Brokeback Mountain- December 2018

I need to start this post with an apology. I usually writ these updates straight after the meeting, but the December meeting was a mnth ago and im only just getting round to writing this up now.  It doesn’t help that the meeting was just after my works Christmas party, so I may have been slightly tipsy.

Because of the madness of Christmas we rescheduled the meeting to the 14th, to ensure as many people could attend as possible.  This meant we only have 3 weeks to read as opposed to 4.  This is one of the reasons we went for a short story; “Brokeback Mountain” by  Annie Proulx.

It was an emotional meeting as some of the issues in the story resonated with some of the members.  These issues included growing up in a house and community where being gay could never be tolerated and trying to spend a life burying feelings.  There was also some discussion about how the story transferred to a film.  Considering the story is only 80 pages, I was shocked about how virtually every moment of the film appears in the book.  This goes to show how much of a novel has to be taken out when it is converted into a film.  As a story which spanned several decades, condensed into 80 pages, it was felt that each line, each word, had been selected and crafted to mean something.  While there were parts of the story which were intensely emotional, the author managed to convey this with the minimum number of words required.  Others in the group compared this efficiency of language to Hemingway.

As it was the Christmas meeting, we lifted our spitist with mince pies and a secret santa book swap, which was lots of fun.  Even if Cameron tried to palm off his copy of “Queer in Russia”.  (Its okay, he has a good book to swap as well.)

As usual we each gave the book a score out of 10 and the average was 9 out of 10.  Easily the highest score we have ever had.

So I’ll finish this post with one of my favourite quotes from the book (tissues at the ready)

“Within a mile Ennis felt like someone was pulling his guts out hand over hand, a yard at a time.  He stopped t the side of the road and, in the whirling new snow, tried to puke but nothing came up.  He felt about as bad as he ever had and it took a long time for the feeling to wear off.”

Maurice

We are back, after a month off, in which many of us went to see Armistead Maupin at the Tyneside cinema.  There were ten of us at the meeting this month and before we talked about the book we looked at options for future months.  Once we agreed on a shortlist, we choose six (listed below) which should take us all the way through to June 2018.

As i’m sure everyone was fed up with my voice (plus i didn’t finish the book) Paul Attinello took over hosting duties for discussing the book, which this month was Maurice by E M Forster.  A lot of the discussion was based around the circumstances of how the book came to be written and, eventually published.  He originally wrote the book without intending it to be published, in 1913/14.  If he had tried to publisha book about homosexual love at that time, it would have been the end of his career, at the very least.  It was revised several times over the years. These revisions were partially based onn the suggestion of his friend Christopher Isherwood and included the addition of a sexual scene and the removal of a ‘happy ever after’ epilogue. The book was eventually published in 1971 after Forsters death.

In discussing the book itself, some felt parts of it, particularly the romance with Alec, felt rushed, it was also suggested that while the quality of the writing was good, it could have been edited better.  As it serves as a reflection of what life was like at the time, the question was asked is the book ‘good’ or is it ‘important’.  Comparisons were made with other novels including lady Chatterleys lover and Mr Clive & Mr Page.

As the book is primarily set in the world of the upper middle classes, the conversation went on to discuss how much of an issue homosexuality was for the different classes.  Was it something only the middle classes worried about?  There does not seem to be a great deal of books about homosexuality in the working classes of the time.  Was that because they were generally illiterate and therefore nothing was written?  The final average score was 7 out of 10.

The books for the coming months are…

Dec Brokeback Mountain Annie Proulx
Jan Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe Fannie Flagg
Feb The Song of Achilles Madeline Miller
March Call Me By Your Name Andre Aciman
April Carol Patricia Highsmith
May Giovanni’s Room James Baldwin and Caryl Phillips
June Christodora Tim Murphy

 

The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín

There were six of us at tonight’s meeting where we discussed The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín.  As is often the way, there were mixed opinions on the book (it would be boring if we all felt the same).  The book had three parts, which felt at times like three different books.  There didn’t seem to be a traditional plot, instead there were various strands and events, some of which seemed to go nowhere.  Some of us enjoyed that and felt it made it more real, while others were disappointed with as it didn’t make to most of its opportunities.  We discussed, what we felt were some of the themes and key points of the book.  These included Richards relationship with his mother, his relationships in general, how he seemed to be an outsider looking in, how he can be oblivious to what’s happening around him and how the lack of plot makes it feel like a fictional autobiography. Our averaged out score was 6 out of 10.

 

Discussing the Gender Games by Juno Dawson

GenderGamesThere were nine of us at last night’s book club meeting at Waterstones where we discussed The Gender Games by Juno Dawson.  We started by going round the table and saying whether we liked the book or not.  Although there was one strongly negative response, most seemed to be slightly positive with one extremely positive.  As we discussed what we liked and didn’t like, there was a general feeling that although she covered some interesting topics, they weren’t covered as in depth as some would have liked. “I just didn’t think she was that deep”.

The book was part memoir and part reflection on gender and sex.  This included looking at how boys and girls/men and women are treated differently and expected to behave differently. This led to a discussion about how these issues had changed over the years.  I think we generally appreciated her insight into the difference between gender and sex, even if we didn’t all agree with her.   There was discussion about the mix of memoir and gender discussion, which some felt worked, and others didn’t.  The same applies to her style of writing which included lots of abbreviations such as IDK and DTF.  Some felt she was writing for a young audience, which ties in with her history as an author of Young Adult Fiction.  This developed into trying to identify who exactly she was writing this book for, especially after her comment “…If you’re a man reading this book, I salute you. I’ll be honest, I didn’t write it with you in mind”.    A few thought the memoir part of the book would have worked better if she had written it in a few years’ time, when she was further down her journey of transitioning, or when she had more experience in general.  As one member of the group said “She’s too young to write a bloody book”.

While this reflection may sound negative I think there were lots of positives.  The topics raised in her book led to some interesting discussions within the group on topics including militant feminists, how boys and girls are treated differently and privilege.  We all voted out of ten and the average score was five although votes ranged from two to nine.

September, October, November

September update

  • 28th September we will meet and discuss “The story of the night” By Colm Tóibín
  • In October there will be no book club meeting, instead many of us will be attendeing ‘An evening with Armistead Maupin’, Thursday 26th October 19:00 at Tyneside Cinema Tickets available from Waterstones Discount for Proud Pages members
    https://www.waterstones.com/events/an-evening-with-armistead-mapuin/newcastle
  • In November (Date TBC) we will meet and discuss Maurice By E M Forster

 

 

The next 2 books

As previously mentioned the next book we will be discussing will be The Gender Games58 by Juno Dawson. We will be discussing that at 6:30 on Thursday 31st August.

The next book after that will be “The story of the night by Colm Toibin” which we will be discussing at 6:30 on Thursday 28th September.

Both meetings will be in the Cafe at Waterstones in Newcastle upon Tyne

Discussing Good As You

Photo 27-07-2017, 19 28 20A combination of people being on holiday and others being at the showing of Angels In America meant that  last night’s book club was a small, select group with only three of us there to discuss Good As You by Paul Flynn.  There might only of been three of us but we took advantage of the time to discuss this book which we all enjoyed to varying degrees.

 

We questioned whether the title, or at least the subtitle “From prejudice to pride: 30 years of gay Britain”, was misleading.  We were expecting more of a chronological, academic history. There was some discussion about what kind of book it was; part autobiography, part celebrity interviews and part pop culture ethnography study it felt quite disjointed at times as a book.  Each chapter had a different theme and feel.  For example in one chapter you were reading about the history of Kylie in relationship to her gay audience, including interviews with her stylist and Kylie herself, and then you were reading truly upsetting accounts of the early days of the HIV and AIDS crisis in the UK including personal accounts of Terry Higgins, one of the first gay men to die of AIDS in the UK  and the man who the Terrance Higgins Trust is named after.  The author is a journalist and it was said that each chapter felt like an extended newspaper column. Even the uniformity of the chapter sizes was noted as a very journalistic thing to do.

 

As I said at the beginning, we all enjoyed to varying degrees.  Sonya felt the best part of the book was the chapter on HIV and AIDS, not only because it the content was so powerful, but also because it was about ‘real’ people while the rest of the book was based around celebrity culture.  Paul thought the book brought about a sense of nostalgia for a time he didn’t know, as he is younger than the author.  He thought it was a good springboard to the various pop culture references mentioned, from freddie mercury videos to the show Queer as Folk.  I felt a lot of the book could have been written for me personally as a Gay man in his forties, with similar interests to the author, including a lifelong love of Kylie Minogue.

 

We gave the book an average score of 7 out of 10.

 

 

Voting Time

The next Proud pages meeting will be  at Waterstones café in Newcastle 6.30 Thursday 27th July where we will be discussing Good As You by Paul Flynn.  The next book we will be reading will be ‘The Gender Games’ by Juno Dawson.  I will try to be keeping a month or two ahead to allow people time to get the books.  So here is the link to a vote for future months.  Votes will be counted next Monday

https://goo.gl/forms/ 6MmEKZ79pBbXlj9p1

Please select all the books you would like to read.

Discussing Queer in Russia

19511463_1623312221025995_2876719614859169452_nThe first proud pages meeting in our new venue of Waterstones Café was a small, select group. There were only six of us this month but that did include one new member.  The book we were discussing was “Queer in Russia” by Laurie Essig.  Only two members of the group managed to finish the book, I made it just over halfway.  Some people on Facebook said they didn’t attend this meeting because think they could contribute as they hadn’t completed it.

To put the book into context it was published in 1999, although the research and anecdotes don’t seem to go beyond 1994.  While it was interesting to read about the history up to this point, there was an obvious missing piece of the story in terms of what has happened in the last 26 years in Russia. Tonight’s discussion focused on; labelling identities and sexualities, the arrogance of the people from the West acting like missionaries and imposing their view on what it means to be LGBT+,  how different communities within Russia view homosexuals and they view themselves.  Some of the questions asked included; how did a country like Russia get to be so intolerant when other non-western countries are so accepting? and why were transsexuals accepted more than gam men and lesbians

There was also a lot of discussion about how the book was written.  There was a general feeling that it was a PhD thesis converted into a book with minimal editing/updating.  There was frustrations over the structure of the book and how the narrative of some chapters didn’t seem to flow that well.  While it was felt that the book came across as a series of anecdotes, some felt this gave the book a more human/relatable quality.  Some took issue with the ethicacy and validity of her research methods, such a disguising herself as a man in order to observe cruising behaviour in men’s toilets.

Between us our average score out of ten for the book was 5.2 (scores ranged from 3 to 7).  There were a few caveats to this though:

–          Only 2 people completed the book

–          Of the six of us, one hadn’t read the book at all, so the average for the other five.

–          One person had just finished another book on the same subject which influenced their vote.

There was a plea to say in this blog post that if you want to read a book on this subject you should read “Cracks in the Iron Closet” instead.