Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellThe Rest Of Our Lives by Dan Stone was probably one of the nicer surprise when speaking of books of the last year, at least for me. Yes, I started the book expecting a good book, as indeed it was, but sincerely, I had the wrong idea that it would be heavy, "high literature", and yes, sometime high literature is boring! And instead The Rest Of Our Lives not only it's high literature but it's also light, funny and very, very romantic. I hope Dan Stone will work and giving us more books like that one, and meanwhile, enjoy his Inside Reader List!
Dan Stone's Inside Reader List
Greetings! As with some others who have shared their picks here, those on my list are not necessarily the ten best books I've ever read, or my ten favorite books. They are, however, books that have affected me personally, influenced me in some way as a writer or as a gay man, or that have just become special to me in some way. Not all are gay-themed, although most are. Some are part of a series, but I've chosen one title to represent the series. Also, these are not necessarily in any order of preference. That said, here's my Top 10.
1) A Report From Winter by Wayne Courtois. In this extraordinarily compelling and bittersweet account of the author’s return to the wintry Maine landscape of his childhood and his experience at the bedside of his terminally ill mother, Courtois pulls back the curtain on a chilly, troubled New England family, offering a jumble of uncomfortable images—and an uneasy reflection on the awkward ties that still bind him to his kin. He also adeptly contrasts this somewhat bleak family portrait with the surprisingly warm and loving relationship he has found with his partner, Ralph, who, if not the prototypical knight in shining armor, nonetheless provides an emotional foundation that grounds and warms this painfully personally memoir and that offers welcome hopefulness to the author’s story.
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Lethe Press (July 20, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.lethepressbooks.com/gay.htm#courtois-a-report-from-winter
Amazon: A Report From Winter
A Report from Winter is a death-in-the-family story, a love story, and a meditation on the meaning of “winter”—as a season and as a metaphor for family relationships. It’s January 1998, and southern Maine is recovering from one of the worst ice storms in history. Into this unforgiving environment comes the author, flying “home” from Kansas City after a ten-year absence. His mother, Jennie, is dying of cancer. She is receiving excellent care in a nursing home, but has lost the ability to communicate. Needing support, Wayne makes an SOS call to Ralph, his longtime partner. Ralph boards a plane to Portland for his first exposure to a Maine winter, and to Wayne’s family as well, including a feisty aunt and an emotionally distant brother. The contrast between a nurturing gay relationship and dysfunctional family bonds is as sharp as the wind sweeping in from the sea. Stubbornly unsentimental, A Report from Winter weaves childhood memories of winter with the harsh realities of living in a family where there’s not enough love to go around. The memoir is a tribute to hard-won relationships built on mutual trust and understanding, defying an uncaring world.
2) Comfort and Joy by Jim Grimsley. The combined delicacy and force of this love story is one that has drawn me back to re-read it several times. Grimsely’s writing has a lyrical quality that appeals to the poet in me and he has a poet’s eye for acutely conveyed detail and nuance. This is a subtle but powerful of the challenges of gay male relationships that manages to be both romantic and real and poignant without ever becoming maudlin or melodramatic. His Danny and Ford are men navigating the always tricky and often turbulent waters of a gay relationship in ways that I think any gay man who’s ever been in love can recognize and feel in his gut.
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books (October 16, 2003)
Publisher Link: http://www.workman.com/products/9781565123960/
Amazon: Comfort and Joy
Ford McKinney is a devastatingly handsome, successful doctor, raised in an old Savannah family among good breeding and money. His longtime boyfriend, Dan Krell, is a shy hospital administrator with a painful childhood past. When the holidays arrive, they decide it's time to go home together. But the depth of their commitment is tested when Ford's parents cannot reconcile themselves to their son's choices, and Dan's secrets are exposed. Comfort and Joy is a poetic and finely-wrought novel that explores the difficult journey two men make toward love.
3) Consenting Adult by Laura Z. Hobson. It surprises me a little that this book is so seldom mentioned or noted on lists of Gay or Gay affirming literature. Maybe it’s because it’s less about the young Gay man in the story who is struggling to find himself and more about his mother’s struggle to understand and accept him. In any case, it’s a sensitively written account of a family unraveling and then slowly finding their way back together at a time when there were fewer examples of how to do that. It was later made into an effective TV movie starring Martin Sheen and Marlo Thomas and remains a favorite of mine.
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (June 1975)
Amazon: Consenting Adult
4) The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren. Yes it’s a cliché—practically every Gay male over 40 at least has read this pivotal-for-its-time piece of Gay Americana. Whatever its disputed merits or flaws, it jumped out at me on a public library shelf when I was a lonely, closeted 17-year-old who had no idea what was really possible between two men beyond the most obvious physical basics. Warren’s book was my first peek at the possibility of true love between men and so in that sense she changed my life. If that doesn’t warrant inclusion on a list like this, I don’t know what does!
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Wildcat Press; 20 Anv edition (June 1, 1996)
Publisher Link: http://wildcatintl.com/press.cfm?view=detail&detail=jacket&bookID=5
Amazon: The Front Runner
First published in 1974, The Front Runner raced to international acclaim — the first novel about gay love to become popular with mainstream. In 1975, coach Harlan Brown is hiding from his past at an obscure New York college, after he was fired from Penn State University on suspicion of being gay. A tough, lonely ex-Marine of 39, Harlan has never allowed himself to love another man. Then Billy Sive, a brilliant young runner, shows up on his doorstep. He and his two comrades, Vince Matti and Jacques LaFont, were just thrown off a major team for admitting they are gay. Harlan knows that, with proper training, Billy could go to the '76 Olympics in Montreal. He agrees to coach the three boys under strict conditions that thwart Billy's growing attraction for his mature but compelling mentor. The lean, graceful front runner with gold-rim glasses sees directly into Harlan's heart. Billy's gentle and open acceptance of his sexuality makes Harlan afraid to confront either the pain of his past, or the challenges which lay in wait if their intimacy is exposed. But when Coach Brown finds himself falling in love with his most gifted athlete, he must combat his true feelings for Billy or risk the outrage of the entire sports world — and their only chance at Olympic gold. Author Patricia Nell Warren has created a gay literary monument with the searing reality of her own years in the sport, as a runner, sports activist, AAU official and reporter for Runner's World.
5) A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White. Aside from the legend in Gay literature that Edmund White has become, this book was perhaps the first truly ‘literate’ work of Gay fiction that I saw myself in. I know that this sort of ‘serious’ literature is not everyone’s cup of tea, but “A Boy’s Own Story” is on some level, to me anyway, every Gay boy’s story, at least in spirit. I don’t know how not to be inspired by White’s prose. Touching. True. And oh so keenly written.
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics); Reprint edition (February 24, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780143114840,00.html?A_Boy's_Own_Story_Edmund_White
Amazon: A Boy’s Own Story
Originally published in 1982 as the first of Edmund White’s trilogy of autobiographical novels, A Boy’s Own Story became an instant classic for its pioneering portrayal of homosexuality. The book’s unnamed narrator, growing up during the 1950s, is beset by aloof parents, a cruel sister, and relentless mocking from his peers, compelling him to seek out works of art and literature as solace—and to uncover new relationships in the struggle to embrace his own sexuality. Lyrical and poignant, with powerful evocations of shame and yearning, this is an American literary treasure.
6) The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. The turmoil and drama of coming out times two—a father and a son . . . the complex family dynamics . . . the bitter disappointments of love in pretty much every context . . . and emerging from it all, a sense of hope and a sweetly promising romance. Leavitt’s writing is quiet and understated which makes the turbulence beneath the still waters of his prose that much more compelling. It doesn’t get too much better than this.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (April 14, 2005)
Publisher Link: http://www.bloomsburyusa.com/books/catalog/lost_language_of_cranes_pb_734
Amazon: The Lost Language of Cranes
David Leavitt's extraordinary first novel, now reissued in paperback, is a seminal work about family, sexual identity, home, and loss. Set in the 1980s against the backdrop of a swiftly gentrifying Manhattan, The Lost Language of Cranes tells the story of twenty-five-year-old Philip, who realizes he must come out to his parents after falling in love for the first time with a man. Philip's parents are facing their own crisis: pressure from developers and the loss of their longtime home. But the real threat to this family is Philip's father's own struggle with his latent homosexuality, realized only in his Sunday afternoon visits to gay porn theaters. Philip's admission to his parents and his father's hidden life provoke changes that forever alter the landscape of their worlds.
7) The Genius of Desire by Brian Bouldrey. Almost any Gay male who grew up in a strongly religious—or at least, professing--household will recognize himself in some part of this story and will immediately grasp the instinct for simultaneous self-preservation and self-discovery reflected in the title. Funny and sad in the best senses of those words, parts of it may seem dated now but the emotional truths it tells still ring clearly for me. I was surprised to find that I could not find a current image for the cover of this book, but the images it called up for me have remained and still resonate.
Paperback: 274 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 10, 1994)
Amazon: The Genius of Desire
Michael Bellman is not your average little boy. He speaks to plates, banisters, and other household objects (preferring them to people). He frequently confesses to sins he never committed (like adultery). And he's hopelessly drawn to the romantic notion of a secret, double life. Michael spends summers in Monsalvat, Michigan, coming of age in a loving tangle of great aunts, great uncles, cousins once-removed (but ever-present), and one tough-looking, silently scary grandmother. The Kaisers are a wild, highly eccentric bunch: Great Uncle Jimmy speaks to his dead wife during meals and proudly proclaims himself the Fattest Man in the World; Cousin Anne torments and taunts Michael beyond endurance; reckless Cousin Tommy secretly smokes cigars and can't wait to "kick butt in 'Nam"--and Michael watches every magical move he makes. A few years and one driver's license later, as family alliances change and long-silent desires surface, Michael begins to understand his attraction to the double life because he's living one--at roadside rest stops, in library washrooms and public parks. Coming out is the first step, coming to terms is the next....
8) The Right To Write by Julia Cameron. There are plenty of other, equally useful and inspiring books for writers—particularly those still struggling to find their voice or simply the courage to take to the page. But for me, Cameron’s simple but compelling wisdom and toolbox of tips and exercises and meditations did the trick. She helped to change the way I think about my own work and to put me on a surer-footed and much more enjoyable journey as a writer.
Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: Tarcher; Reprint edition (December 27, 1999)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781585420094,00.html
Amazon: The Right To Write
What if everything we have been taught about learning to write was wrong? In The Right to Write, Julia Cameron's most revolutionary book, the author asserts that conventional writing wisdom would have you believe in a false doctrine that stifles creativity. With the techniques and anecdotes in The Right to Write, readers learn to make writing a natural, intensely personal part of life. Cameron's instruction and examples include the details of the writing processes she uses to create her own bestselling books. She makes writing a playful and realistic as well as a reflective event. Anyone jumping into the writing life for the first time and those already living it will discover the art of writing is never the same after reading The Right to Write.
9) Magic’s Price (The Last Herald Mage Series, Book 3) by Mercedes Lackey. Male romance and magic and myth—oh my! The first time I read Mercedes Lackey’s Last Herald Mage trilogy I thought I’d died and gone to fantasy heaven. It was my first time falling into a fantasy world where men made magic—and made love to each other. All three books in this series should be read, preferably in order. But the last in the series is my favorite.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: DAW; later printing edition (July 3, 1990)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780886774264,00.html?Magic's_Price_Mercedes_Lackey
Amazon: Magic’s Price
The final chapter in Mercedes Lackey's spellbinding fantasy trilogy! The Herald-Mage, Vanyel, and his Companion, Yfandes, are alone responsible for saving the once-peaceful kingdom of Valdemar from the forces of a master who wields a dark, forbidding magic. And if either Vanyel or Yfandes falters, both Valdemar and its Herald-Mage must pay the ultimate price.
10) Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. What can you say about Whitman? I discovered him at that acutely painful, critical period in my own lonely, confused adolescence when poetry was the only chance I was willing to take toward being who I really was. Whitman was a sweeping, shining, larger-than-life beacon and expression of what could be, not to mention a literary force who literally changed the face of American poetry.
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (September 3, 2009)
Amazon: Leaves of Grass
When Walt Whitman self-published "Leaves of Grass" in 1855, he rocked the literary world and forever changed the course of poetry. In subsequent editions, Whitman continued to revise and expand his poems--but none matched the raw power and immediacy of the first edition. This beautifully designed volume presents the 1855 "Leaves of Grass" in its entirety, unchanged, along with Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous letter to Whitman.
About Dan Stone: Besides being a published writer for more than 20 years, Dan Stone is also a teacher, life coach and intuitive consultant. His first novel, THE REST OF OUR LIVES was published by Lethe Press in June 2009 and is a 2009 Lambda Literary Awards finalist for Best Gay Romance. He regularly posts the popular spiritual blog "The Shower Channel" at www.firstadream.com. He has been interviewed on Soul's Journey Radio, All Things That Matter radio, and 12Radio.com and is a teacher and intuitive advisor with www.12Academy.com. He also has been featured in the White Crane Journal and numerous literary and other publications and anthologies such as Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling, White Crane Journal, A&U Magazine, Astropoetica, Mostly Maine, Bay Windows, Chiron Review, Queer Poets Journal, Gents, Badboys, and Barbarians, New Gay Male Poetry, and Rebel Yell: Stories by Contemporary Southern Gay Authors. His upcoming collection of poems is being published by Lethe Press. He lives in Denver, CO, where he is working on the sequel to THE REST OF OUR LIVES, and also a children's book, and a collection of short fiction. He can be reached via his website: www.firstadream.com.
The Rest Of Our Lives by Dan Stone
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Lethe Press (May 25, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.lethepressbooks.com/gay.htm#stone-the-rest-of-our-lives
Amazon: The Rest Of Our Lives
Colm McKenna has led a guarded life. Gifted with a wintry soul and a photographer's eye, he can stop time as easily as he freezes water, or call down cold north winds. He thinks he is alone and unique in the world. Then, seemingly by accident, he meets handsome writer Aidan Gallagher, his opposite, a young man who not only magically raises temperatures but quickens Colm's heart.
In this lighthearted and contemporary, gay romantic fantasy, can two male witches whose passion reincarnates century after century, find a way to express their love for each other again? Can this enchanting pair finally succeed after so many lifetimes?