May 21st, 2010

andrew potter

The Inside Reader: Vincent Virga

Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir Mitchell
More or less four years ago, when this LiveJournal page didn't exist and I was blogging in an Italian romance blog, at the very beginning of my experience with the Gay Romance genre, I stumbled upon this title, Gaywyck, and a name, Vincent Virga. Both, title and name, were intriguing, they had a fashionable and charming sound, and I wanted to read it. Pity that the book was out of stock, and since I live in Italy, it was not easy to find it. So you can imagine how happy I was to discover that not only Vincent Virga decided to re-print the novel, but he is also planning to release two other books in the same series. Of course, I had to contact him, but I was really not expecting an answer, even less for Vincent Virga to agree to be an Inside Reader. You can easily understand how glad I'm to host him today: as you will read, someone told him that writing a list of your favorite books is like writing an autobiography, and so it was for Mr Virga, who filled this list with his life and love (the piece on Maurice? it's like a little story just like that, I can really see Mr Virga taking the book from the shelf and loosing himself in happy memories). Please welcome Vincent Virga and enjoy his list, I sure did.


I was thrilled when the esteemed Greg Herren chose my “Gaywyck” as one of his favorite gay novels and equally thrilled when Elisa asked me to make my own list. When I told Andrew Holleran of the honor, he said: "Oh, that's hard! It's like writing your autobiography." Well, as Ethel Barrymore says at the end of “Portrait of Jenny”, "How very wise you are, my dear." (Before I start I need to confess how much I love long reads, a habit I developed long, long ago when I fell in love with 18th-century, Victorian, and Russian novels. In High School I actually read them under the covers with a flashlight through the night. So, for me trilogies are a single work. I'm now working on the third volume of my Gaywyck trilogy called “Children of Paradise”--the second volume is “Vadriel Vail”. I think of those books as one tale.) Okay, here goes:

1) MARCEL PROUST: Remembrance of Things Past. Yup, I'm one of Those. The only masterpiece of this book's scale that I reread and reread is Murasaki's “Tale of Genji”. The Shining Prince has only ONE gay encounter with the brother of a woman who refuses to spend the night with our night of same-sex bliss does not a "gay" novel make, alas. M. Proust may have changed Albert to Albertine; and, like so many French writers and film makers, will (maddeningly) confuse obsession with love; and, as Beckett says: "The Proustian equation is never simple." However, his work is sublime and never ceases to inspire me. It is also a gold mine of phrases worth stealing....

Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: ReadHowYouWant; EasyRead Edition edition (December 1, 2006)
ISBN-10: 1425050050
ISBN-13: 978-1425050054
Amazon: Remembrance of Things Past

The initial part of the story focuses on the romantic life of a middle aged man named Swann. Proust has used poetic style of words to describe the nature and environment of France. His sentence structure is impressive and filled with searing, insightful, and humorous criticisms of French society.

2) JAMES McCOURT: Time Remaining. (Okay, also time for full disclosure: This year Genji is 1000 years old and Jimmy and I are together 45 years, which in terms of human relationships seems a neat equivalent.) If Jimmy's classic “Mawrdew Czgowchwz” encapsulates the "divine frenzy" (in Richard Howard's description) of “divadienst”, then “Time Remaining” captures the grief and the defiantly hilarious time in our lives during the age of the devastating AIDS epidemic. And as one elderly gentleman of our persuasion said to Jimmy after a packed-out reading (during a wild snowstorm) of “Queer Street” in the now-defunct Barnes & Noble on Sixth Avenue and 22nd Street: "We really did talk that way, you know! You haven't made anything up, you know! But, of course you know! Why else would I have dragged my ass out into this demented blizzard if you didn't know?"
Hardcover: 273 pages
Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (May 4, 1993)
ISBN-10: 0679412662
ISBN-13: 978-0679412663
Amazon: Time Remaining

A collection of short stories by the author of Kaye Wayfaring in ""Avenged"" features the tale of fifty years of gay life in the flamboyant cultural wilds of New York City and a semi-retired transvestite ballerina.

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Plus: Joseph Hansen/Fadeout; Anderson Ferrell/Home for the Day; Andre Aciman/Call Me By Your Name; Christopher Davis/Joseph and the Old Man; Harold Brodkey/Profane Friendship.

About Vincent Virga: “I’m a native New Yorker born September 28, 1942.

That day, my orphaned mother was mistakenly told by her surrogate mother, Mamie O’Neill, that two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda (instead of two teaspoons) would ease her discomforts. Soon, an ambulance rushed Frances to St. Vincent’s Hospital with me being propelled into the world. In shock, my mother asked a passing nun, “Where am I?” When another nun followed hard upon to ask for my name my mother announced, “Vincent!” Turns out, St. Vincent de Paul is the patron saint of orphans....

We moved into a large city project on the East River opposite the present site of the UN until my dad moved us to Lindenhurst, Long Island in 1952. I felt kidnapped. I loved the city, especially the local movie theater–The Beacon–where they showed reruns of the golden Hollywood movies. That is where my visual vocabulary, my acute visual literacy, was born and nurtured. I learned how to look at what I see from the movies and from picture books. I joke that I look therefore I am.

I’m also a compulsive reader. I cannot remember a time when I couldn’t read. Dizzy Gillespie said that when he found the trumpet he found the best part of himself. Well, when I found the word and the image I, too, entered a luminous realm of existence.

After Lindenhurst High School, I went to St. Bonaventure University, and then to Yale Graduate School where in 1964 I met my life-partner, the writer James McCourt who had a deep and abiding friendship with the musical genius Victoria de los Angeles. (Her love and her art became a cornerstone of our lives together.) Jimmy and I went to live in London for nearly 5 years before returning home to NYC for the publication of his story Mawrdew Czgowchwz and for the making of a life in the city of my dreams.

My first “real” job stateside was as the typesetter at The New York Review of Books. The true joy of that job was my friendship with Susan Sontag. During times of great happiness and times of crisis, Susan was there for both Jimmy and me. Both Victoria and Susan died within weeks of each other. The dedication of Cartographia is to the memory of them both: two gifted people who expanded my world in ways beyond measure. And the same can be said of the third dedicatee, James McCourt.

After leaving NYRB, I published my first novel, Gaywyck, the much-touted first gay gothic; it was followed by A Comfortable Corner, and Vadriel Vail.

My first picture-editing project was in 1973. I made a book from a John Wayne record America, Why I Love Her. Michael Korda, Editor-in-Chief at Simon & Schuster, hired me; he was pleased with my research for his own book Success. Wayne’s book was a success. Presto! I was a very happy picture editor. After complaining that art directors were moving “my” pictures around and screwing up my spreads, Michael told me to show them what I wanted. Presto! I was a designer of picture sections, one he eventually christened “the Michaelangelo of picture editors” and “my secret weapon” in a Washington Post interview.

On my last photo-editing project, adding pictures to Hillary Clinton’s It Takes A Village, I learned that most researchers now use only what’s online and don’t even know about the dusty boxes of negatives at the heart of photo agencies. As with all “my” over-150 authors,” Senator Clinton had been a hands-on colleague adjusting my Xerox collages into the picture sections for her memoir, Living History, as was her husband for his memoir, My Life. Over nearly thirty years I’ve created picture inserts for authors as diverse as John Wayne and Jane Fonda, Omar Bradley and Ethel Merman, Miles Davis and Walter Cronkite, Kitty Kelley and Wayne Barrett and Richard Rhodes. I’ve also done six picture books of my own.”

Gaywyck by Vincent Virga
Paperback: 392 pages
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (May 18, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1439235554
ISBN-13: 978-1439235553
Amazon: Gaywyck

Gaywyck is the first gay Gothic novel. Long out of print, this classic proved that genre knows no gender. Young, innocent Robert Whyte enters a Jane-Eyre world of secrets and deceptions when he is hired to catalog the vast library at Gaywyck, a mysterious ancestral mansion on Long Island, where he falls in love with its handsome and melancholy owner, Donough Gaylord. Robert's unconditional love is challenged by hidden evil lurking in the shadowy past crammed with dark sexual secrets sowing murder, blackmail, and mayhem in the great romantic tradition. As Armisted Maupin urged, “Read the son of a bitch! You'll love it!” And as The Advocate praised, “An extraordinary tour de force that merits special praise.” Angus Wilson agreed, “I enjoyed Gaywyck very much. To me a fascinating mixture of Wilde, the Gothic and, above all, the souls laid to rest in New York.”
andrew potter

Lord of the White Hell - Book 1 by Ginn Hale

I thought if waiting to post this review, since the book will be officially out on June 15, but then you have now the change to pre-order it with a % off the cover price, and even more if you pre-order also book 2 together. Wait, someone will think, Book 2 is already planned when Book 1 is still to be released? Do you know what I think? the author has built a complex world, and she needed a lot of "space" to develop it that when she was in the middle of writing she realized that one book was not enough, and she parted it in two novels. But they are still, really, one huge book, and so I highly recommend people to pre-order both of them, if you liked Ginn Hale's previous novel, and I know you did, then you will be not disappointed by this one, if not for the "little" detail that, as soon as you will reach last page of book 1 you will want to have book 2 right there, ready to be read.

Lord of the White Hell is a Fantasy, and for sure I have to use the capital letter here; for sure it reminded me a famous fantasy series of the recent past, but, truth be told, it reminded me also a movie, Chariots of Fire, set at the beginning of the XX century. Like one of the character of that movie, a Jew if I remember well, Kiram was admitted to a prestigious academy thanks to his family money, and yes, of course also due to his academic value, but without the money, for sure there would have been any chance for him. Kiram is an Haldiim, while most of the attendees of the academy are Cadeleonian; the differences between the two “births” are most like a difference in religion and also in social status. From some Kiram’s remembrance of his past life with his family, and also from his academic knowledge, he is a mechanist, I had the feeling that Kiram’s family can be compared to middle class, and instead the Cadeleonian, and Javier, Kiram’s roommate, in front of all of them, are more like aristocracy. There is also a difference perception of Kiram of all things related to faith and superstition, Kiram seems to be less archaic, more open. And finally, the attitude toward homosexuality: Kiram is a virgin, he has apparently no issue in being drawn by boys instead of girls, his only trouble is that he considers all sex acts like a sin, but I felt his fears more like the one any innocent boy will experiment while approaching adulthood and sex. Cadeleonian instead considers homosexuality a sin in absolute, and if Kiram wants to be with a man in their society, he has to do that in secret.

Now, speaking of sex and relationship, I don’t want to give you the idea that this novel is full of that; on the contrary, if not for some sex scene, very mild and almost chaste, this book could be easily classified as Young Adult; indeed the main character, Kiram, is 17 years old, and most of his experiences are the same a normal boy his age will experiment when living home for the first time to go to college; of course a boy from a conservative family, today 17 years old boys are way more experienced than me at the same age, and I bet that at the beginning of the XX century they were even less aware of sex and sexuality.

If you are wondering why I’m speaking only of Kiram and not so much of his partner in this story, Javier, maybe it’s due to the fact that I think that book 1 is more centered on Kiram’s growth from boy to man, and indeed, at the end of book 1, that growth is not yet completed. Javier instead is on the brink of adulthood, he is able to tease and entice, and sometime he has the strength, and the sureness, of an adult. Kiram needs to reach a point to be at the same level with Javier, and he will probably be at that point in book 2. So a reason more to wait for that.

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle

Cover Art by Dawn Kimberling