Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Summer Reading: Dan Savage, David Rakoff, Bill Clegg and More

While I don't have any specific beach plans yet -- Montauk two weekends ago was a rain-drenched disaster, and my next vacation is to my birthplace, my first time in the Motor City in about eight years -- but I do have my summer reading list up and running. I'll show you mine if you show me yours, in the comments.

No one is better suited for the fits and starts of summer reading than David Sedaris. His latest, "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls," is enjoyable enough, although he's more serious and less funny than in the past. The sentimental story, dealing with his childhood realization that he was gay, was a nice change of pace. But some of the political and U.K. stuff left me kind of cold. Easily my least-favorite book of his, although that's still not the biggest put-down given where I was starting from. Get HERE

If you're looking for a quickie, might I recommend "Fun as Hell," my friend and former New York Times colleague Luke Kummer's Kindle Singles debut:
A down-on-his-luck reporter sets out to write about a military training facility that has invited tourists to experience war firsthand. But after his girlfriend decides to join him on this madcap daytrip he is forced to unravel a bigger story. This uniquely told narrative—call it truly strange—weaves a fast-paced, humorous and gripping account together with the author’s recollections of writing for newspapers in New York, the Middle East and Washington, falling in love and traveling to places touched by violence. "Fun as Hell" is a captivating ride with sharp turns. What it reveals about war, the media, relationships and our times will shake readers and leave them hungering for more.
Luke deftly weaves a journalistic outing with tales of his floundering relationship and career uncertainities in this fun and frenetic mini-memoir. Download HERE.

I'm a big fan of Dan Savage, dating back to when I worked at PR Newswire in the '90s and one of my editors used to save the most salacious letters from Savage Love to share with me. Still, I've never read any of his books, despite hearing great things about them --  most notably "The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant" -- and even buying a copy of "It Gets Better." (I just used that one to get a pic-with Dan and his hubby, Terry.) That all ends with "American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love and Politics," which I got a review copy of and started the other night. Get HERE.

This one's gonna be bittersweet. The hilarious David Rakoff died last year after finishing his first novel(la), "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish," a rhythmic, rhyming tale that "captures the lives of several generations of Americans, from a hobo riding the rails during the Great Depression to a man coping with AIDS in 1980s San Francisco."  David shared this preview with me while he was writing: 
Here's a filthy couplet from the Clifford chapters (b. in the 1930's, first cousin to Helen, from the Christmas poem), He loves to draw, gay, moves to SF in the Summer of Love, becomes a minor underground success for his underground comic strip, "The Adventures of Cap'n Cocksure and his sidekick, Throbbin,'" dies of AIDS in 1984): "O, it's true what the song says, my heart's San Francisco's! (Suck on this, dear, while I work out where this goes...)" 
I'm thrilled to have one more work from him -- sure hope there's an audio version, his reading is the best -- but I can't help but wish it were another collection of personal essays, of which there were far too few. Perhaps this was a deliberate distraction when his prognosis turned dire, and writing about himself was no longer something he wanted to do. Like I said, bittersweet. Pre-order HERE.

"Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns" arrived on my doorstep yesterday, David Margolick's rather substantial biography of the late gay novelist:
American John Horne Burns (1916–1953) led a brief and controversial life, and as a writer, transformed many of his darkest experiences into literature. Burns was born in Massachusetts, graduated from Andover and Harvard, and went on to teach English at the Loomis School, a boarding school for boys in Windsor, Connecticut. During World War II, he was stationed in Africa and Italy, and worked mainly in military intelligence. His first novel, "The Gallery" (1947), based on his wartime experiences, is a critically acclaimed novel and one of the first to unflinchingly depict gay life in the military. "The Gallery" sold half a million copies upon publication, but never again would Burns receive that kind of critical or popular attention. 
 Get HERE.

I loved Bill Clegg's sex-and-drugs memoir, "Portrait of Addict as a Young Man," but never got around to reading the follow-up. His relapse memoir, "Ninety Days," is out in paperback, so I picked it up at Three Lives the other day. Get HERE.

 Heard about "Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter" in Out magazine:
When Alison Wearing was 12, her father came out as gay. Nearly unheard of in 1970s small-town Canada, the revelation changed the course of her and her father’s lives, both captured in Wearing’s funny and moving memoir.
I'm in! Get HERE.

And finally, Michael Menzies' "Deeply Superficial: Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, and Me" sounds like a hoot:
In this dazzling memoir that also serves as a dual biography of stage and film legends Noël Coward and Marlene Dietrich, film and music executive Michael Menzies chronicles in hilarious detail his life-long obsession with the theater in general and these two international superstars in particular. At age 12, Menzies discovered the autobiography of actor/writer/composer Noël Coward and was consumed by it. Although still only a youth, Menzies identified hugely with Coward—so much so that he came to believe that he must be the star’s love child. But with whom? In a burst of inspiration Menzies worked out that his mother could only be Marlene Dietrich. The author then decides that as soon as he can he will voyage around the world to confront Coward and Dietrich in person and announce himself as their son. Yet even after he finally abandons his plan, Menzies continues his search for them—and their pasts—spending the rest of his life following in their footsteps, traveling to London, Paris, New York, Berlin, Switzerland, and Jamaica. 


Matt the Bruins fan said...

If you have any trans friends, Savage may stick in your craw. For someone who's so earnest about the need for acceptance of the gay community, he is surprisingly and persistently trans-phobic.

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

I have heard this before but I just don't see it.