Year of reading promiscuously
by Roberto Friedman
It's been a highly satisfying reading year for Out There, and the 14 books listed here were only the tip of the literary iceberg. OT is often asked, "How do you have time for all the recreational reading you do?" Short answer is, "We don't watch TV." After staring into glowing rectangular screens all day, it's the last thing we want to do. We'd sooner gnaw off our pinkies. But maybe that's just us.
A caveat: these are not meant to represent the best literary creations of the year, or any other such ridiculous prize. They're simply some of the books that found their way into our hot little hands, and rewarded our attention.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (paperback, Back Bay Books). A great baseball novel, great college novel, and auspicious first novel: not a bad triple play.
The Bay of Foxes by Sheila Kohler (paperback, Penguin). Patricia Highsmith homage.
Canada by Richard Ford (Ecco). Master-level fiction.
Darger's Resources by Michael Moon (Duke U. Press). The great outsider artist.
English Graphic by Tom Lubbock (Frances Lincoln Limited). A history of.
The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman (U. of Ca. Press). Somebody's been paying attention.
History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason (Knopf, 2011). Hedonia.
Jack Holmes and His Friend by Edmund White (Bloomsbury). Very model of a 1960s homosexual.
King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher (Faber and Faber, 2011). In this communal portrait of small-town English life, we were surprised and delighted to find a description of the preparations involved in planning a provincial sex party. "You did a small scout round, picking up anything small and valuable – a silver Georgian snuff box, a cloisonne cigarette case thought to be Cartier – or breakable. The coked-up Bears would fling their limbs and members about the floor of the drawing room, and glass and porcelain treasures were best tucked away for the night. Stanley , the basset hound, had a graceful knack of walking between the precarious treasures, but a Bear after a drink or two would have lost whatever knack he ever possessed."
Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life in Art by Paul J. Karlstrom (U. of Ca. Press). Arts admin history.
The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst (Knopf). It's summer 1913 in London, and a boy servant rifles through the trash of his young master's friend down from Cambridge for the weekend. "Jonah went over to the waste-paper basket, as if routinely tidying a barely occupied room, and took out the handful of bits of paper. He saw one of them was written by George, and felt embarrassed on his behalf that his guest should have made such a mess. It was hard to read – 'Veins,' it seemed to say, if that was how you spelt it: 'Viens.' The poetry notebook, which Jonah had been told never to touch, still lay within reach, on the bedside table. Later, he thought, he almost certainly would have a look at it."
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (Harper). Symphony in vinyl.
Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys by D.A. Powell (Graywolf). Poetry.
Word Is Out by Greg Youmans (Arsenal Press). Our gay history.