Speaking of gay books.

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Back before publishers targeted us as buyers of Stonewall Inn Editions1 back books could be hard to find.

When found that I liked pretty guys I naturally had to read about it. I think my first 'gay' book was what was long the standard biography of Wilde (may have remained so until Ellman's life).

Perhaps it was there that I read about Andre Gide's Corydon. The Savannah Public Library didn't have it so I headed to Oglethorpe Mall's Walden Books. Unsurprisingly they didn't have a copy. (Back in those days Savannah's little Walden's did have more literary works than its 20th century descendents.)

But the unmistakably gay clerk did point me to a paperback shelved sideways in the bottom shelf of a remainder table. I don't remember much about it. The author was mighty fetching looking in his plumed cap. The title was Gay America, Gay USA, something like that. I don't remember a word of the text.

Doubtlessly Victor's lover, John, who'd been out and whoring around for a few years was a better teacher. Somehow I learned key words and concepts like cruising, closet case, and the lovely word, nelly. 'Hot number' used to designate a particularly winning instance of male eye-candy. Haven't heard that in years.

With a gleam of self-respect in my eye I recall buying a book about gay women. I've been trying to remember the title for a couple of weeks. It was written by two women and remained in print for many years. Possibly the lesbian bestseller.

I haven't read a book about being gay for years. If you aren't a queer theorist it isn't very complex. If you're gay a person of your gender makes you happy and lascivious in a way one of the other cannot. I sometimes scan a few paragraphs of queer theory in the shop. The texts seem alien to my experience (excepting the bits of Leo Bersani I read).. I suspect much gay history too corrupted by wish fulfillment to read any of it.

Years ago I read a bunch of gay fiction starting with Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar. It was all sterile, forgettable and depressing. The happy endings of Gordon Merrick's fat, potboiler slush wasn't an improvement. Ah yes, there's the gay John Updike, Edmund White. I can't imagine taking my hard-ons that seriously.

I started reading gay novels again a few years ago. With the exception of Alan Hollinghurst and Joe Keenan what I've read is forgettable. Admittedly my reading is circumscribed I won't read about AIDS and I'm not much of coming of age stories.

But I'm open to suggestions that I may not follow.


1: We'll likely soon have our own John Gray who'll tell us where tops and bottoms or butches and femmes come from.

* I forgot one of the questions that'd be in Queer For Dummies: "Why the 'Dell Dude' is a gay icon." Trust me, I'm not making that one up.

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