I think I've fully caught up on the answers supplied for gay protagonists. Apologies if these were already given and I missed it. But so: Michael Cunningham, specifically I think A Home at the End of the World, and Andre Aciman's Call Me By Your Name, which has maybe the most beautiful, dead-on writing of infatuation I've ever read. I remember both of these books as being wonderful.
Yeah, Aciman is one of our go-tos for people who need a heavy dose of Romance. “50 CCs of heartthrob, STAT!” is a thing I’ve never said in the bookstore but might try out today.
Re "gay" protagonist: "In A Strange Room" by Damon Galgut, "Ground Zero" by Andrew Holleran (non-fiction but reads like a novel), "Maurice" by E.M. Forster, "At Swim: Two Boys" by Jamie O'Neill, "The Story of the Night" by Colm Toibin, "Another Country" by James Baldwin... to name just a few of my favorites off the top of my head. Also highly recommend "The Faber Book of Gay Short Fiction" edited by Ed White in 1992 to get a wide taste of lots of different great authors.
Great choices here. Galgut is wonderful. And I was wondering when someone would mention Maurice. A shame some of Forster’s smuttier writing met with that fiery end.
Work overtook me! A brief description: Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea is smart and hard and heartbreaking. It's about madness, female madness specifically, and how society (particularly with regards to race, class, and gender) conspires to destroy a mind. It's also a postcolonial prequel to Jane Eyre. Anyway, I haven't read The Bell Jar so I wasn't sure how appropriate a suggestion this might be, I made a guess based of their shared imperative feminism and concerns with madness and sanity.
Off the top of my head/gay protagonists: Alan Hollinghurst is always a great choice, although lately I've been obsessed with this other British guy Adam Mars-Jones, whose books Pilcrow and Cedilla are both amazing. Anything by Jeanette Winterson. City of Night by John Rechy -- he basically invents a new language in the 1950s. Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran is to me the "Beloved" of the U.S. post-war gay experience, and Zipper Mouth by Laurie Weeks is fucking hilarious and beautiful.
Thanks, guy! If you, reader, would like to read a book inspired by those books listed above, try Gallaway’s The Metropolis Case.
Well, for the person who asked for a gay protagonist, if you don't mind reading about teenagers (they're not too teenage-ey, I promise), Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford was a fairly good book, in my opinion. It also deals with depression and other mental disorders, for the record.
I’m sorry, but I prefer all my teenaged protagonists to be teenage-ey. Pimples and rampant angst and aleck-ey smarts or go home. NEXT.
Janet Groth's new memoir The Receptionist and Eileen Myles's novel Inferno both reminded me so much of The Bell Jar--perhaps more in subject matter than in their style, all feature young writerly woman-emigres to NYC--and I would confidently recommend them to any reader who holds The Bell Jar dear.
Haven’t read the Roth yet, but any and all Myles would be great for Plath fans. For that matter, her work might satisfy our “gay protagonist” asker.
do you have any suggestions on books that have a homosexual protagonist? so many of the "gay fiction" titles are literally just literotica-type writing.
First, let me say that there’s nothing wrong with a little sexy sex (or unsexy sex, as the case may be) so long as the writing is good. As evidence let me offer perhaps my single favorite novel, A Book of Memories by Peter Nadas. You might also try Nadas’ recent offering, Parallel Stories, which is over a thousand pages long and of those thousand pages there are, let’s say, fifty-seven or so on which there is no sex, mostly homosexual but sometimes otherwise. But Nadas is difficult and slow at times and unarguably brilliant, and sometimes you don’t have the patience for brilliant.
The thing is, literature is itself such a queer undertaking that a list of good books with gay protagonists would be so close to contiguous with a list of all good books. I’ll name a few more and let others toss in suggestions. Try:
Anything by Ed White but particularly The Farewell Symphony.
The Pilgrim Hawk by Glenway Wescott.
I’ll argue that many, if not most, of Natsume Soseki’s protagonists were gay-without-labels.
Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery is a contemporary favorite of mine.
Delany, of course, anything.
Rene Gladman I’ve mentioned recently, but she’s a great writer of fraught, confused, sexy relationships.
Justin Torres, both a former monger with us and an incredible writer.
Who else wants to jump in? Gallaway, Chee, I’ve only left your books out the better to ask you to address the question.
Can I (Molly) jump on the Bell Jar thread? Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector is all tortured, brilliant introspection and is absolutely stunning. Angela Carter's Fireworks is OP but is in her collected short fiction, Burning Your Boats, and stars a lot of wandering women thoughtfully doubting themselves etc. Plainwater by Anne Carson for poetic prose and dry wit, and Masha Tupitsyn's Beauty Talk & Monsters for soul-baring, feminist thoughts on fiction and film. All beautiful writing.
I can’t do any better than this. Great, great suggestions.
Re: The Plath question. . . I feel like the obvious (and emotionally evolved / mature) suggestion would be Joan Didion's "Play It As It Lays." I know Joan's been getting smoke blown up her tuchas as of late, but, alas. Or maybe try Aryn Kyle's "God of Animals." Or hey, let me be so bold as to recommend Fred Exley's "A Fan's Notes." The first 30ish pp. and their football references may throw you off, but it's smooth, emotionally complex sailing from there out.
I don’t think Didion is too obvious a recommendation for readers of Plath, and Play It as It Lays is great. The Exley is meant to be great as well, though I’ve not read it. And of course Aryn Kyle is always worth it. The God of Animals was a staff pick here at McNally back in the day.
More importantly, I’m posting this to ask that, my god, hasn’t Didion earned a reprieve from us being forced to imagine her ass by now? New rule: leave Joan’s ass alone.
For some weird reason I feel confident LEAVING THE ATOCHA STATION makes sense for your BELL JAR asker.
This makes sense to me, too, though it may be the furthest afield yet. The problem is that it’s written and narrated by a man, which, I think it’s safe to say, has been done before. And as much as it’s about crippling anxieties, the stakes feel lower, somehow.
That said, it’s a good book. Remember when Sam [198SuchaBaby-2012, RIP, we’ll missyooooo] ran this tumblr and it was, for a while, the Ben Lerner fan blog? There’s a reason for that.
Regarding the question about The Bell Jar, I'm not sure re: style but as for content (or mood/vibe) perhaps "The Virgin Suicides", "Girl, Interrupted", "Franny and Zooey". Maybe even "Catcher in the Rye", "Perks of being a Wallflower" or "How the Light Gets In" by M.J Hyland? Or, "Veronika Decides to Die", "White Oleander" and dare I say Plath's journals or poetry.
The connection to Plath in some of these is as tenuous as my own picks, but they all make a kind of sense. More importantly, they’re all undeniably good books. Great suggestions.
Hey, wondering if I can ask for a recommendation as I'm currently drawing a blank. Looking for a couple books for my lady, she's recently really enjoyed Jeffrey Eugenides, MFK Fisher, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and Super Sad True Love Story. I've been browsing in vain for days! Thanks.
Those are some excellent books and authors you’ve listed, and I’m not surprised your lady likes Eugenides, seeing as he is one of the nation’s foremost ladyexperts. Let’s try this one by one, and hope one of the titles I list seems to hit that sweet spot for you.
Hi Dustin, hi McNally Jackson. This isn't a question, more a thank you note for making me know about Karl Knausgaard. I spent the last four days reading My Struggle. Goddamn. I sometimes worried that the books I was going to be most devastated and moved and wowed by were in my impressionable and enthusiastic past. Not the case! It's been a long time since I've felt this way about a book -- bigtime gratitude coming at you.
Hi. You sold me Joan Didion books in McNally Jackson this lovely Sunday afternoon. Your smile was really sweet and so were you and I’m really bad at flirting. As evidenced by my going home and blogging about it rather than trying to actually ask for your number or something like normal people would do. Whatever, I’m going to read my Joan Didion now.
I did not sell this customer her Didion, and don’t know who did. We usually make a point of scowling terribly at every customer, avoiding eye contact and being generally shitty, so I don’t know how this happened. How are we going to keep our aloof bookseller cachet, I ask you, if our staff continues to be sweet and helpful? Harrumph.
Re: "Stap Picks". There's more than seven books on that wall, but top down, the first seven are "Leaving the Atocha Station", "Draw it with Your Eyes Closed", "Bubblers", "Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket", "Cornet of Horse", "Project Japan", and "Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?"
Nervous-Breakdown-hat is clearly in our store, which is a good tactic, both for this contest and for life more generally. But, carts and horses, maybe try looking at the photo again to narrow it down.
Michele Filgate and Sarah Gerard love this book. Oh, and Oprah.
Two of our booksellers have written staff picks for Wild. That’s basically as good as the Oprah book club, right? Or at least like calling dibs?
Wild is the best memoir I’ve read since Gail Caldwell’s Let’s Take the Long Way Home. I felt like I was on the trail with Cheryl; I could see the wilderness in front of me, I could feel the monstrous backpack on my back. This isn’t just a book for fans of memoirs. This is a book for people who are fans of pitch-perfect writing that tells a story with unrestrained exuberance. I loved this book.
And Sarah G. wrote:
We are not our bodies, but we are inextricable from them. When our bodies strain, we strain; when our bodies are damaged, we feel the damage. We are not our hearts, but we need our hearts to heal when they have holes in them.
Breaking under the weight of years of trauma, Cheryl Strayed set out on an 1,100-mile hike, solo through the Pacific Crest Trail, to find out what she could survive. Her journey is one of constant physical pain, fear, hunger, freezing and burning temperatures, thirst, blood, loneliness, and healing.
If our bodies can make it over the mountain, we can make it over the mountain, and on our climb, we’ll see how beautiful pits and valleys can be from a distance.
“I think I could have handled the rattlesnake. I could have handled the bear. I would have been afraid, but I could have even handled men on the trail, if they hadn’t bothered me. I would have been psychologically damaged forever—and I don’t say that lightly—but I would still need to be cared for because I would become a babbling crazy person if I’d felt the little black frogs.”—
OMG. You guys. Oprah basically is tumbling her favorite quotes from Cheryl Strayed’s book. OPRAH RESTARTED HER BOOK CLUB FOR CHERYL STRAYED. I watched that video and literally got goosebumps all over my body. I’m not sure why. I know it’s fucking Oprah and she is choosing this memoir of a white lady’s journey to enlightenment and it’s not all that revolutionary, is it? But still! She chose Sugar! She chose our person we love! Can you imagine what Knopf did? Probably shat themselves. And Cheryl Strayed — can you imagine?!?!!?! Guhhhh. It’s so strange. I love this book so much! And I’m sorry but I LOVE OPRAH. THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY.
We concur, and not just about the amount of poop coating the underthings of the folks at Knopf—probably at least a tablespoonful, right? which is weird because they may have known before now so you’d think they’d have time to clean up since then—but also about how great this book is and how excited we are for Cheryl Strayed, who is inspiring, a wonderful writer, and maybe now, deservedly, a star.