Thursday, May 20, 2021



Riverhead Books
$27.00 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: A funny, sexy, profound dramedy about two young people at a crossroads in their relationship and the limits of love.

Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson's a Black day care teacher, and they've been together for a few years—good years—but now they're not sure why they're still a couple. There's the sex, sure, and the meals Mike cooks for Benson, and, well, they love each other.

But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Without Mike's immediate pull, Benson begins to push outwards, realizing he might just know what he wants out of life and have the goods to get it.

Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they've ever known. And just maybe they'll all be okay in the end. Memorial is a funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you're supposed to be, and the limits of love.


My Review
: First, read this:
“There's this phenomenon that you'll get sometimes - but not too often, if you're lucky - where someone you think you know says something about your gayness that you weren't expecting at all. Ben called it a tiny earthquake. I don't think he was wrong. You're destabilized, is the point. How much just depends on where the quake originated, the fault lines.”

If your memory needs refreshing, my 2019 almost-perfect review of LOT: STORIES will refresh your memories as to my entirely positive opinion of Author Washington's story-crafting chops.

This novel is a downer to read, I'm afraid. It is very much about the pain of loving another, and discovering that it's never *just* about Love. The best, most beautiful moments in the book are also deeply sad ones. And, while that's okay, it's a bit wearing on the nerves.

Nothing should detract from your eagerness to read the story, just be sure it suits your personal mood. The fact that the men in this story are AAPI and Black, nary a white man to be found, should spur white gay men to read it: Author Washington is a Person of Color, and is drawing your attention to the universality of learning to make a life as a gay man in a world that doesn't always know it doesn't like us; then add the very real prejudices of ethnicity, body image issues, HIV's actually a damn funny book a good bit of the time, and that laundry list wouldn't make you think I thought so.

Break out of your mental ghetto and live a major moment in the family life of men like you, only different.



Bellevue Literary Press
$16.99 all editions, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: In Murmur, a hallucinatory masterwork, Will Eaves invites us into the brilliant mind of Alec Pryor, a character inspired by Alan Turing. Turing, father of artificial intelligence and pioneer of radical new techniques to break the Nazi Enigma cipher during World War II, was later persecuted by the British state for “gross indecency with another male” and forced to undergo chemical castration. Set during the devastating period before Turing’s suicide, Murmur evokes an extraordinary life, the beauty and sorrows of love, and the nature of consciousness.


Winner of the 2019 WELLCOME BOOK PRIZE!

My Review: First, read this:
The problem with disguising or encrypting is that the original still exists. One has doubled the information, not made it less sensitive. Something has happened to it, but the semantic loaf persists behind a mask, a veil, a foreign accent, new papers, breasts etc., and really the only thing to do about that, if you’re still anxious, is to remove both bits of information—the original and the encryption—altogether.

That quote should tell you if this trip is one you wish to take. Eaves's narrative choices are all right there, as is the chosen PoV of third-person limited. From the chapter-opening quotes selected from Turing's voluminous writings to the damning if underplayed social commentary, the whole is of a piece and gleams like the gem it is.

So why only four stars? Because it's been fictionalized, and the elision and compression inherent in that act (I've typed "of vandalism" three times and erased it four) seldom sits well with me. Even when, as now, I recognize that the author is seeking (and mostly finding) a Deeper Truth, it...feels like a cheapening of this tragedy. BUT YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ IT!!



Guernica Editions
$21.95 (US) trade paper, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: When a long-lost sister shows up as a trans man named Luke, a series of precipitous events throws the lives of boyfriends Daniel and David into turmoil. While David attends an extravagant family reunion in Sicily, Daniel's ex Marcus plans the world-premiere of his one-man show. The couple's vertiginous exploration of sex, intimacy and desire comes to a head when a shocking revelation tests their commitment and future together.

Tales from the Bottom of My Sole (2020) is the stand-alone sequel to David Kingston Yeh’s debut novel, A Boy at the Edge of the World (2018). It is a “confabulated fictional memoir” told by Daniel Garneau, a young gay man in search of himself. In the end, his story is the story of every man: a rollicking dramedy and a philosophical reflection on reconciliation, love and family.

Yeh has been listed among “writers to watch” by CBC Books. He lives with his husband in Toronto, Canada.


My Review
: First, read this:
"{David's mother} is pretty Catholic. I think it's turn the woman's life upside-down if she ever found out one kid was gay and the other one trans." {says Daniel}

Nadia sat straight-backed, observing the sailboats slipping past, chaperoned by raucous gulls. Her thin nostrils flared.

"'I am made and remade continually,' she said. 'Different people draw different words from me.'"

When I glanced at her, she said: "Virginia Woolf."

Apposite, no? Here's a well-read and deeply cultured person responding to a friend's revelation of the crisis affecting the other side of his family...his husband's family, in other words...with a pointer to the author of Orlando: A Biography, a famously trans-affirming novel, and a person of Sapphic preferences despite a long and loving marriage to a man.

I did not know this was a sequel when I requested it; I found that it made very little difference in my pleasure of reading it. The delights of family sagas complete with infidelity, deep love, family mishegas, and blending your life with another person's are not reserved to straight people. Anyone who read and enjoyed Tales of the City or The Cazalet Chronicles will find themselves in deeply satisfying, familiar territory with an able guide.

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