- Julius Eks
10 Queerantine Books to Read Now!
You may have read my last blog, which explored some LGBTQuarantine series/storylines to watch. It featured some popular viewing alongside some lesser known storylines.
Well, now I would like to share with you some essential queer books to keep you entertained when you need some downtime. Continue reading for a list of classic and modern rainbow reading that will make you queer and proud, and very entertained!
Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman (2007)
Above: Timothée Chalamet (Elio) and Armie Hammer (Oliver) in Call Me By Your Name.
Let's get this one out the way, shall we? Wow! If you haven't seen Luca Guadagnino's movie, featuring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, then you ought to! And if, like me, that did enough to inspire you to pick up the book, do so immediately. What a beautiful and sensual writer André Aciman is and, for a straight author, very insightful when presenting our queer world to a wider audience. We follow Oliver's arrival at the Perlman household one summer and watch him capture the obsession of young Elio, eventually bowing to his own feelings for him. The prose is as cinematic as the movie itself, and we fall in love with Elio and Oliver like in no other book. How could we live without these two after this? Aciman also thought the same, penning another novel with the pair, Find Me. Rest assured, Call Me By Your Name will go down in queer history.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (1890)
Above: Oh, Dorian!
The thing that struck me most about Oscar Wilde's vivid and Gothic philosophical novel is his observational detail. The way each character moves, whether a limb or a subtle eyebrow, in response to the drama is so expressive and accurate that we can recognise it happening in our own daily operations. Dorian Gray is the subject of a full-length painting, which fades and ages over time, unlike its live model who stays young and beautiful forever. Dorian Gray follows a hedonistic life with various amoral experiences, taking full advantage of his eternal youth, which he gained by selling his soul. Oscar Wilde's only novel is dark, engaging, and highly controversial in its time. A true foundation in gay literature that we owe to our history to consume.
Lie With Me, Philippe Besson (2019)
I read Molly Ringwald's translation of Philippe Besson's award-winning, bestselling French novel, which tells of an affair between two teenage boys in France in 1984.
After chancing upon a young man outside a Bordeaux hotel, who bears a striking resemblance to his first love, Philippe looks back at the relationship he cannot forget. It was in his last year of high school and the boy, Thomas, would never acknowledge him in the hall, but in secret they would express their passion in a way which changed Philippe's life forever. This book is beautiful, with intense emotion and the dark shadow of homophobia lurking overhead. Lie With Me is worthy of the plaudits and accolades it receives!
Queer, William S. Burroughs (1953 - published 1985)
Queer is a short novel by an author who isn't always recognised as a queer writer, despite the queer themes throughout his work. Nonetheless, it has been said that "Burroughs helped make homosexuality seem cool and highbrow, providing gay liberation with a delicious edge". The semi-autobiographical story, said to represent Burrough's off heroin (unlike his other major work, Naked Lunch, where his narrator is very much using), follows American, Lee, who is living in an expatriate community in Mexico. From here, he pursues a recently discharged American Navy serviceman called Allerton, who becomes the object of his affection. They even journey through South America together in search of a famed drug, Yage. Burrough's prose is not beautiful or flowing, but is very real, often colloquial, and honest in its bareness and frankness. Not a read to hang wistfully on each sentence, but to be hit by the hard facts. It is phenomenal how such a scarce writing style can still conjure up the strength of feeling that Lee feels as he falls deeper for Allerton. Another gay classic to add to any queer bookshelf.
Le Berceau, Julius Eks (2020)
Le Berceau is an erotic, gay romance set on a boat on the French Riviera where young lovers, Ben and Gabriel can bask in the heat of the Mediterranean sun. However, their perfect, summer idyl is to be shattered by the arrival of a beautiful stranger.
At twenty-one, Ben is beginning to question if the boat of youthful independence will soon set sail without him. Will his devotion to Gabriel prevent him from exploring with other guys? Will he ever get to experience the heart-wavering thrill of falling in love again? Ben is unprepared for the arrival of Leo, a beautiful adolescent thriving in the noontide of carefree nonchalance. Over the course of a single day, Ben battles his burgeoning lust and intensifying guilt. Will he betray Gabriel, who has done nothing but love him? Or can he resist the carnal temptation of the most beautiful boy he has ever seen?
Julius Eks' debut novella was released in early 2020 and is already gathering favourable reviews with readers around the world! ★★★★★
"...This is a beautiful, cinematic reading experience with Eks using language as an artist painting a curiously, perfect landscape...The first book I've read this year, that I look forward to reading again and again." - Goodreads review
"Julius Eks uses his beautiful art style and daring to conjure up a morally-challenging story with vivid eroticism, brutal self-scrutiny, and—most importantly—a hint of hope at the end." - Goodreads review
"Beautifully erotic and, at times, made me nostalgic for my own youth. A touching work. It made for a very enjoyable read!" - Goodreads review
Available now on: The Bold Strokes Books Website:
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/le-berceau-julius-eks/1136577200?ean=2940162744467
And other major retailers!
The City and the Pillar, Gore Vidal (1946)
Well, this one is iconic! Why? Because it is considered to be the first post-World War II novel to be sympathetic to its gay protagonist! Fellow writer, Anthony Slide considered it to be one of only four familiar gay novels of the first half of the 20th Century and it was ranked number 17 on a list of the best 100 gay and lesbian novels compiled by the Publishing Triangle in 1999. Jim Willard, a handsome young tennis player from Virginia in the late 1930s, takes a camping trip in the woods with his friend Bob Ford. One thing leads to another...they have sex, even though Bob doesn't think it is a "normal" thing to do. Never forgetting Bob, who moves away to join the United States Merchant Marine, Jim embarks on a lifelong journey, moving around the country from job to job, relationship to relationship, hoping one day to be reunited with Bob. The City and the Pillar express the feeling that prejudice, by its own existence, harms society as a whole, in a way that it never intends. It shows how perfectly, well-adjusted individuals can become harmed by society's views against them, and that all humans are, essentially, bisexual by nature. Gore Vidal lives us to his reputation as one of humankind's greatest literary geniuses.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong (2019)
Ocean Vuong's debut novel is already causing quite a stir in the literary scene, barely a year after its publication. With a string of awards and nominations behind it, it was named one of the top 10 books in 2019 by the Washington Post.
A letter from a son to mother who cannot read, the protagonist shines a light on his family history in Vietnam and parts of his life that his mother doesn't know about. This brutal exploration of race, class, and masculinity is written with such resonant prose and intimacy, you will be entranced by every line. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous will surely become a valuable resource that casts a spotlight on the experience of queer, Vietnamese Americans.
Less, Andrew Sean Greer (2017)
Above: Author, Andrew Sean Greer, and his book, Less.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Andrew Sean Greer's satirical comedy novel follows gay author, Arthur Less on his journey around the world. With his 50th birthday looming, his boyfriend of nine years suddenly engaged to another man, Less spontaneously accepts every invitation to every mediocre literary event on his desk. From here, we follow him to Paris, Berlin, a Moroccan ski chalet, Southern India, a desert island in the Arabian Sea, and beyond. And along the way, he turns fifty, has chance encounters, falls in love, and has a series of curious adventures. Andrew Sean Greer says, himself that, he intended to make Less a "very serious novel", but found that "the only way to write about [being gay and aging] is to make it a funny story. And I found that by making fun of myself, I could actually get closer to real emotion – closer to what I wanted in my more serious books." Well, Mr Greer - I certainly laughed!
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky (1999)
Above: Logan Lerman plays Charlie in Chbosky's film-adaptation of The Perks of Being a
Not strictly a gay book, as the protagonist is neither gay, nor has a gay adventure in the book, but the inclusion of gay characters and the search for one's place in the world, will certainly be relatable for most readers. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a series of letters, written by 15-year-old Charlie, to an unknown recipient. Through these letters, we follow Charlie's coming of age, where he suffers, overcomes, and experiences so much in so few pages. Chbosky conveys respect for his teenage cast by bringing to life their real experiences, validating the feelings of his teenage audience and inducing both fond and painful nostalgia in his older readers. He even directed the film-adaptation of his book!
Death in Venice, Thomas Mann (1912)
Above: Björn Andrésen (Tadzio) in Luchino Visconti's 1971
film of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice.
Well, this one is dark! In this short novella from 1912, Mann shows us the destructive power of obsessive love as Aschenbach battles between rationalism and hedonism. On a trip to Venice, a worn out writer, Gustav von Aschenbach, encounters a young Polish boy, Tadzio. The young boy is the image of pure, supreme beauty in the Ancient Greek sense, and Aschenbach quickly becomes obsessed with his vision. But there is a mystery illness stalking Venice, which lurks around every corner and threatens to cut Aschenbach's stay in Venice short. By the end, we find ourselves admiring the main character's dedication to an ideal, whilst being disturbed by his journey to destroy himself for this obsession.
And so, in missing out a wealth of fabulous gay fiction - renowned, classic, modern, indie, timeless, ill-timed - I conclude my list of ten LGBTQuarantine books to read right now. Don't forget to check out my top ten gay series & storylines, too!
So, happy reading! Stay safe, stay sane, and stay stimulated with a fully stocked, rainbow bookshelf! -JX