Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir Mitchell
K.M. Soehnlein is not an author you find often around on the blog circus, but he is "silently" climbling all the best LGBT novels list with his "The World of Normal Boys", winner of the Lambda Award for Gay Men’s Fiction. And he is now out with a new book, Robin and Ruby, just released at the end of March with Kensington Books. Plus "The World of Normal Boys" is in working phase to become a movie script. An impressive list of achievements, and so I'm really glad to host Karl today on my LiveJournal as Inside Reader
Top Ten Gay Books, K.M. Soehnlein, For Elisa Rolle, March 2010 1) The Boys on the Rock by John Fox. You always remember your first love, and for me, John Fox’s coming of age novel was it. First-person adolescent narrators get compared to Holden Caulfield all the time, but Fox’s Billy Connors is one of the few who actually lives up to the praise. Set during the summer of ’68 (the guy Billy falls in love with is campaigning for Bobby Kennedy), this book buzzes with energy of the era right before gay liberation, when change was in the air but not yet a guarantee. Halfway through the book Billy tells the reader, “Maybe I’ll rewrite all this and unscramble everything and take out all the lies.” A narrator admitting half of what he says had been a lie—that was a revelation, and when I read it at the age of 20, it felt like model for truthful living. Related reading: Fox died before he published another book—a loss for gay literature—but if you can track down the 1985 anthology First Love/Last Love: New Fiction from Christopher Street, you’ll find two of his short stories inside.
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (January 15, 1994)
Publisher Link: http://us.macmillan.com/theboysontherock
Amazon: The Boys on the Rock
Written with uncanny precision and wild humor, this is the story of Billy Connors, high school student in the Bronx, member of the swim team, and all-around regular guy, who in his sixteenth year has to face the fact that he's a little different from everyone else, a little "weird." Though he's sort of going steady with a girl and popular at school, he's always worried that the secret fantasies he has about men would set him apart and make him "different" if anyone knew about them. How Billy faces up to himself-and his friends-as he discovers the complexities of life, the exuberance of sex, and what it means to be an adult in our imperfect world, makes for a touching, wise, and very moving novel. 2) The Beautiful Room is Empty by Edmund White. Edmund White has always mixed the highbrow with the lowlife, the backroom with the salon, in books that are intelligent, frank, outspoken, and not politically correct. He strikes me as someone who has been a lightning rod for readers, who seem to love to pick his opinions apart, even though sentence for sentence, I think he writes better than almost anyone else today. This novel—the follow-up to A Boy’s Own Story—is the one of his I treasure the most. His autobiographical narrator wallows in self-loathing (including some painfully funny therapy sessions with a completely useless analyst) even as he’s having loads of covert sex (in men’s rooms everywhere), all the while inching toward self-definition. It’s a fearless portrait of the middle-class repressiveness that the ’60s obliterated. The novel ends at Stonewall. By the time you get there, you’re ready for a revolution. Related reading: In his memoir My Lives, he covers some of the same ground, but as nonfiction. It makes for a fascinating comparison.
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Vintage (October 4, 1994)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780679755401
Amazon: The Beautiful Room is Empty
When the narrator of White's poised yet scalding autobiographical novel first embarks on his sexual odyssey, it is the 1950s, and America is "a big gray country of families on drowsy holiday." That country has no room for a scholarly teenager with guilty but insatiable stirrings toward other men. Moving from a Midwestern college to the Stonewall Tavern on the night of the first gay uprising--and populated by eloquent queens, butch poseurs, and a fearfully incompetent shrink--The Beautiful Room is Empty conflates the acts of coming out and coming of age. "With intelligence, candor, humor--and anger--White explores the most insidious aspects of oppression.... An impressive novel."--Washington Post book World ( Collapse ) If I’d had room for ten more titles: Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg; Old Rosa by Reinaldo Arenas; Horse Crazy by Gary Indiana; Aquamarine by Carol Anshaw; Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran; The Hours by Michael Cunningham; Querelle by Jean Genet; Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim; Queer by William Burroughs; The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin. About K.M. Soehnlein:
K.M. Soehnlein is the author of The World of Normal Boys, winner of the Lambda Award for Gay Men’s Fiction; You Can Say You Knew Me When, praised by The L.A. Times’s Regina Marler as “a dense, enjoyable read, like one of those famed Beat road trips: pedal to the metal until the next inspired digression”; and the forthcoming Robin and Ruby, a sequel to The World of Normal Boys set during one eventful weekend in the summer of 1985.
His stories and essays have appeared in the anthologies Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys; Boys to Men: Gay Men Write About Growing Up; Love, Castro Street; and Bookmark Now. His journalism has appeared in Out, The Village Voice, San Francisco Magazine and more.
The World of Normal Boys is currently in development with Telling Pictures, the production company of Oscar-winners Rob Epsteing and Jeffrey Friedman (co-directors of the upcoming Howl, starring James Franco). Soehnlein has been tapped to adapt his novel for the screen.
Raised in New Jersey, K.M. Soehnlein now lives in San Francisco, where he teaches at the University of San Francisco and enjoys life with his husband, Kevin Clarke.
Robin and Ruby by K.M. Soehnlein
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington (March 30, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/finditem.cfm?itemid=16460
Amazon: Robin and Ruby
In his award-winning bestseller The World of Normal Boys, K.M. Soehnlein introduced readers to the richly compelling voice of teenager Robin MacKenzie. In Robin and Ruby, he revisits Robin and his younger sister, masterfully depicting the turbulence of the mid-1980s—and that fleeting time between youth and adulthood, when everything we will become can be shaped by one unforgettable weekend.
At twenty-years-old, Robin MacKenzie is waiting for his life to start. Waiting until his summer working at a Philly restaurant is over and he’s back with his boyfriend Peter…until the spring semester when he’ll travel to London for an acting program…until the moment when the confidence he fakes starts to feel real.
Then, one hot June weekend, Robin gets dumped by his boyfriend and quickly hits the road with his best friend George to find his teenaged sister, Ruby, who’s vanished from a party at the Jersey Shore. For years, his friendship with George has been the most solid thing in Robin’s life. But lately there are glimpses of another George, someone Robin barely knows and can no longer take for granted.
Ruby is on an adventure of her own, dressing in black, declaring herself an atheist, pulling away from the boyfriend she doesn’t love—not the way she loves the bands whose fractured songs are the soundtrack to her life. Then a chance encounter puts Ruby in pursuit of a seductive but troubled boy who might be the key to her happiness, or a disaster waiting to happen.
As their paths converge, Robin and Ruby confront the sadness of their shared past and rebuild the bonds that still run deep. In prose that is lyrical, compulsively readable, and exquisitely honest, K.M. Soehnlein brilliantly captures a family redefining itself and explores those moments common to us all—when freedom bumps up against responsibility, when sex blurs the line between friendship and love, and when what you stand for becomes more important than who you were raised to be.