Timoleon Vieta Come Home – Dan Rhodes

•January 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I wasn’t sure that a book about a dog ‘with the saddest eyes’ would work for me as I don’t tend to like adult books about animals, though I am an animal fan. However as that dog is the Timoleon Vieta of the title I knew I would be on a journey with him so I would have to leave my preconceived ideas somewhere else. I am glad I did as within about ten pages I was smitten with Timoleon Vieta (apart from the name which when you have to read it that often gets a little much) and quite wanted him as a pet of my own. Onto the story though.

Timoleon Vieta is the best friend, quite literally, of the composer Cockroft after he appears at the window of his Italian Villa one day. Cockroft a lover of animals, though with a bad history in owning dogs, cannot resist his eyes and so keeps him and spoils him rotten and the two become the perfect companions. That is until ‘The Bosnian’ arrives. Cockroft has a habit of giving out his card (along with a rather sexual quip) to good looking young men in the hope of long lasting affairs; he doesn’t expect them to follow it up, especially when they are straight. However as The Bosnian wants a free life where he can be happily bored for days on end he is willing to go to any lengths to get it, he just has to get that damned dog that hates him out of the way and one night after getting Cockroft drunk the dog is taken to Rome and bumped.

This is when the second half of the book kicks in and though we still read of Cockroft and his wicked Bosnian houseboy we end up following Timoleon Vieta as he makes his way home and surviving. We also are brought into the lives of those he meets and their fascinating stories in the Italian villages and towns. From a tale of star crossed lovers, a spurned Welsh girl after a holiday romance gone bad, to a man left with his dead wife’s child from another relationship these are all short tales of love, loss and betrayal and all of them are stunning.

What I liked was how Rhodes got into the head of a gay man, and did it very well. In some ways Cockroft is a little stereotypical but in the main he is just an elderly man who is a little bit naïve and is looking for love and so ends up with rather rose tinted spectacles one. I think it’s great when straight authors write gay characters and even gay sex; gay authors do it the opposite way round fairly often. Interestingly looking at reviews on a certain site a lot of people found the sex scene put them off the book which to me seems a sad state of affairs. Hey ho though what can you do?

I really enjoyed this book. There is a shock ending that I should mention as it has been slated on certain sites for it. I found the ending shocking but then sometimes we need to be shocked and sometimes books shouldn’t end the way we the reader want them too. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to give anything away, if you have read it and want to discuss it drop me an email as wouldn’t want to give any spoilers out on here.

TV Book Show Didn’t Leave Me Happy & Gay

•January 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I wondered if I should pop this post on this blog, but I have done on both my others and I couldn’t really let the last 25 minutes of TV I have endured slip by with out comment. Despite the fact that it’s been one of the most hyped shows in a while I missed ‘The TV Book Show’ last night (because I am a Dancing on Ice addict) but have just watched it first thing this morning with my cup of coffee and toast and have come away in a rather bad mood. You may wonder what this has to do with Great Gay Reads by the book choice this week was Sarah Waters and also one of the presenters is Gok Wan. Tenacious links but hey ho I need to see who else was enraged?

For those of you who have no clue what I have started rambling about we have had a big book club on the television for a few years now called The Richard and Judy Book Club. It’s been a huge hit here in the UK and has seen all the books become best sellers and has made a lot more people get into reading. It was only a ten minute segment on their channel 4 chat show but it was a blissful bookish ten minutes perfectly pitched with the author talking, two celebrities debating the book with R&J and then a book groups opinions on the book. Delightful!

Richard and Judy left Channel 4 taking their book group and a whole heap of money with them and so now Channel 4 have produced a similar show only now we get 25 minutes and five presenters which to me sounded like a dream, until I just watched it.

I am going to forgive the fact that all the presenters seemed a bit too smiley, nodding and talked over one another trying to be the star or the funniest because it was the first show, mind you surely they had rehearsal time. I don’t think we needed a discussion about how David Spikey says ‘book’ for a minute or another minute long chat about how posh Chris Evans thinks Jo Brand has gotten whilst Laila Rouass and Gok Wan pout obliviously the latter livening up for the occasional flirting moment aimed at Nathaniel Parker. Cringe worthy but still forgivable for a first show.

What I cant forgive is the fact that Chris Evans (we all know autobiography sales have dropped so clearly the marketing people on the book show haven’t their fingers on the bookish pulse) got a whacking great ten minutes to talk about himself his book, followed by a segment on unused words The One Show did last week and the actual book choice got a minute of Sarah Waters talking (which was ace) before the book got a quick three minute chat which was summed up by the line ‘it’s worth a read really’.

What really made me frustrated was that for the money the public will have spent on the book (unless its from a library) it is just not right that they are repaid with such a limp small discussion, well chat. What bothers me more is that a book like Sarah Waters ‘The Little Stranger’ takes a long time to read and when you are aiming a book group at parents and people who don’t read as much because they are busy with children, work etc as well as discerned readers its just a disgrace when people invest so much time in a book to be treated to that. (I might even send a strongly worded email its riled me so, for the people in control are sure not to read book blogs if the show was anything to go by.) I might wait a week and see how things go in the next programme. I am really quite annoyed about it though can you tell?

I mean, if I was making the book show I would get rid of the ‘hilarious aren’t we’ or ‘pouting’ panel and get in some book addicts who would happily be paid less (hint, hint, me) and who would enthuse about all things bookish (and not need to have written questions and notes in their copy – yes Mr Spikey I mean you) rather than spend four minutes discussing a book they had to read, and didn’t seem to like without giving any good reasons as to why, to earn the channel and themselves some cash. I would also bring back the Book Groups and their wonderful thoughts on the books. There am done… I feel better now.

My Side of the Story – Will Davis

•January 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I hadn’t heard of Will Davis until ‘My Side of the Story’ caught my eye in a shop some time ago and I kept thinking I must get round to getting that. Then when I got it I kept thinking that I really should get round to reading it and now I finally have. I didn’t know what to expect of this debut novel, the fact that it won the Betty Task Prize in 2007 seemed like a good sign though.

My Side of the Story is the story of Jaz a young man coming to terms with his sexuality. Well he has come to terms with his sexuality it seems to be the world and his wife that haven’t. Apart from his best friend (or dare I say fag-hag) Al who will happily go to gay bars with him and is up for any adventure or drama that befalls them. This is quite a good thing as many a drama does indeed befall them and the hapless pair get into some unusual situations including running away.

I don’t want to give too much away with this book as it would spoil some of the outrageously over the top moments which also make you laugh out loud and this is some of the books greatest charm. As well as laugh out loud moments such as teachers in leather chaps (see you must have grinned at that thought) this is also the tale of Jaz falling in love for the first time and how he deals with all the new emotions it creates in him.

This isn’t the most literary book about coming out, coming of age or being a teenager but despite some of the very ‘out there’ drama it isn’t far off what its like to be a young man growing up gay and all it entails. Well it’s been almost a decade since I was in that situation but I remember it being every hormonal and fuelled with drama and the like, don’t you? It’s witty, highly readable and thoroughly entertaining. Has anyone read the latest Will Davis book, I am tempted to try it but slightly dubious by the premise. Do let me know if you have, or what you thought of this funny and entertaining read.

When Clarri Met Sally

•January 15, 2010 • 1 Comment

I have always wanted to read the legendary Virginia Woolf  but at the same time have always been rather intimidated by her. However due to a challenge I put myself up for last year it ended up that myself and ‘Mrs Dalloway’ would have a brief dalliance.  Sadly as much as I hoped to love the book, especially as I have always wanted to read it after seeing the stunning film of The Hours, I didn’t really enjoy it (please visit my other bookish blog for thoughts on that today). The writing is wonderful, I just didn’t like any of the characters. Clarissa needed a ‘good wake up shake’ and only Septimus was interesting but… well… I won’t give anything away!

So why on earth am I writing about it here? Well because as I mentioned the writing is utterly stunning and because of Virginia’s wonderful writing of  a love that dare not speak it’s name. When told Virginia Woolf beautifully describes the emotions that Clarissa Dalloway feels for Sally Seton and its just wonderfully, wonderfully written and pitch perfect. For that alone I have to recommend it here on The Great Gay Reads, how could I not?

A small post today, but don’t forget to scroll down and let me know your recommendations on some reads below!

January Recommendations Please…

•January 13, 2010 • 3 Comments

Before I rudely got distracted by Colin Firth in the previous post I promised you that I would give you a list of all the great gay themed books or great books written by gay authors that I have sat on my shelves (and in some of the boxes) that I haven’t read yet. I would then ask you to say which ones I simply must read first… so that is what I shall do! It’s not all the books I have to get through, I just thought this list would do for now.

  • Skin Lane – Neil Bartlett
  • Parallel Lies – Stella Duffy
  • Footnotes to Sex – Mia Farlane
  • The Well of Loneliness – Radclyffe Hall
  • Carol – Patricia Highsmith
  • The Indian Clerk – David Leavitt
  • Hell’s Belles – Paul Magrs
  • Michael Tolliver Lives – Armistead Maupin
  • Queens – Pickles
  • The First Person & Other Stories – Ali Smith
  • Mothers & Sons – Colm Toibin
  • Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
  • Hotel du Dream – Edmund White

So what are your thoughts which book should I have a crack at next? One or two of them are already my favourites to be read next I wonder if you can guess which? Now I will leave this topic open to you until Monday! Let me know your thoughts.

Who Else Is Desperate To See This?

•January 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I am and no mistake! Tom Ford directing a film based on Christopher Isherwood’s ‘A Single Man’… with Colin Firth in it. It’s almost too much. I must read the book first though like all good blookish people should do!

Belated Happy 2010

•January 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Sorry that I haven’t done any posts for a while. I didn’t even leave you one with Happy Christmas on it shame on me, so now before I go any further let me wish you a very Happy New Year and a wonderful 2010. I think that might call for some fireworks or something…

OK, so I went with balloons… There you go. more classy. With the craze that is Christmas and the very possibly slightly (I won’t lie to you) drunken festivities of New Year I have been a little bit crazy busy and so I do apologise. I would say there is a post coming up soon but at the moment I am reading a giant doorstep of a Murakami for my book group and after that I am not quite sure where I should go next. I think I shall put a post up later this week of possible books I could read next and you can maybe whittle them down and recommend which ones I should or shouldn’t read? Sound a plan?

In the meantime New Year means resolutions and here are my bookish ones for 2010…

  • 2010 is all about reading on a whim. Challenges, long lists and read-a-thons (unless they fit in with a whim) are out and other than the one book group choice each month.
  • Get to know the books I own and not buy any more until that’s done.
  • Read more books in translation.
  • Discover lots of new authors, I already own.
  • Try more short story collections and novellas.
  • Read more non-fiction, end of (which the above will help with)
  • Carry on with the classics and read more of the books I have been meaning to for years, like ‘Maurice’.
  • Be tougher, if I don’t like it stop reading it.
  • Devour some books from and about Brazil. As I might be moving there in 2011 it would be good to know a lot more about it.

What about you? What are your bookish resolutions?