Queer books you may not have read: Part One
May 20, 2012 § 5 Comments
Is there anything nicer than burdening others with book recommendations? Other than curling up with the books in question and an enormous mug of coffee, obviously. Um – I read a lot – and trying to get other people to read everything I’ve read is kind of a personal goal. Plus, I’d rather blog than do my paperwork – so, onwards to what will hopefully become a sporadic kind of series…
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Stone Butch Blues or Kavalier & Clay – quite the opposite, they’re two of my favourite works of fiction. But if all your queer favourites are looking a little dogeared and tired, and you really, really, really can’t stand the thought of starting Fifty Shades of Grey, even as a joke, then maybe you’ll find a few ideas around here.
” ‘Just think, Vanya, how odd it is, that here you have another person, another person entirely, and his legs are different, and his skin, and his eyes – and he’s completely yours, completely, completely, you can look at, kiss and touch all of him; every little mark on his body, wherever it might be, the little golden hairs that grow on his arms, every little furrow and hollow of the skin that is loved much too much…”
Ah, so – Mikhail Kuzmin‘s Wings. Maybe it might look like an odd choice considering what I’ll be blogging about this week – I hope not – but an exquisite novel. Published in 1906, it was really the first piece of serious Russian literature to address same-sex desire in a positive way, and Kuzmin became something of an icon of Russian gay culture (one of the first gay rights groups post-communism was named “Wings” in his honour).
What Wings is: a perfectly executed recreation of a dreamy adolescence, a wash of word painting, like listening to Scriabin, an uncomfortably uncritical look at the relationship between a younger man and an older and, therefore, thoroughly typical of its time and genre, a coming out novel, a coming of age novel, an exploration of jealousy, an account of loving someone and accepting their imperfections, a European romance, an upper-middle class bout of navel-gazing, a love letter to fin de siècle art. Gorgeous.
Good for: romantics, artists, anyone wanting to remember what it feels like to be young.
Bad for: fans of plot.
Goes with: Russian tea and krendel, long summer nights, one too many shots of honey vodka.