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The Inside Reader: David Pratt

Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir Mitchell

I have David's new book in my reading list and I will try to read it as soon as possible. I'm now even more eager to do that since David's Inside Reader List is one of the most interesting and original I have posted till now. David came by introduction of Jameson Currier, they share the same publisher, and I think the same coffee table here and there... I would love to be able to join them sometime, for now I will please myself by "hosting" David on my LiveJournal.

David Pratt's Inside Reader List

David Pratt's first novel,
Bob the Book, is published by Chelsea Station Editions in New York. He has published short fiction in Christopher Street, The James White Review, Blithe House Quarterly, Velvet Mafia, Harrington Gay Men's Fiction Quarterly, Lode-star Quarterly, and other periodicals, and in the anthologies His3, Men Seeking Men, and Freshmen 2. He has directed and performed his own work for the stage in New York at Dixon Place, The Cornelia Street Cafe, HERE Arts Center, the Dramatists Guild, the Flea Theater, and in the eighth New York International Fringe Festival in 2004. Below, ten favorite queer books, in no special order.

1.) Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
- Arrestingly plainspoken, deeply felt, passionate, heartbreaking, and yet profoundly consoling and hopeful. This book is also proof that not every novel now has to come out of a workshop or from someone with an MFA in Creative Writing. One shudders to think how a workshop might have sapped Feinberg's vision and passion. But we need not worry: s/he had the good sense to avoid it, and hir novel is better for it.

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books (April 1, 2004)
Publisher Link: Stone Butch Blues
ISBN-10: 1555838537
ISBN-13: 978-1555838539
Amazon: Stone Butch Blues

Published in 1993, this brave, original novel is considered to be the finest account ever written of the complexities of a transgendered existence. Woman or man? That's the question that rages like a storm around Jess Goldberg, clouding her life and her identity. Growing up differently gendered in a blue--collar town in the 1950's, coming out as a butch in the bars and factories of the prefeminist '60s, deciding to pass as a man in order to survive when she is left without work or a community in the early '70s. This powerful, provocative and deeply moving novel sees Jess coming full circle, she learns to accept the complexities of being a transgendered person in a world demanding simple explanations: a he-she emerging whole, weathering the turbulence. Leslie Feinberg is also the author of Trans Liberation, Trans Gender Warriors and Transgender Liberation, and is a noted activist and speaker on transgender issues.

2.) The Best Little Boy in the World by John Reid - My first "openly gay" book, and such a wonderful throwback. Good, old-fashioned self-hatred and inhibition are allowed, and it was even published under a pen name. ("John Reid" turned out to be finance guru and journalist Andrew Tobias.) And it's all so WASP-y, like me! Still closeted, I was scanning the shelves in a friend's apartment, and the second I saw the title The Best Little Boy in the World, I knew what it had to be about: the paralysis, the image-managing, always trying to say the right thing and do one's duty. And while we East Coast urbanites may think "all that's changed" for young gay men in 2010, it hasn't changed for any but the most privileged. (Not even: how privileged is Ken Mehlman?) I have not re-read Best Little Boy in years, but I am sure that today, 37 years after publication, it is still dead-on in terms of feelings.

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 11, 1993)
Publisher Link: The Best Little Boy in the World
ISBN-10: 0345381769
ISBN-13: 978-0345381767
Amazon: The Best Little Boy in the World

The classic account of growing up gay in America. "The best little boy in the world never had wet dreams or masturbated; he always topped his class, honored mom and dad, deferred to elders and excelled in sports . . . . The best little boy in the world was . . . the model IBM exec . . . The best little boy in the world was a closet case who 'never read anything about homosexuality.' . . . John Reid comes out slowly, hilariously, brilliantly. One reads this utterly honest account with the shock of recognition." The New York Times. "The quality of this book is fantastic because it comes of equal parts honesty and logic and humor. It is far from being the story of a Gay crusader, nor is it the story of a closet queen. It is the story of a normal boy growing into maturity without managing to get raped into, or taunted because of, his homosexuality. . . . He is bright enough to be aware of his hangups and the reasons for them. And he writes well enough that he doesn't resort to sensationalism . . . ." San Francisco Bay Area Reporter

3.) Collected Stories by Tennessee Williams - I am not a fan of Williams's plays (though Streetcar and Glass Menagerie deserve their place in the canon), but practically every one of these stories, even earlier, more derivative ones, is a gem. Some anticipate certain Williams plays; some are actual sketches for plays-to-be. All are superbly, confidently written and compulsively readable. They don't make 'em like this anymore!

Paperback: 602 pages
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation (May 1994)
Publisher Link: Collected Stories - Tennessee Williams
ISBN-10: 0811212696
ISBN-13: 978-0811212694
Amazon: Collected-Stories - Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams was famous for insisting he write every morning. Even during his darkest days, while mourning a lover, or abusing some substance -- and he abused most of them at one time or another -- he'd write. The stories in this volume, arranged chronologically, are from every period of his long life, and recreate the milieux Williams knew and chronicled so movingly -- from his gypsy youth in St. Louis and New Orleans to his days of celebrity in Hollywood and New York. Some are studies for his plays, and like them, their language can suddenly surprise you with a poetic image that shines like a jewel. This edition includes a useful publishing history for each of the fifty stories. "One overpowering impression emerges from all these stories put together: Tennessee Williams knew more about the hidden life of far-flung America than any of us really suspected." -- Seymour Krim, Washington Post Book World. "By turns disturbing, moving, and funny; these stories help amplify Williams's tragic vision, for like the plays, they underline his preoccupation and insight into the conflicts of the human heart."
-- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

4.) The Art Lover by Carole Maso - Pomo and metafictional but effortlessly so, without pretense. The narrator is caring for a male friend dying of AIDS, but we also hear the voice of "Carole Maso," the novelist struggling to tell the story, as well as an interpolated scrapbook of everyday NYC imagery, including hand-lettered signs and the charts of the night sky the Times used to publish. It is all seamless and tender and powerful. No one else's take on the age of AIDS sounds (or looks) like The Art Lover, and yet Maso assembles it all so naturally that, after a few pages and a few star charts, you wonder why every novel can't be like this.

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: New Directions (June 30, 2006)
Publisher Link: The Art Lover
ISBN-10: 0811216292
ISBN-13: 978-0811216296
Amazon: The Art Lover

While her father and best friend are dying, a young American woman tries to find the limits of love and the power of art in the face of the inevitable. What is the power of art in the face of death? In The Art Lover Carole Maso has created an elegant and moving narrative about a woman experiencing (and reliving) the most painful transitions of her life. Caroline, the novel's protagonist, returns to New York after the death of her father—ostensibly to wrap things up and take care of necessary "business"—where her memory and imagination conspire to lay before her all her griefs and joys in a rebellious progression. In different voices, employing a collage-like fragmentation, Maso gently unfolds The Art Lover in much the same way the fragile and prehistoric fiddlehead fern unfolds throughout the novel, bringing with subtle grace the ever-entangled feelings of grief and love into full and tender view. Various illustrations throughout.

5.) Macho Sluts by Pat Califia (aka Patrick Califia, aka Patrick Califia-Rice) - The idea of participating in hard core SM does little for me, but that hardly mattered to my enjoyment of Califia's book. He (the proper pronoun for Califia, as opposed to "s/he" for Feinberg) and his characters are so joyful and uninhibited and polysexual, I couldn't help but be transported right along with them. One might not think one's first word for an SM author would be "big-hearted," but Califia is. Macho Sluts will inspire you go out and transcend your boundaries, whatever they are and in whatever direction you dream of taking them.

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press (September 1, 2009)
Publisher Link: Macho Sluts
ISBN-10: 1551522608
ISBN-13: 978-1551522609
Amazon: Macho Sluts

When it was first published in 1988, Patrick Califia's Macho Sluts, a collection of S/M stories set in San Francisco's dyke bathhouses, sex parties, and S/M gay bars, shocked the lesbian community and caused an upheaval in the field of queer publishing. Nobody had ever written so frankly about the kinky potential of woman-to-woman sex (and nobody has ever done it any better). If any book is responsible for the formation of the modern lesbian leather community, this one is it. Despite its graceful language, imaginative scenarios, and abundant humor, the lesbian press trashed Macho Sluts, and it became a focal point for the infamous legal battles between Canada Customs and Little Sister's, the gay and lesbian bookstore. But readers loved it, and to this day Macho Sluts remains a vital and moving classic that still has the power to educate, radicalize, and expand our notions of the body's potential to provide us with pleasure, pain, and love. This new edition, part of Arsenal Pulp Press' Little Sister's Classics series resurrecting classics of LGBT literature, includes a new afterword by the author, and an introduction by Wendy Chapkis, a professor of sociology and women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. Patrick Califia has written many books about radical sex, queer communities, and the repression of desire. Almost ten years ago, Califia transitioned from female to male; he now lives as a bisexual transman in San Francisco.

6.) for colored girls who have considered suicide... when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange - Here is one reason I call my list "favorite queer books" instead of "favorite gay books": I find no mention that Shange is definitely a lesbian, yet the squarely feminist point of view and transgressive content of for colored girls - women leave men, men kill children - make it "queer" in my book. Who could forget Trezana Beverly experiencing the loss of her baby in the original production? But if the lack of explicit queer content means I can't include for colored girls, I will substitute Pat Parker's Movement in Black, with this caveat: like Shange's work but even moreso, Parker's cycle of poems should not be read in a favorite armchair but shouted from a rooftop. Or at least a stage. With choreography.

Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Scribner (September 1, 1997)
Publisher Link: for colored girls
ISBN-10: 0684843269
ISBN-13: 978-0684843261
Amazon: for colored girls

From its inception in California in 1974 to its highly acclaimed critical success at Joseph Papp's Public Theater and on Broadway, the Obie Award-winning for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has excited, inspired, and transformed audiences all over the country. Passionate and fearless, Shange's words reveal what it is to be of color and female in the twentieth century. First published in 1975 when it was praised by The New Yorker for "encompassing...every feeling and experience a woman has ever had," for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf will be read and performed for generations to come. Here is the complete text, with stage directions, of a groundbreaking dramatic prose poem written in vivid and powerful language that resonates with unusual beauty in its fierce message to the world.

Paperback:
208 pages
Publisher: Firebrand (February 1999)
Publisher Link: Movement in Black
ISBN-10: 1563411083
ISBN-13: 978-1563411083
Amazon: Movement in Black

This is the new, expanded edition of a groundbreaking volume of poetry first published in 1978, 11 years before Parker's early death of breast cancer. Based in the Bay Area and steeped in the radical politics of the late 1960s, Parker was the contemporary of Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, and LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka. In her introduction, Cheryl Clarke identifies Parker as a "lead voice and caller" in the lesbian-feminist cultural scene, but chides her for careless editing, as if Parker feared that her vernacular poems would lose their power if she subjected them to cold critique. Her most potent works do rely on an inspired punch line rather than carefully plumed images or language, as in "For Willyce," when she describes making love to a woman:
and your sounds drift down
oh god!
oh jesus!
and i think
here it is, some dude's
getting credit for what
a woman
has done
again.
A distinguished collection, including previously unpublished work and tributes from many of Parker's friends and allies. --Regina Marler

7.) The Other by Thomas Tryon
- The film actor published his first novel in 1971, and it became a mainstream best seller. Pubescent male twins, one good, one evil, pass a lush Connecticut Valley summer in the 1930s, and terrible things start to happen. There are no overtly homosexual scenes, yet the set-up, the obsessive attention to detail, and the elliptical, insinuating tone of The Other speak directly to the gay psyche. The 1972 film, with screenplay by Tryon, contained no hint of homoeroticism and, seeking a PG rating, it minimized the horrors. We need Gregg Araki or Todd Solondz to remake The Other with lots of longing gazes between the twins and a nice close-up of what the evil one does to his sister's baby. (NB: I first read The Other at 14, but had been introduced to the good/evil twin motif years before, by the "Goofus and Gallant" strips in the magazine Highlights for Children. Even then I understood: however hard I tried, I was Goofus and could never be Gallant. That is how the evil half is nurtured, from Milton's Satan to Tryon's Holland Perry.)

Paperback: 290 pages
Publisher: Centipede Press (October 1, 2008)
Publisher Link: The Other ($75; this and other editions are also available second hand.)
ISBN-10: 1933618264
ISBN-13: 978-1933618265
Amazon: The Other

Entranced and terrified, the reader of The Other is swept up in the life of a Connecticut country town in the thirties—and in the fearful mysteries that slowly darken and overwhelm it. Originally published in 1971, The Other is one of the most influential horror novels ever written. Its impeccable recreation of small-town life and its skillful handling of the theme of personality transference between thirteen-year-old twins led to widespread critical acclaim for the novel, which was successfully filmed from Thomas Tryon’s own screenplay. This edition features original artwork by surrealist artist Harry O. Morris.

8.) Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson - The writer Douglas Martin has cited Red as the kind of book that "teaches you how to read itself." A too esoteric concept? Sifting through this lovely, reticent verse novel (I read it twice in a row) certainly teaches one how to read anything more thoroughly, more deeply, and with greater openness. The whole narrative, which ingeniously and effortlessly mixes characters and motifs from Greek mythology with everyday 20th-century life, seems to come from another planet. Yet I instantly recognized my own gay, artistic childhood - which, I admit, also seemed to come from another planet - which I thought no one else understood, let alone could capture with such oblique perfection.

Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Vintage (July 27, 1999)
Publisher Link: Autobiography of Red
ISBN-10: 037570129X
ISBN-13: 978-0375701290
Amazon: Autobiography of Red

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR. National book Critics Circle Award Finalist. "Anne Carson is, for me, the most exciting poet writing in English today."--Michael Ondaatje. "This book is amazing--I haven't discovered any writing in years so marvelously disturbing." --Alice Munro. The award-winning poet Anne Carson reinvents a genre in Autobiography of Red, a stunning work that is both a novel and a poem, both an unconventional re-creation of an ancient Greek myth and a wholly original coming-of-age story set in the present. Geryon, a young boy who is also a winged red monster, reveals the volcanic terrain of his fragile, tormented soul in an autobiography he begins at the age of five. As he grows older, Geryon escapes his abusive brother and affectionate but ineffectual mother, finding solace behind the lens of his camera and in the arms of a young man named Herakles, a cavalier drifter who leaves him at the peak of infatuation. When Herakles reappears years later, Geryon confronts again the pain of his desire and embarks on a journey that will unleash his creative imagination to its fullest extent. By turns whimsical and haunting, erudite and accessible, richly layered and deceptively simple, Autobiography of Red is a profoundly moving portrait of an artist coming to terms with the fantastic accident of who he is. "A profound love story . . . sensuous and funny, poignant, musical and tender."--The New York Times Book Review. "A deeply odd and immensely engaging book. . . . [Carson] exposes with passionate force the mythic underlying the explosive everyday."  --The Village Voice

9.) Father of Frankenstein by Christopher Bram - Bram comes up with the most original, grown-up ideas for novels. In this case, I have to hand it to anyone who uses not the Second but the First World War as the context for their story. On top of that the protagonist is Englishman James Whale, the obscure (until Bram came along) director of Bride of Frankenstein. But this is not insider Hollywood, for showbiz queens only. Who would not be moved by Whale's loneliness and isolation as his career falters, or by the heartbreaking image of England's best and brightest - including the chums of Whale's youth - dead in the trenches while Whale survived in exile in a Hollywood bungalow? All of this is told in vivid, streamlined prose that makes obscure subject matter into the richest, most natural thing in the world. This is also the rare novel that got a top-flight movie treatment, under the title Gods and Monsters.

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Plume (April 1, 1996)
ISBN-10: 0452273374
ISBN-13: 978-0452273375
Amazon: Father of Frankenstein

In 1957, James Whale, the director acclaimed for such classic gothic films as Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, was found floating face-down in the swimming pool of his Hollywood mansion. Here, Christopher Bram brilliantly recreates Whale's last days in this fascinating, astute, and suspenseful novel.

10.) Andorra by Peter Cameron - Talk about a perfect performance - and making it look easy! Cameron never slips, but neither does the book feel too polished or fussed over. It's a relaxed, confident, mature performance, and a daring one: Cameron's Andorra both is and isn't the real Andorra; and the book concludes with a genuine and haunting surprise. Hollywood should be calling. Or better yet, a European director with a very fine eye.

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (April 28, 2009)
Publisher Link: Andorra
ISBN-10: 0312428715
ISBN-13: 978-0312428716
Amazon: Andorra

For mysterious reasons, a man forsakes his American life and arrives in a strange country called Andorra. He settles into the grand--and only--hotel in its seaside capital, and gradually makes the aquaintance of this tiny city's most prominent residents: the ancient Mrs. Reinhardt, who has a lifetime lease on the penthouse in the hotel; Sophonsobia Quay, the kayaking matriarch of an Andorran dynasty; and the Ricky Dents, an Australian couple who share a first name, a gigantic dog, and a volatile secret. As the stranger reveals himself to his new friends, and becomes entangled in their lives, the mystery of his own origin deepens. What is he hiding, and why? And when a mutilated dead body appears in the harbor, everyone is a suspect, including our narrator. Part thriller, part comedy of manners, part surrealistic dream, Andorra is "a work of remarkable and sustained invention and imagination . . . a nearly perfect book" (Robert Drake, The Philadelphia Inquirer).

Rather that list a second group of ten, I want to pay tribute to the explosion of work that the Internet and self-publishing have made available to us. This is a genuine triumph for democracy. I have read self-published work that could have come from a major publish-er. I have also read self-published work that no professional would touch, but that I still was drawn into and that I learned from. If a voice feels compelled to speak, it is worth listening to. I go online for a certain kind of genre story and find a vast archive, meticu-lously organized, some stories running to novel length. The quality varies, as it does in print, but much of the work is as passionate, detailed, imaginative, and involving as anything passed through a publishing house. (Proofreading varies, too, though I read one first person story of adolescent sex made unbearably sweet by the repeated misspelling of the word "semen.") So here's to the books with blank spots on their spines, and here's to the rapidly expanding body of work that exists only as electrons. Long may they wave!

About David Pratt: He has collaborated frequently with Rogerio M. Pinto, and he was the first director of several plays by the Canadian playwright John Mighton. David holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School. 'Bob the Book' is his first novel. He is currently at work on the book of a new musical.

Bob the Book by David Pratt
Paperback: 202 pages
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions; First edition (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984470719
ISBN-13: 978-0984470716
Amazon: Bob the Book

Just what is a 'gay book'? -A book attracted to books of the same gender! Meet 'Bob the Book,' a gay book for sale in a Greenwich Village bookstore, where he falls in love with another book, Moishe. But a freak accident separates the young lovers. As Bob wends his way through used book bins, paper bags, knapsacks, and lecture halls, hoping to be reunited with Moishe, he meets a variety of characters, both book and human, including Angela, a widowed copy of Jane Austen's 'Mansfield Park' and two other separated lovers, Neil and Jerry, near victims of a book burning. Among their owners and readers are Alfred and Duane, whose on-again, off-again relationship unites and separates our book friends. Will Bob find Moishe? Will Jerry and Neil be reunited? Will Alfred and Duane make it work? Read 'Bob the Book' to find all the answers.

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