BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP

S J WATSON

Christine wakes up wondering where she is and who she is sleeping with. “Oh shit, he’s married.” she thinks as she see his wedding ring. When she goes into the bathroom to clean up what she sees in the mirror is all wrong. The woman in the mirror is much older than she is. When she sees her old hands she wants to scream. What is going on? When the man wakes up Christine and the reader learn that she is amnesiac after a car accident twenty years ago. The unknown man she woke up beside is her husband, Ben. Christine goes through this every morning!

Unknown to Ben she has been working with a doctor and researcher, Nash, who has her writing in a journal. Everyday he calls her and tells her where she hides her journal. The first words written in the journal are DON’T TRUST BEN. The more she journals the more memories are stimulated. But too frequently the memories are different than the stories that she has heard from her husband.

The book should have been at least 100 pages shorter. It was quite repetitive especially at the beginning. Needs skimming. But still worth the read. This is the second brain damaged book that I’ve read lately. See Left Neglected.

LEAVING TANGIER

TAHAR BEN JELLOUN

Morocco is not a good place to be young. Even if you are educated there are still no jobs. In Tangier young people gaze North across the water dreaming about leaving for Spain where life is better than in Morocco. Azel has finished his law degree but has no prospects. “I have a diploma but no money, job or car. . . . [I’m] ready to do anything to get the hell out of here, leave this whole country behind except for some memories and a few postcards.” One of Azel’s best friends drowned while being smuggled to Spain which is not unusual. Azel knows there’s a faster way. So he tumbles into an affair with a much older, wealthy Spaniard named Miguel, who has a penchant for fallen young Moroccan men and “the olive sheen of their skin.” In many ways Miguel treats Azel well. Azel works in Miguel’s art business and Miguel actually converts to Islam so he can marry Axel’s sister so she can get Spanish citizenship. But Azel is straight and eventually the relationship falls apart.

Leaving Tangier conveys the desperation of poverty. An excellent read and a good insight into the culture of Morocco.

STUCK RUBBER BABY

HOWARD CRUSE

Baby weaves the story of Toland’s accepting himself as a homosexual while at same time learning to accept black people as people who should have full equal rights. All of this is set in the south in the early 60’s. An interesting juxtaposition because both homosexuality and race were discriminated against. Toland cannot come to grips with his emerging homosexual preferences. He works extremely hard to appear and behave straight. Through Sammy, Toland becomes acquainted with Clayfield’s “seedy underbelly” of “beatniks, anarchists, homosexuals, negroes, vegetarians, drunks, and poets” as expressed at parties and at the Rhombus, a gay bar, and Alleysax, a black nightclub. At his first “underbelly” party, Toland meets Ginger Raines, a white folk singer/guitarist very involved with civil rights issues. She is considerably different from the girls he’s known, and they strike up a prickly but for a while satisfying relationship. Because of her, he starts attending integrationist meetings and gets to know many of the major black civil rights activities, including Reverend Pepper, his gay son Les. Toland starts participating in civil rights protests.

A must read. Baby should be rereleased with a more attractive cover!

DROPPED NAMES: Famous Men andWomen As I Knew Them

FRANK LANGELLA

If you like gossip, especially about movie and theatre people, this is the book for you. Though it isn’t for young people. Most of the people who Langella talks about are dead from  from Bette Davis to Jack and Jackie Kennedy. Many of the names I didn’t recognize so I skipped those parts. Langella is a theater and film veteran — whose many celebrated roles include Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and Richard Nixon. We get to observe Laurence Olivier “stinko” on booze, watch Anne Bancroft throw a hissy fit and ogle along as Roger Vadim directs Langella in an intimate scene with Rebecca DeMornay, “as my mouth moved down Rebecca’s throat, across her breasts….”  Anthony Quinn is likened to “a big bully in the school yard or an imperious mob boss”; Charlton Heston is described as having a real-life God complex.  Langella’s affection and admiration for Raul Julia and Noel Coward, though platonic, is almost erotically charged; of meeting Coward, he writes, “Straight-cut or queer-shaped, there is nothing as sexy as rapt attention to your every word.” Paul Newman is described as a beautiful shell but emotionally and intellectually empty, Richard Burton “a crashing bore.”

Not for everyone but gold for some.

ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NOT …… GAY

DAVID LAROCHELLE

Steven begins by clearly asserting that he is absolutely, positively not gay. He is able to rationalize with great aplomb his attraction to men, his love of square dancing, and the fact that he’s never shown an interest in girls. But when he begins to question his own excuses, Steven launches into a hilarious series of events in an effort to assert his heterosexuality. But everything intended to bring what he believes to be his “latent” attraction to girls to the forefront — a dismal attempt to bond with the overly-manly hockey team, a series of dates with as many girls as he can round up — ends in complete failure. When he invents a girlfriend named Kelly to take to a school dance in order to throw his mother off the scent (he ends up taking his best friend’s golden retriever named Kelly as a “statement”), he is forced to at last confront the fact that he is gay.

When he tells his best friend Rachel that he is gay, her reaction is finally! In fact her whole family parents and little brother think it is about time he realized that he was gay.Rachel is a real go getter. She immediately want to form a gay-straight alliance in their high school which horrifies Steven.

Steven  reminds me of Raj in The Big Bang Theory who in one show will exclaim to himself, “I am so not gay” but in the next episode he will be the only one who raises his hand when the group is asked who likes puffy sleeves for bridesmaids.

It’s a great coming out story for teens. It won an American Library Association Best Book for Young adults.

ARCADIA

LAUREN GROFF

Bit,the main character, grows up in Arcadia, on a back to the land commune in the wilderness of upstate New York. The residents call themselves “The Free People.” Groff describes Bit turned loose in nature, grabbing an icicle for a wintry treat: “He licks it down to nothing, eating winter itself, the captured woodsmoke and sleepy hush and aching cleanness of ice.”

Bit is the only child of charismatic and capable parents who helped found Arcadia.  Abe, leads the restoration of an old mansion on their 600 acres. Abe is the practical and handy thinker; he had a degree in engineering. This contrasts with the commune’s dreamy-musician leader, Handy whose slogan is “everyone works” but he dosen’t. Bit’s mother, Hannah, is tall, golden and lovely, the hardest worker in the group, until the winter Bit is 5 and depression immobilizes her.

Bit love the community, so many people to love him and cuddle him as a child, freedom to wander and explore, intellectual freedom to explore different ideas. As a child he is afraid to leave the commune. But he has to as the community disperses as the like most communes of the era it implodes.

Arcadia is an interesting book but the author, Groff, over reaches the themes of the book with bits the mother’s illness at the end of the book. But it is still an interesting read.

Jack Holmes & His Friend

EMMUND WHITE

Knowing White you assume that Jack Holmes is gay but interestingly his friend Will Write is a straight man with whom Jack is hopelessly in love. Holmes is realistic and gets on with his life but always there is a corner of his mind that pines for Write. Holmes is the man who introduces Write to the woman he will marry, Jack’s close friend Alexandra, a New York heiress and beauty, tall and lean, “just a bit brittle,” with “a long, slender neck” and “marsupial ears.” They all arrive in New York in the 1960’s. The first and longest section of the book is narrated by Jack, the second by Will. As always White’s writing is exciting. “I longed to be a pagan, to intuit a god in every mountain, a nymph in every tree. I wanted my gods to be schemers, temperamental bullies ready to ignite and go up in flames. No better or wiser than human beings, just immortal and bigger and more  powerful.” White deeply explores their intimate lives.

An excellent read.