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FOR THE PERSON WHOSE LOVE OF BOOKS IS ONLY RIVALED BY LOVE FOR THE OBSCURE

1. Inferno: A Poet’s Novel by Eileen Myles

From its beginning—“My English professor’s ass was so beautiful.”—to its end—“You can actually learn to have grace. And that’s heaven.”—poet, essayist and performer Eileen Myles’ chronicle transmits an energy and vividness that will not soon leave its readers. Her story of a young female writer, discovering both her sexuality and her own creative drive in the meditative and raucous environment that was New York City in its punk and indie heyday, is engrossing, poignant, and funny. This is a voice from the underground that redefines the meaning of the word.

2. Pussy, King of the Pirates: 25th Anniversary Edition by Kathy Acker

Kathy Acker was a major figure in postmodern literature for many years. Pussy, King of the Pirates takes her original, experimental style one step further, marking the apex of Acker’s abilities as a hypnotic and daring storyteller.

Loosely related to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island, Pussy, King of the Pirates is a grrrl pirate story that journeys from the most famous whorehouse in Alexandria though an unidentified, crumbling city that may or may not be sometime in the future, to Brighton Town, England, and, finally, to a ship headed toward Pirate Island, where the stories converge and the vision ends.

3. Inseparable by Simone de Beauvoir

Deemed too intimate to publish during Simone de Beauvoir’s life, Inseparable offers fresh insight into the groundbreaking feminist’s own coming-of-age; her transformative, tragic friendship with her childhood friend Zaza Lacoin; and how her youthful relationships shaped her philosophy. Sandra Smith’s vibrant translation of the novel will be long cherished by de Beauvoir devotees and first-time readers alike.

4. A Single Man : A Novel by Christopher Isherwood

A Single Man (published in 1964) was Christopher Isherwood’s own favorite of his novels and was the basis for the Tom Ford movie starring Colin Firth. When A Single Man first appeared, it shocked many with its frank, sympathetic, and moving portrayal of a gay man in midlife. Now it stands as a beautiful, lyrical meditation on life as an outsider. Wry, suddenly manic, constantly funny, surprisingly sad, the novel catches the texture of life itself.

5. The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions by Larry Mitchell

The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions is a beloved queer utopian text written by Larry Mitchell with lush illustrations by Ned Asta, published by Calamus Press in 1977. Part-fable, part-manifesto, the book takes place in Ramrod, an empire in decline, and introduces us to the communities of the faggots, the women, the queens, the queer men, and the women who love women who are surviving the ways and world of men.

6. Cane by Jean Toomer

First published in 1923, Jean Toomer’s Cane is an innovative literary work—part drama, part poetry, part fiction—powerfully evoking black life in the South. Rich in imagery, Toomer’s impressionistic, sometimes surrealistic sketches of Southern rural and urban life are permeated by visions of smoke, sugarcane, dusk, and fire; the northern world is pictured as a harsher reality of asphalt streets. This iconic work of American literature is published with a new afterword by Rudolph Byrd of Emory University and Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University, who provide groundbreaking biographical information on Toomer, place his writing within the context of American modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, and examine his shifting claims about his own race and his pioneering critique of race as a scientific or biological concept.
7. The Living Is Easy by Dorothy West

The first novel by Dorothy West—author of The Wedding—was one of only a handful to be published by black women during the 1940s. The Living Is Easy tells the story of Cleo Judson, daughter of Southern sharecroppers, determined to integrate into Boston’s black elite. Married to the “Black Banana King” Bart Judson, Cleo maneuvers her three sisters and their children—but not their husbands—into living with her, attempting to recreate her original family in a Bostonian mansion.

8. The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

This remarkable novel begins in 1850s Louisiana, where Gilda escapes slavery and learns about freedom while working in a brothel. After being initiated into eternal life as one who “shares the blood” by two women there, Gilda spends the next two hundred years searching for a place to call home. An instant lesbian classic when it was first published in 1991, The Gilda Stories has endured as an auspiciously prescient book in its explorations of blackness, radical ecology, re-definitions of family, and yes, the erotic potential of the vampire story.

HOLIDAY 2021 GIFT GUIDE: LITERARY CONNOISSEUR
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