Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks. An exploration of the strange new class of Bourgeois Bohemians (Bobos for short) -- those people who "work hard and play hard" aka the sort of people who actually buy into the literary pretentions of the Lands End catalog. Fascinating, if somewhat frightening.
In the Absence of Men by Phillippe Besson. Oh my heart. This more than makes up for my disappointment with Mary Renault's writing. It's a translation from the French, so I don't know how much of the dreamy lyricism of the words is the author's and how much is the translator's, but I don't care.
"I am sixteen. I am as old as the century.
I know there is a war, that soldiers are dying on the front lines of this war, that civilians are dying in the towns and the countryside of France and elsewhere, that the war -- more than destruction, more than the mud, more than the whistle of bullets as they tear through a man's chest, more than the shattered faces of the women who wait, hoping sometimes against hope, for a letter which never arrives, for a leave of absence perpetually postponed, more than the game of politics that is played by nations -- is the sum of the simple, cruel, sad and anonymous deaths of soldiers, of civilians whose names we will one day read on the pediments of monuments, to the sound of a funeral march.
And yet, I know nothing of war. I live in Paris. I am a pupil at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. I am sixteen.
People say: what a beautiful child! Look at him, he really is magnificent. Black hair. Green, almond-shaped eyes. A girl's complexion. I say: they are mistaken, I am no longer a child.
I am sixteen and I know perfectly well that to be sixteen is a triumph."
I've rationed myself: it's a small book, only 160 pages or so, and I only let myself read a few pages at a time. It's too beautiful to rush through.
I discovered something today. I learned that frat boys get upset when the girl sitting next to them on the bus is reading a book titled Switch Hitters: lesbians write gay male erotica and gay men write lesbian erotica with PG rated contextually appropriate photos on the cover. (edited by Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimel)
They get more upset when she starts crying over it.
The story in question: "Dress Leathers" by Robin Sweeney.
"I'm standing here, wearing nothing but my socks and the jockstrap the boy in the next room bought for me, sobbing my eyes out. Quite the dominant and masterful top, aren't I?
All these damned dead men and their damned leather. Tonight they haunt me all at once, not waking me up one by one at four in the morning, leaving me aching to talk. They're all here in a pack, leaning against the walls of my bedroom, copping feels off each other, and almost jeering at me.
And they are loud, tonight. Is it crazy if I tell you that I can hear them, see them? Doesn't everybody's dead speak to them?
I want out, I want to go next door and beat and fuck the boy who's waiting. I want to not feel like this. I pick up my master's cap, and turn to leave my bedroom.
And there, on his knees, a pale shadow of the boy who waits for me, is the first boy I ever had. Paul Daniels, the pretty boy with the southern California look, all tan and muscled with deep brown eyes, who offered himself to me that first night I slunk back to the bar after Albert died. The first boy I slept with who had come out after AIDS, the first boy who asked to call me 'Daddy,' the first man who took me to an AA meeting, the first boy to tell me he wanted to die at home. He taught me more about being comfortable with myself, even in the midst of a plague, than anyone could have.
He was my boy, and I held him as he died. He bought me the cap for Father's Day, saying it made me look even more Daddy-ish than ever -- except when I was fucking him. Then I looked the most Daddy-ish of all, he told me, laying his head on my knee.
'Daddy,' Paul says, 'the boy's waiting. Please go to him -- he's starting to worry.'
I need to get out of this room, away from all these images of my dead men."