In Which We Go Over a Reading Rainbow


I’ve been on a long-ish streak of reading bad books lately. Not on purpose, mind you.

There is the inevitable stinkers that I give up on after the first couple of pages make me hold my nose. That is not a good sign. But there’s also been a disappointing string of books which passed the initial smell test and that seemed like they were going to be interesting and maybe even remind me of why I love reading so much. Nope. I keep being let down, my heart broken by the publishing world.

Two books in particular were especially disappointing because I read them back to back. Both had the same problem, books with gay protagonists written by a woman. I’m comfortable saying I’m not a misogynist, at least as far as authors go; two of my all time favorite writers, Lois McMaster Bujold and Martha Wells, are ladies. The problem is not that these writers are female, but that they’re trying to write about gay men. And not doing a very good job of it.

Both books feature a male couple and that’s where the troubled waters get deep. One of the boys is inevitably rugged and manly and Brawny paper towel guy-ish and the other is frail and vapid, androgynous and girly. They swoon, they cry when they get mad, they bat their fucking eyes for god’s sake. If they were a male-female couple, I would be annoyed by this sexist writing that had the woman so weak and constantly needing rescue.

That seems to be the real stumbling block here. I think these books were written as if they were a heterosexual couple (and a problematic one at that) and then all the “she” pronouns were just switched to “he” and the writer called it a day. That’s not the gay experience. We’re more complex and complicated than just a mirror image of the straight life.

That’s why it’s so frustrating. I want books with gay men in them and I want my life reflected in what I read. But not with some bodice ripping pearl clutcher. Women can write great fiction about queer men, Annie Proulx showed that with Brokeback Mountain. For that matter, gay men can write about gay men. Where are those books?

Guys worth a thousand words:

The Boyfriend Experience is extra.

The old one-two.

You know this guy’s a redhead.

Damn, that is a can full of tomatoes.

I like how his dick is the only thing in focus. It shows priorities.

I know there is something wrong with me when I see a photo like this and think “Ooh, I like that tile work.”

About mrpeenee

A former bon vivant and terror of a number of New Orleans bars in the mad, gay 1980s, I'm now quietly retired and widowed in San Francisco. I have a crooked nose due to an unfortunate Frisbee accident.

14 responses »

  1. Have Mr AussieBum wrapped and mailed to me forthwith, there’s a dear…

    Gay books by gay authors? Take a look at any of my gazillions of posts from my visits to the Polari gay literary salon, and you’ll find there’s a whole wealth of literary gay experiences out there, waiting. Jx


      • None of us want or need self-indulgent “coming out biographies”. They’re not gripping reading. However, there are many more interesting authors out there, and I have listened to, and met, many of them at Polari, Jx


  2. Are you reading Harlequin Romances again? Did any of those characters have a heaving bosom? (I understand there are medications for that now.)

    I’ll take Model #3. That tile work behind Model #6 is making me nauseous.


  3. I don’t read fiction.
    I have a few old gay fictiony things, Faggots, Dancer From the Dance, etc. that I read back then and then decided to write my own stories which means I got dressed, went out and got laid.

    3/4s of the way through Harvey Fierstein’s memoir, it’s lovely.


  4. I read a couple last year about gay couples – one was by Graham Norton – it was okay. The other was awful – the plot was just absurd.
    I am currently having a bad reading run – just at a time when I really need something absorbing to get my teeth into. I hope you have better luck with your next book.


  5. There was a saucy book proudly displayed in a book shop window in my village Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart it showed a picture of two young lads kissing, it aroused my interest but not enough to fork out £16 for what could be a load of old crap.


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