With how hot it has been in Los Angeles this month, I am surprised one of my books has not spontaneously combusted while I was reading it. Due to the activities of Pride, July was a month of catch-up, and I had the opportunity to read some spectacular pieces of literature. I also achieved some pretty significant goals in terms of professional development and personal health, and I am excited to get back to my studies in this coming month. I hope you enjoy this month’s book review and that you find some time to pick up one of these books.
Book 45: The Satyricon by Petronius
Originally written in Latin, this book only survives in fragments. Yet, the pieces we do have contain an incredible story penned by Petronius, described as the “arbiter of elegance” by his peers. Not only is this text the earliest novel that has been discovered thus far, but it also centers on the adventures of two male lovers–the protagonist Encolpius and his lover Giton. A satire of the decadence of first century Roman society, The Satryicon survives as a witty piece detailing the dangers of opulence and over-indulgence while being a testament to a long standing tradition of queer literature.
Book 46: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Now a major motion picture, Ernest Cline’s novel is an fantastical exploration of a world both lost to the digital realm and on the brink of collapse. While this book is a entertaining science-fiction adventure centering on a protagonist so average any one can relate to him, it also offers a starling glimpse into how the distraction of technology could lead us to neglect the world and people that surround us. As Wade brilliantly solves the mystery left behind by the creator of a virtual utopia, he will come to realize that one cannot completely abandon the reality in which one lives.
Book 47: The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine
Quirky is perhaps the first word I would use to describe this book. However, Alameddine’s novel is also a heart-wrenching journey into the pain suffered by a survivor of both the AIDS Epidemic and a tumultuous childhood in the Middle East. Through a series of vignettes and interviews conducted by Satan, the story of Yemeni-born Jacob is told in a series of fragments over the course of one night, and it provides an extraordinary amount of insight into the intersections of memory, upheaval, and oblivion.
Book 49: The Boys in the Band by Mart Crowley
Taking place in the duration of one night, Crowley’s play brings to life a cast of gay men that includes at least one person to which a person can relate. This play was the first commercially successful piece to bring gay life to main stream audiences before the cataclysmic Stonewall Riots, and it continues to be a valuable piece of LGBTQ history. The manic behavior of the characters will hold one enthralled as one races to reach the dramatic conclusion of the narrative.
Book 50: Beijing Comrades by Bei Tong
This book is incredibly raunchy and entertaining. Set on the brink of the Tian’anmen Square protests, Tong’s novel chronicles the relationship of businessman Handong and student Lan Yu. At a time when same-sex relationships are ill-defined in China, the two struggle to understand their feelings for one another, going against what they have been told is the proper way to live one’s life. Their tragic story grips one by the heart and refuses to let go, and the English translation of the novel succeeds in retaining the poignancy of their narrative.
The following is a list of books I also read this month but chose not to review: Book 48 – Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, Book 51 – Rolling the R’s by R. Zamora Linmark, Book 52 – East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and Book 53 – The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins
If you have read any of the books I mentioned in this post, please let us know what you thought of them in the comments below.