As in, “This maybe crap, but it’s long, so it’s Worthwhile.”

The Abomination benefits, too, from its elusive author, Paul Golding. Unlike everyone else – authors, college students, pop stars & politicians – vying for attention in the twenty-first century vis ubiquitous (Lady Gaga‘s on Tmblr! Look, Katy Perry’s just tweeted!), there are exactly two photos of Paul Golding. The first is blurred and looks nothing like the second: Golding (or, as some have suggested, a call-boy hired to pose as Golding), wide-eyed, wearing a very tight, very white t-shirt. Golding doesn’t have a Facebook fan page.

I mention these “Paul Golding” photographs only because they cue so perfectly to The Abomination. One imagines a narrator who’s brilliant yet painfully sensitive, sexy and urbane. The language’s allure connects with the picture – “Paul Golding” (or, his stand-in) – to such an extent that it made me turn back and look at him / his stand-in while reading the book. I wanted to see the adult who wrote so beautifully about the homoerotic charge of an all-boy boarding school, and the institution’s insane mix of religion and sex.