Books: 437

Gay Lives

Gay Lives
Robert Aldrich
Thames & Hudson

Aldrich’s portraits span centuries and cover the countries of the world. He includes, of course, many of the usual suspects, but has in addition mined a rich vein of the lesser-known. Photographer Claude Cahun, née Lucy Mathilde Renée Schowb in 1894; those “Ladies of Llangollen,” or Eleanor Butler (1739-1829) and partner Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831). The biographies are literate and informative, grouped in accessible subsections: “Love in the Levant”; “Entanglements of Sex and Politics”; “Visions of Male Beauty”; and “International Live in the Modern Era.” There are 128 illustrations, 56 in color. Professor of European History, at the University of Sydney, Aldrich is author of Colonialism and Homosexuality and editor of Gay Life and Culture: A World History. Highly recommended, for reference or plain, enjoyable reading.


Zero Break: A Mahu Investigation
Neil S. Plakcy
MLR Press

Plakcy’s sixth novel finds Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka and partner investigating a brutal stabbing. Was the young mother’s death the result of a home invasion robbery gone wrong, or does the sheer violence indicate something more? They find her toddlers safe with the slain woman’s ex, and discover an old acquaintance to be the sperm donor. Parenthood moves beneath the story like the ceaseless waves wash upon the island’s shores- an undercurrent that is affecting Kimo and his own partner, fire investigator Mike Riccardi. Everywhere Kimo looks there are parents with kids, couples trying to have kids, and the nagging question–are kids in their future? Adroitly placed investigative lines reel in the killer, but the baby question abides, awaiting volume seven.


Jack Holmes and His Friend
Edmund White

Jack Holmes in the early Sixties is a young Midwestern WASP, denied Harvard by his father who’ll only pay for Midwestern education. Graduated, Jack lands in Greenwich Village on the arty Northern Review. Still reluctant to admit he’s attracted to men, he has only single encounters, with comments on his generous endowment. But his friend, Will, has all the coveted Eastern creds, accents, and moves. Jack’s in love with Will. This first, more engaging section is narrated from Jack’s point of view; midstream, White switches to a later time (they’re now 32) narrated from Will’s point of view and immersed in Will’s married, heterosexual world. The two reconnect, and the reader is left with the message that gay or straight, pretty much everyone’s desires are unrequited.


Searching for Gilead
David Hallman

Opening in 1976, Gilead follows the book’s two protagonists and instantaneous lovers, Tom Fischer and Jonathan Compton, through to 2010. Tom and Jonathan are a couple, and, as couples will, they enmesh their families with them. One side of the clan touts big business, the other missionary service in foreign countries. Hallman knows his subject. Working 30 years for environmental ethics through the United Church of Canada and the World Council of Churches, and maintaining a thirty-three year relationship with his partner, whose last weeks he chronicled in his memoir, August Farewell,  Hallman deftly captures the ongoing maelstrom of emotions of family relationships, weaving them into realistic plots and dialogue attempting to address his questions concerning “God, injustice, love, the environment, the arts, and death.”

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