Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Best Lesbian Romance Fiction 2010

“Some women can't say the word lesbian... even when their mouth is full of one.”
 Kate Clinton

Little did I know when I began my journey into the world of lesbian romance fiction, that my search would lead me to an intriguing variety of variations on the subject of love? I also discovered a genre that would not only entertain me, but, quite frankly, quicken my pulse, shorten my breath, and compel me to come back for more. Perhaps I am a closet lesbian, but as I've said before, the rule for me is a good read.

One of the reasons I picked up a copy of Best Lesbian Fiction 2010, is that, save for a few other excursions into the realm of lesbian themed fiction, I have had little experience with it. While searching for a good place to start, certain key names stood out about the rest, like Radclyffe's.

Who to choose from? Where to begin?

Starting in 2009, best selling lesbian author Radclyffe has been editing this anthology of lesbian romance fiction published by Cleis Press. Each volume is published with the purpose of representing the best short lesbian fiction to be found in that particular year. Let's say this, you won’t find tales like these in Family Circle! (although the thought is tantalizing.) Au contraire.

The first volume was extremely  popular, and subsequent ones are eagerly anticipated. Now I know why. Quite simply, the writing is uniformly excellent, and the stories are quite wonderful and, ok, they're HOT! They are guaranteed to quicken the heart and start all sorts of visceral reactions. Who knew? You may have, but this guy felt more steam coming out of my psyche than comes from a radiator.

 Reading the preface to this volume, I was immediately drawn by the description of love as "one of those rare experiences that engage us on every plane-the mind, the heart, the spirit, and the body." As the editor goes on, she states that "Love has been likened to psychosis; albeit mostly a pleasant one-making us forgo our ordinary caution and rationality, sometimes risking heartbreak and disappointment, in order to share our deepest selves." Ok, I was hooked-what romantic soul wouldn't be?

 As the stories unfold, the many different aspects of love are portrayed within finely crafted tales. These stories are about "falling in love, being in love and of remaining in love-for a moment or a lifetime". They explore the nuances of women-women love in such a way as to truly represent all types of women; young, older and more seasoned, lonely, butch, femme, in effect, everyone.

The collection begins with a story by Evan Mors called When We Almost Met. Such an interesting premise here: the character speculates on the “what if” scenario of connecting with the woman she loves long before she actually does. There are chance meetings galore and perhaps missed opportunities, yet in hindsight, they all lead to that one special moment which is now.

Another story, Hard to Hate Her, lets us in on the “secret” a newly divorced woman discovers about herself as she just so happens to encounter her former husband’s new wife. Talk about turning the tables!

As a lover of opera, I was particularly taken by Queens Up by Andrea Dale. Not since the exciting poker game in Puccini's “Girl of the Golden West”, has a card game carried such high stakes. There’s a bit of gender bending here as well, which makes the story all the more fun.

Sweetness abounds in a story set in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is called You Are A Full Moon Without Clouds, and is written by Pamela Smiley. This is a gentle story of the challenges set forth by an Asian culture's perception of the love between two women. But, as we all know, love always seems to find its way.

The volume ends with a story by Radclyffe, All In. Here we find someone alone at 3 a.m., in a hotel bar, and feeling “a kind of loneliness that went deeper than any physical diversion could assuage.” Oh my! The lesson here is one of wanting and waiting for the “one” who truly stirs your heart.

So, have I enticed you? I could go on, but that would take away from your reading pleasure. There are sixteen stories here. Each one with a different flavor, something for every taste. There is a story about vampires, teens in love, butch love, and everything in between. I don't think there's one bad one in the bunch.

The aspects of love are as varied as we are. I encourage you to find this book, and delve into it like I did.

So, cher reader, until next time-I remain, as always, just another gay guy with a book in hand. Happy reading.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

"The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity."
Walt Whitman

Welcome Reader. My intention is to have this blog become a place where I can share my thoughts, feelings and such about books, and pass them on to you. I will talk about books I’ve just happened on, ones I cherish, or ones I’ve heard about and just want to get to know.

The focus will be on GLBT authors and books. I’ll recommend works by and about gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and anyone else out there who calls us community.

I spent my career among books; reading them, reviewing them, and recommending them to others. I am always searching for the "Good Read". Will my good read be yours? I hope so. I know tastes differ, but the bottom line for me is the book itself and ultimately how good it is, how well it is written, how inventive, how illuminating, and finally, how satisfying. In short, is it worth my time? Is it worth yours? Not a tall order methinks. The good news is, they’re out there, just waiting to be found, and that's where I'll come in.

For my first offering, I decided to entice you with a stunning little gem with a curious title: Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (Picador, 2007).

In my not so humble opinion, this book is undoubtedly one of the finest books I've ever encountered. From the first sentence it had me. I often had to stop and take a breath as I devoured this magnificent prose. Ok, I’ve been called breathy before, but I paused so often while reading because this book displays a style of writing that I have rarely encountered elsewhere.

Now before I go on, I need to make a confession. I am, among other things, a self proclaimed Proustian. Not a bad thing, but people do think me a bit peculiar because of it. Simply put, Marcel Proust often stands apart in the world of literature, and has set a literary standard many authors aspire to. So, what does that have to do with this book, you ask?

Call Me By Your Name possesses a very Proustian sensibility and style. I thought only Proust could take a given moment in time and literally describe every thing that was going on simultaneously and how it affected the senses. But I was wrong.

Aciman, obviously a lover of Proust, manages to evoke the same sensibility, and here’s the neat part, make it his own. Imagine that! To call it delicious is, in my thinking, an understatement, but that is what it is, simply scrumptious. And, it is so much so that your taste buds will never tire of the verbal delicacies spread out before you.

Call Me By Your Name is a love story, and it weaves a tale of a young man’s “infatuation” with someone older. The boy’s father invites young academics to his summer home in Italy every summer to revise their manuscripts before publication. They are carefully selected, and, although it happens yearly, this time it turns into something totally different, or so it seems.

When Elio, our young narrator, meets Oliver for the first time, you know something special is going to take place. Oliver appears to be aloof. This drives Elio crazy. The more distant he becomes, the hungrier Elio becomes.( Are you getting the picture?) Clearly this is a tale of obsession, and what unfolds is a story that gets more and more exciting as you read. You will desire the possibility of their finally connecting ,so much so, that you can hardly stand it anymore. Well, that’s what happened to me. Will it happen? How will it happen? And, ultimately, what does it mean?  (See, I told you it is going to be good!)  If this book doesn’t make you swoon, well, what can I say?

Here’s an example of the writing: “The thud my heart gave when I saw him unannounced both terrified and thrilled me. I was afraid when he showed up, afraid when he failed to, afraid when he looked at me, more frightened yet when he didn’t. The agony wore me out” No, my dears, this is not Jackie Collins, but its super hot! (Yowie!)

One of the things Aciman has, is the ability to make his story transcend the obvious. For, even though it is character specific, it becomes universal. We feel, we relate, we become. What more could you ask for?

So, dear reader, now that I’ve wet your mental whistles, I hope you get yourself a copy and find out for yourself what a tasty morsel I’ve invited you to savor.

I can’t wait to hear you share. Until next time then, I remain just another gay guy with a book in hand. Happy reading.