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Saturday 11 April 2015


Men's classics

Posted in: Books
By Compiled by Jacqui Stanford - 26th June 2013

With the help of readers, we have put together a list of gay/bi male fiction to lose yourself in. There were just so many, we have split them into classics (and modern favourites) and hot new reads. Here are a few classics!

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin (1956)

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Baldwin's haunting and controversial second novel is his most sustained treatment of sexuality, and a classic of gay literature. In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterized by dangerous liaisons and hidden violence, an American finds himself unable to repress his impulses, despite his determination to live the conventional life he envisions for himself After meeting and proposing to a young woman, he falls into a lengthy affair with an Italian bartender and is confounded and tortured by his sexual identity as he oscillates between the two.

Examining the mystery of love and passion in an intensely imagined narrative, Baldwin creates a moving and complex story of death and desire that is revelatory in its insight.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (1964)

"When A Single Man was originally published, it shocked many by its frank, sympathetic, and moving portrayal of a gay man in midlife. George, the protagonist, is adjusting to life on his own after the sudden death of his partner, determined to persist in the routines of his daily life. An Englishman and a professor living in suburban Southern California, he is an outsider in every way, and his internal reflections and interactions with others reveal a man who loves being alive despite everyday injustices and loneliness. Wry, suddenly manic, constantly funny, surprisingly sad, this novel catches the texture of life itself."--BOOK JACKET.

Maurice by E.M. Forster (1971)
Recommended by @NaellCrosbyRoe

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Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story by a master novelist introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father's firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, "stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him": except that his is homosexual.

Written during 1913 and 1914, after an interlude of writer's block following the publication of Howards End, and not published until 1971, Maurice was ahead of its time in its theme and in its affirmation that love between men can be happy. "Happiness," Forster wrote, "is its keynote….In Maurice I tried to create a character who was completely unlike myself or what I supposed myself to be: someone handsome, healthy, bodily attractive, mentally torpid, not a bad businessman and rather a snob. Into this mixture I dropped an ingredient that puzzles him, wakes him up, torments him and finally saves him."

The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren (1974)

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“Hands down the best gay story I've ever read,” says GayNZ.com reader Michael Hudson. “There are also two that follow it Harlen's Race and Billy's Boy.”

Harlan Brown is a tough, conservative track coach hiding from his past at a small college. Billy Sive is a brilliant young runner who is gay and doesn't mind who knows it. When they fall in love, they enter a race against hate and prejudice which takes them to the '76 Olympics and a shattering, shocking conclusion. With 10 million copies in seven languages, this landmark classic is the most popular gay love story of all time.

Tales of the City series by Amistead Maupin (first book published 1978)
Recommended by Paul Herd

San Francisco, 1976. A naive young secretary, fresh out of Cleveland, tumbles headlong into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, cut throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests. The saga that ensues is manic, romantic, tawdry, touching, and outrageous - unmistakably the handiwork of Armistead Maupin.

Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran (1978)

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Dubbed one of the most important works of gay literature, this haunting, brilliant novel is a seriocomic remembrance of things past -- and still poignantly present. It depicts the adventures of Malone, a beautiful young man searching for love amid New York's emerging gay scene. From Manhattan's Everard Baths and after-hours discos to Fire Island's deserted parks and lavish orgies, Malone looks high and low for meaningful companionship. The person he finds is Sutherland, a campy quintessential queen -- and one of the most memorable literary creations of contemporary fiction. Hilarious, witty, and ultimately heartbreaking, Dancer from the Dance is truthful, provocative, outrageous fiction told in a voice as close to laughter as to tears.

Faggots by Larry Kramer (1978)
Recommended by Tony Simpson

Larry Kramer's Faggots has been in print since its original publication in 1978 and has become one of the best-selling novels about gay life ever written. The book is a fierce satire of the gay ghetto and a touching story of one man's desperate search for love there, and reading it today is a fascinating look at how much, and how little, has changed.

The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt (1986)
Recommended by @NaellCrosbyRoe

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David Leavitt's extraordinary first novel, now reissued in paperback, is a seminal work about family, sexual identity, home, and loss.

Set in the 1980s against the backdrop of a swiftly gentrifying Manhattan, The Lost Language of Cranes tells the story of twenty-five-year-old Philip, who realizes he must come out to his parents after falling in love for the first time with a man. Philip's parents are facing their own crisis: pressure from developers and the loss of their long-time home. But the real threat to this family is Philip's father's own struggle with his latent homosexuality, realized only in his Sunday afternoon visits to gay porn theatres. Philip's admission to his parents and his father's hidden life provoke changes that forever alter the landscape of their worlds.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (1988)
Recommended by GayNZ.com

The sheltered son of a Jewish mobster, Art Bechstein leaps into his first summer as a college graduate as cluelessly as he capered through his school years. But new friends and lovers are eager to guide him through these sultry days of last-ditch youthful alienation and sexual confusion--in a blue-collar city where the mundane can sometimes appear almost magical.

Ready To Catch Him Should He Fall by Neil Bartlett (1990)
Recommended by @NaellCrosbyRoe


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A deeply romantic evocation of gay life, this stunning first novel by celebrated British gay writer Neil Bartlett gives a tender, erotic, brutally explicit portrayal of love between men. In a dark corner of the best bar in the city, two lovers fall into each other's arms. The bar has been called many names, but it is now known simply as The Bar. Its proprietor is the aging, still glamorous Madame. Its clientele is gay. The two who fall in love are Boy, a beautiful nineteen-year-old, and the handsome, forty-something "Older Man" referred to as "O" by the regulars of The Bar. This is the story of Boy's and O's courtship and marriage, of Madame's role in the affair, and of the man called "Father," who threatens to come between them. Searingly honest in its deception of gay culture and ritual, this gripping novel is at once a moving celebration of love and a stark picture of life for gay men today.

A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham (1990)

From Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours, comes this widely praised novel of two boyhood friends: Jonathan, lonely, introspective, and unsure of himself; and Bobby, hip, dark, and inarticulate. In New York after college, Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his roommate, Clare, a veteran of the city's erotic wars. Bobby and Clare fall in love, scuttling the plans of Jonathan, who is gay, to father Clare's child. Then, when Clare and Bobby have a baby, the three move to a small house upstate to raise "their" child together and, with an odd friend, Alice, create a new kind of family. A Home at the End of the World masterfully depicts the charged, fragile relationships of urban life today.

Nights in the Gardens of Spain by Witi Ihimaera (1995)

David Munro has everything a man could want - a beautiful wife, two adoring daughters, a top academic position and a circle of devoted friends. But he also has another life, lived mainly at night and frequently in what he comes to know as 'The Gardens of Spain', the places where gay and bisexual men meet. Now he must choose which of these two lives to follow ...Now in its fourth edition, Nights in the Gardens of Spain takes us along the precarious divide between sexuality and social mores, exploring dilemmas of contemporary gay culture with anger, laughter, sensitivity and honesty.

Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim (1995)

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At the age of eight Brian Lackey is found bleeding under the crawl space of his house, having endured something so traumatic that he cannot remember an entire five–hour period of time.

During the following years he slowly recalls details from that night, but these fragments are not enough to explain what happened to him, and he begins to believe that he may have been the victim of an alien encounter. Neil McCormick is fully aware of the events from that summer of 1981. Wise beyond his years, curious about his developing sexuality, Neil found what he perceived to be love and guidance from his baseball coach. Now, ten years later, he is a teenage hustler, a terrorist of sorts, unaware of the dangerous path his life is taking. His recklessness is governed by idealized memories of his coach, memories that unexpectedly change when Brian comes to Neil for help and, ultimately, the truth.

The Long Firm by Jake Arnott (1999)
Recommended by Tony Simpson

London. The 1960s. The capital is swinging, but underneath the boomtown there's a dark underbelly. Meet Harry Starks: club owner, racketeer, porn king, sociology graduate and keen Judy Garland fan. Harry's business is fronting violence with rough charm and cheap glamour; putting the frighteners on, performing menace while desperately trying to jump the counter into legitimacy. Five characters tell five tales that combine in an extraordinary narrative that is both an explosively paced thriller and a brilliantly imagined sociological and topographical portrait of sixties London.

The Uncle's Story, by Witi Ihimaera (2000)

“You will need tissues but beautiful story,” says GayNZ.com reader Nigel King.

Michael Mahana's personal disclosure to his parents leads to the uncovering of another family secret – about his uncle, Sam, who had fought in the Vietnam War. Now, armed with his uncle's diary, Michael goes searching for the truth about his uncle, about the secret the Mahana family has kept hidden for over thirty years, and what happened to Sam.

Set in the war-torn jungles of Vietnam and in present-day New Zealand and North America, Witi Ihimaera's dramatic novel combines the superb story-telling of Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies with the unflinching realism of Nights in the Gardens of Spain. A powerful love story, it courageously confronts Maori attitudes to sexuality and masculinity and contains some of Ihimaera's most passionate writing to date.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (2000)
Recommended by GayNZ.com

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Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America - the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility.

At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill (2001)

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Set during the year preceding the Easter Uprising of 1916 -- Ireland's brave but fractured revolt against British rule -- At Swim, Two Boys is a tender, tragic love story and a brilliant depiction of people caught in the tide of history. Powerful and artful, and ten years in the writing, it is a masterwork from Jamie O'Neill. Jim Mack is a naïve young scholar and the son of a foolish, aspiring shopkeeper. Doyler Doyle is the rough-diamond son -- revolutionary and blasphemous -- of Mr. Mack's old army pal. Out at the Forty Foot, that great jut of rock where gentlemen bathe in the nude, the two boys make a pact: Doyler will teach Jim to swim, and in a year, on Easter of 1916, they will swim to the distant beacon of Muglins Rock and claim that island for themselves. All the while Mr. Mack, who has grand plans for a corner shop empire, remains unaware of the depth of the boys' burgeoning friendship and of the changing landscape of a nation.

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004)

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In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby-whom Nick had idolized at Oxford-and Catherine, highly critical of her family's assumptions and ambitions.

As the boom years of the eighties unfold, Nick, an innocent in the world of politics and money, finds his life altered by the rising fortunes of this glamorous family. His two vividly contrasting love affairs, one with a young black clerk and one with a Lebanese millionaire, dramatize the dangers and rewards of his own private pursuit of beauty, a pursuit as compelling to Nick as the desire for power and riches among his friends. Richly textured, emotionally charged, disarmingly comic, this U.K. bestseller is a major work by one of our finest writers.

Have you read gay/bi novels you think other bookworms should know about? Email jacqui@gaynz.com and she will add your picks!

 
Compiled by Jacqui Stanford - 26th June 2013

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