Pride month ends today, and I still haven’t penned anything LGBTQ-related. Considering so much of my career has been in gay media, that seems wrong. But what to write? I’m pretty out of touch with queer politics and culture at the moment, so I guess I’ll just keep it simple: a cruise through lavender-tinged titles around my house.
Starting in my office, where I spend most of my time, the top row of a tall brown Ikea Billy bookshelf holds many homo-related hardbacks: Leo Lerman’s diaries, The Grand Surprise, abut Between Me and Life, Meryle Secrest’s biography of lesbian painter Romaine Brooks, which are next to the equally Sapphic Selected Letters of Willa Cather, which is pressed against The Days of Anna Madrigal. Theoretically the rest of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series should be up here, but those paperback copies are elsewhere.
On that same row you’ll find Tim Murphy’s Christadora, about the lives, loves and losses of people in the East Village apartment building of the same name, and Cathers’ collection of short stories, Obscure Destinies, which I’ve never read but hope to soon. Speaking of, I’m not sure where my copy of O Pioneers! moseyed off to; I do know My Antonia was abandoned on a Brooklyn stoop — I didn’t care for her. Meanwhile, a few titles over from Destinies, are three EM Forster tomes: his realist and oh-too-relevant political collection, Two Cheers for Democracy; the heart-breaking Maurice; and a collection of the English author’s short tales. (Howard’s End is elsewhere.)
Finally, off to the right, a recently acquired paperback of John Rechy’s raunchy Rushes lays on its side, appropriately removed and aptly aloof.
A few rows closer to this surprisingly accommodating shelf’s base, you can find, all by his lonesome, sadly and ironically, James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain. I had a copy of Giovanni’s Room, but it’s long gone, and seeing Mountain all alone now, I think Forster’s Maurice will come down for a visit soon. (It’s worth noting that Mountain is next to Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There, which has a gay shoe masturbation/hand job scene — that’s something, right? Or does that just make his isolation more insulting?) (Note: as I was going “to press,” I realized Oscar Wilde’s Complete Fairy Tales and Gore Vidal’s Burr are a few titles to Baldwin’s left.)
One row below you’ll find a handful of gay history books, including Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940; Between the Acts: Lives of Homosexual Men, 1885-1967; and Free Comrades, Terence Kissack’s examination of queer anarchists in the late-19th century. Call Me by Your Name’s also there —another one I haven’t read, but my boyfriend enjoyed. I did, however, read and enjoy both Edmund White’s semi-autobiographical A Boy’s Own Story and Truman Capote’s similarly semi-autobiographical Other Rooms, Other Voices, both of which are just to the right on that same plank of particle board.
Before moving on to the rest of the house, a smaller version of that same Billy shelf stands on the perpendicular wall and serves as a general sci-fi/fantasy/comic book section. There, between some Christopher Pike I nostalgically keep around and a book about time travel, are some half-dozen Arthur C. Clarke novels, almost all of which include some kind of homo relationship. A galley of the landmark young adult novel Two Boys Kissing is also over there, which I just realized. I’ve owned it for years but it’s still unread. Also of note: collected editions of X-Factor, featuring gay Rictor and his less-binary extra-dimensional lover, Shatterstar, and there are many LGBTQ characters in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, of course. Also, queer author Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower should be over here, but it’s off on an adventure somewhere….
A few gay things are in my boyfriend’s office: Michel Foucault, mostly, but I don’t really mess around in there too much, so there are probably other titles, as well.
In any event, next up, in a space that’s technically a dining room but is in actuality just a breakfast room, since evening meals are typically eaten — gulp! — in front of the television, a four-level modernist bookshelf boasts a large and fun mix of queer books.
Up top a stack of paperbacks includes Stefan Zweig’s Confusion, Edmund White’s The Beautiful Room is Empty, and Andrew Holleran’s Nights in Aruba. Queerly, none of these books are touching one another: James Agee’s A Death in the Family and Hubert Selby Jr’s Last Exit to Brooklyn separate the first two, while Nelson Algren’s Own Book of Lonesome Monsters pins Holleran.
The row below boasts an even more impressive array: Tom Robbins’ lesbian-themed Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Leonardo Padura’s crossdresser murder mystery Havana Red, and Mary Renault’s The Charioteer, which revolves around homo love during World War II. About 12 inches over loll The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and the artist’s memoir, Popism: The Warhol Sixties. These both belong to my boyfriend, as do The Andy Warhol Diaries and Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties, which are on the row below, just to the right of EM Forster’s aforementioned Howard’s End and Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America.
Not far away are French prostitute-centric Querelle, two collections of James Baldwin essays, collected and uncollected alike, — note to self: move to office? —; Edmund White’s Rimbaud biography — White’s truly prolific —; and Capote’s holiday triptych, A Christmas Memory, One Christmas & A Thanksgiving Visitor.
And I mustn’t forget genius Tanwi Islam’s continent-spanning family saga Bright Lines, nor Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, about the singer’s relationship with then-closeted Robert Mapplethorpe. Meanwhile, Amanda Lepore’s memoir Doll Parts, Madonna: Nudes 1979 and Tim Teeman’s delightfully voyeuristic In Bed with Gore Vidal hold it all together. (Also present: Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, which probably has some gayness; I haven’t read it since high school, so I can’t recall.)
Finally, before leaving this so-called dining room, let it be known that Leo Lerman’s 1969 art history epic, The Museum: 100 Years and the Met, can be found on a squat, mid-century metal shelf next to the front door. Lerman, the longtime Condé Nast editorial director — he was Anna Wintour before Anna Wintour was Anna Wintour —, and his boyfriend, Gray Foy, have special places in my heart.
In the living room, — the place where we barbarously eat in front of the television, usually to Jeopardy, which makes it only slightly less horrible — another, shorter Ikea shelf holds, among other things, including a stained glass cock, a few queer photography books: Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency; Ron Gallela’s Warhol-centric Warhol by Gallela: That’s Great!; George Platt Lyne’s Male Nudes; The Drawings of Paul Cadmus; Warhol and Suzie Frankfurt’s absurdist cookbook Wild Raspberries; as well as, appropriately enough, Candy Darling’s My Face for the World to See, and Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckenridge & Myron, the latter of which my boyfriend and I were supposed to read together, as a couple. I could not get into it, so I ended up reading Stephen King’s Firestarter, which isn’t gay, though King very often offers evocative descriptions of penises, erections and male-on-male sex. Just saying.
Finally, between the couch and the wall, tucked onto the second shelf of a tiered orange side table, you can find the rest of the Tales of the City tales. They’re right atop The Tastemaker, Edmund White’s (srsly!?) biography of Carl van Vechtin, and Forster’s Where Angels Fear to Tread.
There’s only one gay book in the bedroom, in the mound on my boyfriend’s side: pulpy noir spy novel Hold Tight. The basement no doubt holds a few more, and I’ve likely missed a few crammed here and there — you know we LGBTQ folk pop up all over the place. (For example, as I was about to finish this off, it occurred to me that there’s all kinds of queerness in lesbian writer Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and maybe in her Clock without Hands, as well; I’ve yet to read that one… There’s always more to come.)