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The Inside Reader: Jameson Currier

Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir Mitchell
I have already told before, the Inside Reader is my favorite serial, not only for once, someone else is sharing their preferences on books, but also it gives people the chance to know a bit more authors and their mind and heart: Tell me what you read and I will tell you who you are. But lately I have the feeling that my LiveJournal is too such a small thing for the lists it hosts; authors write lists that are so important and deep, that I really think this place is too humble to contain them. Like for Jameson Currier: I really feel honored to host him today; Jameson Currier's list is not simple a "list of preferences", I think it's a part of his life.

Jameson Currier's Inside Reader List

1) “Michael Tolliver Lives” by Armistead Maupin. Back in the late 1970s a friend gave me a copy of Armistead Maupin’s novel “Tales of the City”, which set me onto a course of coming out as a gay man and writing about gay lives. As I made my way through other gay books by other gay writers, I also made my way through Maupin’s thrilling six-volume odyssey of his family of queer characters at 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco. These books were lent to friends and passed along to other friends, who lent them to other friends. There were phone calls and discussions at bars and dinner parties on which book we liked best and what character was our favorite. The series ended in 1989, with Michael “Mouse” Tolliver HIV-positive, and in 1989 many of us believed that this was not a good sign; within the eleven-year publishing period of “Tales of the City” and its sequels, life in the gay community had significantly changed because of the impact of AIDS. “Michael Tolliver Lives”, published in 2007, reunites us with Michael almost two decades later, now approaching 55, buoyed by a drug cocktail and “glad to belong to this sweet confederacy of survivors.” This book made me burst into tears of joy — a rare feat. Written in the first person — from Michael’s point of view — “Michael Tolliver Lives” at times feels more like a memoir than a novel to me, perhaps because I harbor the belief that Mouse is an old friend I haven’t heard from in a while (and delighted to find is still around). I could not put this book down, tugged by the glow and melodrama of memories — both Maupin’s and my own.

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 20, 2008)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780060761356/Michael_Tolliver_Lives/index.aspx
ISBN-10: 0060761369
ISBN-13: 978-0060761363
Amazon: Michael Tolliver Lives

Michael Tolliver, the sweet-spirited Southerner in Armistead Maupin's classic Tales of the City series, is arguably one of the most widely loved characters in contem-porary fiction. Now, almost twenty years after ending his ground-breaking saga of San Francisco life, Maupin revisits his all-too-human hero, letting the fifty-five-year-old gardener tell his story in his own voice. Having survived the plague that took so many of his friends and lovers, Michael has learned to embrace the random pleasures of life, the tender alliances that sustain him in the hardest of times. Michael Tolliver Lives follows its protagonist as he finds love with a younger man, attends to his dying fundamentalist mother in Florida, and finally reaffirms his allegiance to a wise octogenarian who was once his landlady. Though this is a stand-alone novel—accessible to fans of Tales of the City and new readers alike—a reassuring number of familiar faces appear along the way. As usual, the author's mordant wit and ear for pitch-perfect dialogue serve every aspect of the story—from the bawdy to the bittersweet. Michael Tolliver Lives is a novel about the act of growing older joyfully and the everyday miracles that somehow make that possible.

2) “Eighty-Sixed” by David B. Feinberg and “What I Did Wrong” by John Weir. I owe a big debt of gratitude to David Feinberg for being instrumental in my finding a publisher for my first collection of short stories, “Dancing on the Moon”. Back in the mid-1980s David and I were in a writing group together and I had the chance to read the manuscript of his novel, “Eighty-Sixed”, as he was writing it, about an urban gay man’s lovers and friends pre-AIDS and post-AIDS, embellished with David’s biting humor and irony. Anyone wanting to get a sample of David’s wicked and insightful wit should start here, but equally as good are his subsequent stories and essays that can be found in “Spontaneous Combustion” and “Queer and Loathing”, even as they progressively become sharper and angrier as David’s health deteriorated due to AIDS. I also recommend John Weir’s novel “What I Did Wrong” published in 2006. “What I Did Wrong” captures David with uncanny precision in the character of Zack, but it also vividly captured the narrator Tom’s grief and imbalance following Zack’s death. Tom’s “lost boy adrift” sort of life mirrors the lasting affect that AIDS has had on friends and survivors — in a way that doesn’t go away with aging and the passing of years. This is also a deeply felt book about having a New York relationship and the experiences of a certain generation living in the city, in the same way that “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “Bright Lights, Big City” or “Slaves of New York” are about New York experiences. This was a profoundly good and satisfying read for me; in many passages of this novel Weir’s prose is stellar and lush, particularly in its last, glorious paragraphs.

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Grove Press (July 12, 2002)
Publisher Link: http://www.groveatlantic.com/#page=isbn9780802139023%20
ISBN-10: 0802139027
ISBN-13: 978-0802139023
Amazon: Eighty-Sixed

"Wickedly fun . . . [Eighty-Sixed] stands out for its frankness, ferocious wit and total lack of sentimentality or self-pity. . . . A harrowing first-person account of gay life in the age of AIDS."—The New York Times Book Review

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (February 27, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0143038796
ISBN-13: 978-0143038795
Amazon: What I Did Wrong

When John Weir’s debut novel, The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket, was published in the late 1980s, it was immediately recognized by critics across the country as one of the most perceptive, unsentimental, and beautifully written accounts of the political and emotional consequences of AIDS on both individuals and a community. In What I Did Wrong, his long-awaited second novel, Weir has written another powerfully moving—and often disarmingly funny—book about loss, character, and sexuality in the post-AIDS era, a survivor’s tale in an age when all the certainties have lost their logic and focus.

3) “The Swimming-Pool Library” by Alan Hollinghurst. I sometimes pull down from my shelves a favorite book that I had read years before—sometimes for enjoyment, sometimes to study an author’s technique. I recently had the joy of rediscovering Alan Hollinghurst’s “The Swimming-Pool Library”, about London’s underground gay community in the 1980s. When I first read the book in 1989 I was awed by the author’s prose style and his unabashed depiction of gay life. It was a marvelously sexy book and it was just as magnificent in my re-reading of it.

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Vintage (September 19, 1989)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780679722564
ISBN-10: 0679722564
ISBN-13: 978-0679722564
Amazon: The Swimming- Pool Library

A literary sensation and bestseller both in England and America, The Swimming-Pool Library is an enthralling, darkly erotic novel of homosexuality before the scourge of AIDS; an elegy, possessed of chilling clarity, for ways of life that can no longer be lived with impunity. "Impeccably composed and meticulously particular in its observation of everything" (Harpers & Queen), it focuses on the friendship of two men: William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, an old Africa hand, searching for someone to write his biography and inherit his traditions.

4) “Dry” by Augusten Burroughs. I did a lot of drinking in order to finish the manuscript of my most recent novel, “The Wolf at the Door”, in part, because the narrator heavily imbibes in order to survive his chaotic job at a guesthouse in New Orleans where he imagines he is seeing ghosts and angels and all sorts of oddities. Augusten Burrough’s memoir “Dry” is all about the author’s zeal to quench his addictive behavior with the bottle. It’s superbly crafted, full of angst and wit, particularly as the author seeks to remain sober and avoid a romance with an overly handsome crack addict. Another book readers might want to explore is Charles Jackson’s 1944 novel “The Lost Weekend”, about a man who cannot let go of his desire to drink. And note: all of the gay material in the novel was excised when it became the Oscar winning film.

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Picador (April 1, 2004)
Publisher Link: http://us.macmillan.com/dry
ISBN-10: 0312423799
ISBN-13: 978-0312423797
Amazon: Dry

From the bestselling author of Running with Scissors comes Dry—the hilarious, moving, and no less bizarre account of what happened next. You may not know it, but you've met Augusten Burroughs. You've seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twenty-something guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary. But when the ordinary person had to drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all. Loud, distracting ties, automated wake-up calls, and cologne on the tongue could only hide so much for so long. At the request (well, it wasn't really a request) of his employers, Augusten landed in rehab, where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey, Jr., are immediately dashed by the grim reality of fluorescent lighting and paper hospital slippers. But when Augusten is forced to examine himself, something actually starts to click, and that's when he finds himself in the worst trouble of all. Because when his thirty days are up, he has to return to his same drunken Manhattan life—and live it sober. What follows is a memoir that's as moving as it is funny, as heartbreaking as it is real. Dry is the story of love, loss, and Starbucks as a higher power.

5) “I Look Divine” by Christopher Coe. I wrote a long piece on Christopher Coe’s memorable AIDS-themed novel “Such Times” for Tom Cardamone’s new book “The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered”, but equally as good and as favorite is Coe’s short novel “I Look Divine”, published in 1987, a witty and luminous portrait of a rich, gifted, über narcissistic gay man who believed he was exceptional from the moment of his birth. Jet-setting across the affluent and au courant landscapes of Rome, Madrid, Mexico, and Manhattan, “I Look Divine” recounts the tragedy of Nicholas, the divinely sophisticated “affected creature” of the title, and his swift downfall when he realizes that aging has erased both his youth and beauty. As narrated by his older brother in a cleverly succinct manner, Nicholas’s life was marvelous and stylish right up to its end.

Paperback: 109 pages
Publisher: Vintage (December 24, 1988)
ISBN-10: 0394759958
ISBN-13: 978-0394759951
Amazon: I Look Divine

Nicholas, a self-absorbed, narcissistic young man who feels he has been exceptional from the moment of his birth, succumbs to age despite countless preventive ministrations. "Sensual, mocking and deadly serious, this first novel casts a long shadow." --PW.

6) “Chronicle of a Plague, Revisited: AIDS and Its Aftermath” by Andrew Holleran. Many of these essays first appeared in the 1980s in “Christopher Street” magazine, the gay literary equivalent of “The New Yorker”, and were first collected in the Holleran’s book “Ground Zero”, published in 1988. The impact of these essays on both my writing and my personal life cannot be overlooked. Holleran wrote of visits to hospitals to see sick friends, attending funerals, memorials, and wakes, and discovering his present-day life as a sequence of memories. Holleran captured best what many other gay writers seemed to ignore or avoid when writing about the plague (if they wrote about it at all) — the fear and the denial of the times. He also depicted a gay metropolis at change: unruly, nervous, frightened, suspicious, and angry. Still, what rose to the surface of those grim, beautifully-executed essays was his firm portrayal of gay men and their friendships and how important they were to each other in the course of these trying and uncertain times. Also recommended: “In September, the Light Changes”, Holleran’s short story collection, and “Grief”, his most recent novel.

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press Ed edition (May 13, 2008)
Publisher Link: http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/dacapo/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0786720395
ISBN-10: 0786720395
ISBN-13: 978-0786720392
Amazon: Chronicle of a Plague, Revisited: AIDS and Its Aftermath

Andrew Holleran’s Ground Zero, first published in 1988 and consisting of 23 Christopher Street essays from the earliest years of the AIDS crisis, was hailed by the Washington Post as “one of the best dispatches from the epidemic’s height.” Twenty years later, with HIV/AIDS long recognized as a global health challenge, Holleran both reiterates and freshly illuminates the devastation wreaked by AIDS, which has claimed the lives of 450,000 gay men as well as 22 million others. Chronicle of a Plague, Revisited features ten pieces never previously republished outside Christopher Street, as well as a new introduction keenly describing and evaluating a historical moment that still informs and defines today’s world-particularly its community of homosexuals, which, arguably, is still recovering from the devastation of AIDS.

7) “The Object of My Affection” by Stephen McCauley. In many respects Stephen McCauley’s charming novel, first published in 1987, could be seen as the precursor to the entire genre of urban gay romance. George is a gay kindergarten teacher trying to get over an ex-boyfriend and living with Nina, a single, pregnant woman. I think this book continues to deserve all of its many fans. McCauley’s subsequent novels are equally as delightful, and I am eagerly waiting to read his newest one, “Insignificant Others”.

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Washington Square Press (March 15, 1991)
Publisher Link: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Object-of-My-Affection/Stephen-McCauley/9780671743505
ISBN-10: 0671743503
ISBN-13: 978-0671743505
Amazon: The Object of My Affection

George and Nina seem like the perfect couple. They share a cozy, cluttered Brooklyn apartment, a taste for impromptu tuna casserole dinners, and a devotion to ballroom dancing lessons at Arthur Murray. They love each other. There's only one hitch: George is gay. And when Nina announces she's pregnant, things get especially complicated. Howard -- Nina's overbearing boyfriend and the baby's father -- wants marriage. Nina wants independence. George will do anything for a little unqualified affection, but is he ready to become an unwed surrogate dad? A touching and hilarious novel about love, friendship, and the many ways of making a family.

8) “The Club of Angels” by Luis Fernando Verissimo and translated by Margaret Jull Costa. A rare and wonderfully barbaric story of The Beef Stew Club, a collection of middle-aged gourmands who meet each month to indulge in extravagant dinners. After the death of their leader, a new member appears almost magically to take his place. The elusive Lucidio is a remarkable cook but after each of his meals, one member of the club dies. This swift and acidic portrait of a (literally) poisoned network of friendships has a bite that endures because of the great intelligence underlying it. A short terrific mystery for those who enjoy “whydunnits.”

Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: New Directions (June 17, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0811217558
ISBN-13: 978-0811217552
Amazon: The Club of Angels

A literary mystery about cooking and gourmands by one of Brazil's most popular authors. The Club of Angels is an irresistible, enticing book about the sin of gluttony. With wit and dark humor, Verissimo tells the story of ten well-to-do men who meet every month to dine fabulously. When their leader and chef dies of AIDS, he is replaced by a mysterious, strangely taciturn cook who gives them gastronomic experiences to die for!

9) “Philistines at the Hedgerow” by Steven Gaines. I have a great fondness for gay history books such as George Chauncey’s “Gay New York” and Charles Kaiser’s “The Gay Metropolis”, particularly when they bring to light forgotten or overlooked pieces of gay history, such as stories of the Harlem drag balls and YMCA’s as being important gay spaces. “Philistines at the Hedgerow” is not that sort of a gay history book, however; it’s a look at how the Hamptons became the playground of the rich and celebrated, though there are plenty of notable gay moments entwined within this evolution of the south end of Long Island. I particularly loved the chapters on the artist Alfonso Ossorio and his dancer-companion Ted Dragon, who owned and lived at the waterfront property known as The Creeks, before it was sold to Revlon billionaire Ron Perlman. Ossorio and Dragon were also good friends and early champions of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. The last time I re-read this book, I re-watched the movie “Pollock” to see how they were depicted — but that was a disappointment, because they are barely in it.

Paperback: 326 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1st Back Bay Books Ed edition (May 6, 1999)
Publisher Link: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/books_9780316309073.htm
ISBN-10: 0316309079
ISBN-13: 978-0316309073
Amazon: Philistines at the Hedgerow

A quirky cast of eccentrics vies for a slice of the Hamptons--on land still inhabited by families that have farmed and fished the regions for generations.

10) “The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet” by Myrlin A. Hermes. This novel was also a manuscript that I got an early peak at as a judge of the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation annual competition, which gave the author a first prize award for her novel. It’s a re-imagination of Hamlet as a gay man caught in a love triangle and it is beautifully crafted and cleverly revisits many of Shakespeare’s favorite characters and memorable lines. I highly recommend this original read whether or not you have a passion for the Bard.

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (January 26, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780061805196/The_Lunatic_the_Lover_and_the_Poet/index.aspx
ISBN-10: 006180519X
ISBN-13: 978-0061805196
Amazon: The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet

A Divinity scholar at Wittenberg University, Horatio prides himself on his ability to argue both sides of any intellectual debate but is himself a skeptic, never fully believing in any philosophy. That is, until he meets the outrageous, provocative, and flamboyantly beautiful Prince of Denmark, who teaches him more about both Earth and Heaven than any of his books. But Hamlet is also irrationally haunted by intimations of a tragic destiny he believes is preordained. When a freelance translation job turns into a full-scale theatrical production, Horatio arranges for the theater-loving prince to act in the play-disguised as the heroine! This attracts the attention of Horatio′s patroness, the dark and manipulative Lady Adriana. A voracious and astute reader of both books and people, she performs her own seductions to test whether the "platonic true-love" described in his poems is truly so platonic. But when a mysterious rival poet calling himself "Will Shake-speare" begins to court both Prince Hamlet and his Dark Lady, Horatio is forced to choose between his skepticism and his love. Laced with quotes, references, and in-jokes, cross-dressing, bed-tricks, mistaken identity, and a bisexual love-triangle inspired by Shakespeare′s own sonnets, this novel upends everything you thought you knew about Hamlet. Witty, insightful, playful, and truly wise about the greatest works of the Bard, THE LUNATIC, THE LOVER, AND THE POET is a delectable treat for people that have loved books like Stephen Greenblatt′s WILL IN THE WORLD and John Updike′s GERTRUDE AND CLAUDIUS.

About Jameson Currier: Jameson Currier is the author of two novels, Where the Rainbow Ends, nominated for a Lambda Literary award, and The Wolf at the Door, and four collections of short fiction: Dancing on the Moon; Desire, Lust, Passion, Sex; Still Dancing: New and Selected Stories; and The Haunted Heart and Other Tales, which was awarded a Black Quill Award for Best Dark Genre Fiction Collection.

His short fiction has appeared in many literary magazines and Web sites, including OutsiderInk, Velvet Mafia, Blithe House Quarterly, Absinthe Literary Review, Confrontation, Rainbow Curve, Christopher Street, Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly, and the anthologies Men on Men 5, Best American Gay Fiction 3, Certain Voices, Boyfriends from Hell, Men Seeking Men, Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best American Erotica, Best Gay Romance, Best Gay Stories, Circa 2000, Rebel Yell, I Do/I Don't, Where the Boys Are, Nine Hundred & Sixty-Nine, Wilde Stories, Unspeakable Horror, and Making Literature Matter.

His AIDS-themed short stories have also been translated into French by Anne-Laure Hubert and published as Les Fantômes.

His reviews, essays, interviews, and articles on AIDS and gay culture have been published in many national and local publications, including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Dallas Morning News, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, Lambda Book Report, The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review, Dallas Voice, The Washington Blade, Southern Voice, Metrosource, Bay Area Reporter, Frontiers, Ten Percent, The New York Native, The New York Blade, Out, and Body Positive.

He currently resides in Manhattan.

The Wolf at the Door by Jameson Currier
Paperback: 282 pages
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions (April 1, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://www.chelseastationeditions.com/id1.html
ISBN-10: 0984470700
ISBN-13: 978-0984470709
Amazon: The Wolf at the Door

Ghosts? Angels? Hallucinations?

When a death occurs at Le Petite Paradis, a guesthouse in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the spirit world becomes unsettled, or so Avery Greene Dalyrymple III, the co-owner believes. The son and grandson of Southern evangelists, Avery is also an overworked and overwrought middle-aged gay man, a cynical “big-time drinker and sinner” fairly certain he can maintain a family of “other deviants and delinquents stumbling along Bourbon Street” to keep him company.

But Avery is also the only person in contact with the spirit world on his property—ghosts from the house’s origins during the 1820s—and he must use the history left behind from another ghost—a gay man from the 1970s—to find a way to restore peace to his household and rejuvenate his faith.

“Currier is one of the few writers who can be equally literary, erotic, dramatic and damn funny, sometimes all in the same sentence.” --Sean Meriwether, The Silent Hustler

"I love, love, love this book and I love New Orleans and I love Jameson Currier’s skill. Put that all together and you have one 'helluva' read." --Amos Lassen, Eureka Pride

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