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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Taking a brief dip into "queer fiction" this week. 
20th-Oct-2005 08:50 am
*studies the list of books that she has read lately* Know what? I think 250-350 pages is the perfect length for a novel. Any shorter, and you risk not covering enough territory. Any longer, and you risk bloat and verbosity. In fact, I aspire to this happy medium in my own writing, and it is arguably the most difficult thing in the world to write the fewest words possible when you've got a heck of a lot to say. No wonder I respect The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and The Hours by Michael Cunningham so much!

*studies her many piles of books* Ah, what to read next...?

Ames, Jonathan. The Extra Man. New York: Scribner, 1998.
Summary: Aspiring young gentleman Louis Ives loses his cushy job as a schoolteacher in Princeton when he is caught trying on a coworker's bra. He then moves to New York City and takes up shack with the elderly and eccentric Henry Harrison, who makes a living as an escort. What ensues is a madcap coming of age story, with Louis frequenting transsexual bars and trying to win the favor of Henry. By the end, Louis has come to terms with his sexuality and may well be coming up in the world, too.
Comments: This is one of those novels, like Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, that should most rightly be called "queer fiction" because it treats gender and sexuality not as bipolar distinctions but as a slippery slope on which an individual can rest anywhere in the continuum. Indeed, Louis learns that his desire FOR women has led to a fetishization OF them--hence the crossdressing. He doesn't want to be a woman per se, as true male-to-female transsexuals do. And then, well, his relationship with Henry is never fully-explained; you get the sense by the end that they are in love with each other, but it's probably platonic. (Still, the scene where Henry dangles his necktie against Louis's navel is quite rewarding after over 300 pages of back and forth banter with little substantive.) I found, unfortunately, that I could not get over Henry's conservative prejudices; his hatred of women, Clinton, homosexuality, and anything that hinted of liberalism really irked me, and I couldn't brush it off as the author did to a bad experience with a woman who broke his heart in his youth. Louis did not agree with Henry's politics at all, but he did not protest--which I would have done in his position. Or just moved out ASAP. Thankfully, he is tremendously sympathetic toward the transsexuals that he meets and sees them as human beings as well as objects of his desire, and you don't often get such sympathetic three-dimensional portrayals of so many unusual bit characters in books. Alas, though this book was billed as a comedy of manners, I found very little laugh-aloud funny in it. Suffice to say that Ames's novel was decent, but it could have been oh-so-much better. I'm sticking with Cal for now.
Notes: trade paperback edition, 3rd printing
Rating: 6/10 - Good but not essential. Seriously consider taking the time only if the subject interests you.
20th-Oct-2005 02:41 pm (UTC)
I was curious, are these all reviews from books you have read recently, or are you reviewing as soon as you finish?
20th-Oct-2005 05:47 pm (UTC)
They're all books I'm read recently, reviewed a shortly after I finish them. They're mostly so that I remember. I cleaned up the format recently so that it was easier for *other* people to understand them.
29th-Oct-2005 10:16 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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