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Rainbow Road
Rainbow Road
by Alex Sanchez
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.35

4.0 out of 5 stars I shall miss them, 31 July 2014
This review is from: Rainbow Road (Paperback)
First the coming out. Now the road trip. The road trip seems iconic to American youth and one of them even reads Kerouac but I quite envy them, except that I like my security and creature comforts.

Going on a long holiday with two other people is rarely a good idea. I remember it well myself – lot of arguments and regrouping.

I like the title McVomit for a popular fast food outlet.

Who hasn’t dropped their mobile phone in the toilet? And lost their credit cards only to find them in a forgotten compartment much later?

It’s not long before we get the lecture about drugs impairing your judgement and a likely lapse from safer sex.

Now that I have finished all three books in this trilogy, I shall misse these characters.


Rainbow High
Rainbow High
by Alex Sanchez
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.20

4.0 out of 5 stars a pleasant distraction, 30 July 2014
This review is from: Rainbow High (Paperback)
Sequel to Rainbow Boys, this book is too obviously about safer sex education. A youth tests negative for HIV but is then vaccinated about Hepatitis B.
It’s unrealistic that a doctor in an STI clinic would moralise, unless things are different in the US.

Head teachers in the UK seem more enlightened that the one in this book.

Reviewers of the first book in the trilogy have expressed disappointment in the use of the term ‘spastic’. I suppose it is realistic that some high school use this term but less so when one of them uses it in his own, internal thoughts.

The author is good at empathy, understanding the pain and worry that two teenagers in love might not both get into the same university together and be parted.

I’m not sure that the teenagers would have such empathy with each other, thinking about each others’ motives when they speak. Lads normally take each other at face value.

They thought anyone over thirty was ‘old’. I hoped they’d set the bar at forty.

I wondered what ‘government’ was in the curriculum and figured out is was something like ‘citizenship’ in the UK

All in all, a pleasantly distracting read.


[( Our Times )] [by: A. N. Wilson] [Oct-2009]
[( Our Times )] [by: A. N. Wilson] [Oct-2009]
by A. N. Wilson
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Arrogant old fogey, 28 July 2014
This author first came to my attention after he had dropped out of St. Stephen’s house, Oxford, where he was training for priesthood. He wrote a very astute and candid novel about the college and proceeded to write novels featuring Anglo-Catholicism which, to those of us inside the ghetto, were accurate in their observations.

He then turned to popular theology, writing books about Paul and Jesus which showed a woeful lack of discernment between serious theology and mere speculation.

He was then as fan of New Labour but by the time he wrote this book he has ceased to be a ‘young fogey’ and is now an old fogey, sneering at the working class, writing that we provide them with schools, prisons, hospitals and care homes, as if that were the sole measure of their seemingly pointless, lazy lives.

He shares the current distaste for nationalized industries, claiming that: expansion in Britain would fall catastrophically behind her inter¨national competitors, and labour relations were deplorable for the first quarter century of the reign — until Margaret Thatcher did the cruel but necessary thing and hammered the trades unions.

He contrasts the periods in which I (and he) was born with the present day. I think things are better’ he doesn’t. We are treated with nostalgia for an irrelevant world.

He regards as dangerous charlatans R. D. Lang, Michel Foucault and Sylvia Plath.

It’s interesting to see that politicians in the 1950s were just as corrupt as they are now and that they could perjure themselves in expensive libel suits.

It is simply nonsense to blame Michael Ramsey for ‘systematically [seeking to] dismantle the Church of England.

However, I enjoyed Ramsey’s view of: Donald Coggan, whom he nicknamed the Cog. 'I liked him, he wrote of Coggan when he was still Bishop of Bradford, 'and was as yet unaware of his glaring deficiencies'

These were as nothing compared to: Stuart Blanch, an agoraphobic, who suffered a nervous breakdown in 1981, having been the most undistinguished Archbishop of York in 1,300 years or so of the province's history.

I always hated James Callaghan for starting to wreck education so it was good to read that he ‘never had an idea in his life…..absolutely no distinction of character or of intellect…bonehead’

The author perpetuates the idea that Labour governments always wreck the economy and have to be rescued by the Tories.
My favourite description: Mary Whitehouse of the National Viewers and Listeners Association (founded 1965), a bustling and busy woman whose grin was rendered mirthless by too large false teeth.

Wilson is simply wrong to assert that Pope Paul 6th was the only pope in modern times to have visited England in his youth. Benedict did too – frequently.

We are subjected to a barrage of praise of Prince Charles as being more astute than any politician about the decline of Britain, his setting up of the Princess trust and organic food farms before getting to his sordid adultery.,

Of Tony Blair, little more needs to be said than that he and his wife never took books to read on holiday or that he lied about having been brought up in a rural area when he had lived all; his life in urban areas.

Robin Cook was a great enough man not to be dismissed as ‘carrot bearded’.

If your name is Roy, you get continually referred to as ‘Woy’.

The author clearly hates Islam.

He clearly doesn’t check his sources, e.g. when he claims that Bishop David Jenkins regarded the resurrection as ‘a conjuring trick with bones’ when he had, in fact, said the complete opposite.

He blames the abandonment of phonics and of the figure of Britannia from coins for lack of social cohesion.

I have lost any respect that I had for this author. In his arrogant populism, I keep hearing the voice of a sneering Peter Hitchens.


The Immoralist (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Immoralist (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Andre Gide
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars ahead of its time, 25 July 2014
Some of us were a little apprehensive before reading this book. However, everyone in our group agreed that it was worthwhile. One said that it all ‘came together in the last thirty pages.’ We all agreed that is was well-written.
His description of places is good – you know that he’s been there. I particularly liked the descriptions of Carthage and El Djem (with their magnificent amphitheatres) and note that, one hundred years later, the only train from Sousse still arrives 1.00 a.m. so you risk not finding an hotel for the night. The return train is more convenient though ours had stones thrown at it and none of the doors closed. You are better off using a louage (shared taxi).

Both he and his father had tuberculosis which is why description of coughing up blood is so vivid. His war on tuberculosis begins with the awakening of his senses to a total receptivity to life-giving elements. The taste of good food, the tingling sensation of cold water on hot skin, the feel and touch of a palm tree, the sun on his naked body by day, and the invigorating desert air by night become the new objects of his worship. His rejection of all other claims on his life--except those which make for the indulgence of his newly-discovered self--excludes Marceline whose presence he begins to find oppressive.

The Immoralist is based on Gide's personal experience of discovering his homosexuality while travelling as a young man in North Africa.

It was conventional to get married back then but noteworthy that he first sex with his wife two months after their wedding. That something wasn’t quite right didn’t stop him having an extra-marital affair with another woman.

The character of Menalque in The Immoralist is based on Oscar Wilde. Ménalque's philosophy on personal property relates possessiveness to stagnation and false security and calls it the primary concern of an establishment which fears change.

Undoubtedly Gide was deeply disturbed by Wilde, and not surpris¨ingly since the remarks of Gide in his letters of that time suggest that Wilde was intent on undermining the younger man's self-identity, rooted as it was in a Protestant ethic and high bourgeois moral rigour and repression which generated a kind of conformity which Wilde scorned. Wilde wanted to encourage Gide to transgress.

Richard Ellmann suggests that 'in effect, Wilde spiritually seduced Gide'. For Ellmann, the most important document about the 'psychic possession of Gide by Wilde' is those missing pages from Gide's journal….. He is taken by Wilde to a cafe: 'in the half-open doorway, there suddenly appeared a marvellous youth. He stood there for a time, leaning with his raised elbow against the door-jamb, and outlined on the dark background of the night'. The youth joins them; his name is Mohammed; he is a musician, a flute player. Listening to that music 'you forgot the time, and place, and who you were’. This is not the first time Gide has experienced this sensation of forgetting. Africa increasingly attracts him in this respect; there he feels (liberated and the burden of an oppressive sense of self is dissolved: 'I aid aside anxieties, constraints, solicitudes, and as my will evaporated, felt myself becoming porous as a beehive' Now, as they leave the cafe, Wilde turns to Gide and asks him if he desires the musician.) Gide writes: 'how dark the alley was! I thought my heart would fail me; and what a dreadful effort of courage it needed to answer: "yes", and with what a choking voice!' ……earlier courage was needed for self-discipline—now it is the strength to transgress). Wilde arranges something with their guide, rejoins Gide and then begins laughing: 'a resounding laugh, more of triumph than of pleasure, an interminable, uncontrollable, insolent laugh . . . it was the amusement of a child and a devil' .Gide spends the night with Mohammed: 'my joy was unbounded, and I cannot imagine it greater, even if love had been added'. Though not his first homosexual experience (probably his second), it confirmed Gide's sexual `nature'—what, he says, was 'normal' for him: 'There was nothing constrained here, nothing precipitate, nothing doubtful; there is no taste of ashes in the memory I keep.' Even more defiantly Gide declares that, although he had achieved 'the summit of pleasure five times' with Mohammed, 'I revived my ecstasy many more times, and back in my hotel room I relived its echoes until morning' (this passage was one of those omitted from early English editions).

Michel's puritan disdain for any signs of weakness which caused him to hide the seriousness of his condition from Marceline

He becomes indignant that he should be at the brink of death while others take life and health for granted. For the first time life becomes a precious possession whose value is only recognized when its essence is about to be snatched away. In a flash of emotional intensity Michel experiences the mystery of life and his passivity changes into an active and zealous will to live. So he breaks away from his former routine. Eager to cultivate his own immediate desires he becomes alert to those in others which are as yet unrestrained by the shackles of society's rules. Hence Motkir's theft of Marceline's scissors stimulates more than idle curiosity in Michel, and is the first of many incidents where aberrant behaviour is the object of his intense fascination.

The biblical warning of Christ's words to Peter (that young people have freedom whereas elderly people depend on others for their mobility) sound the first alarm as Michel becomes vaguely aware that absolute freedom of action is an illusion, that he is subject to the ravages of time.

Possessions become the bars of his cell in his deliberate attempt to imprison his latent restlessness and rebellion against conformity. In this context Gide inserts an observation on farm life which, on the surface, has nothing to do with Michel, but which becomes an image of Michel's imprisonment and his attempt to foil his natural longings. At "La Morinière" Bocage, the bailiff, has enclosed the ducks at the onset of autumn winds. Human intervention and constraint frustrate natural instinct, and the ducks must comply with their northern cage. Gradually, Michel himself will grow restive in the self-made prison of his Paris apartment, and the lure of the south will become stronger.

Among the symbols of Michel's feeling of stagnation verses spontaneity are the description of the irrigation system in Biskra and in the taming of the wild colt at "La Morinière." The beautiful animal had been declared useless and unmanageable by his servants. Michel calls on Charles for help, and Charles tames him through quiet and gentle authority, wise restraint, and a deep respect for the animal. The once wild and useless colt becomes tame and docile:

The process of emptying the pond is another symbol: for the pond to remain useful its old contents had to be brought to the surface, its murky waters drained, and the leak repaired. Michel's mind, like the pond, is blocked by old repressions and obstacles to his future productivity. To arrive at the bottom of his consciousness he has to bring everything to the surface and thereby heal the slow seepage which deprives him of the inner resources he needs to cope with life. Michel is so preoccupied with his liberation from restrictions outside himself that he fails to recognize the inhibiting forces within him.

Michel's provisional moral code is comparable to the land he lets lie in disuse at "La Morinière." He fails to recognize that his entire property is slowly deteriorating. The land and the mind which lie fallow are soon invaded by thistles and weeds and gradually lose their value. That Michel takes these neglected fields away from the farmers in order to cultivate them would indicate the possibility of regeneration, but Michel's plans do not materialize, and his failure in meeting his responsibilities toward his land foreshadows his failure in meeting his responsibilities toward Marceline and ultimately toward himself. The gift of life cannot be wasted. Michel's dream of absolute leisure is based on his reaction against the bondage of poverty:

Gide compared his book to the fruit of the colocynths which grow in the desert and are not without beauty, though they present only greater thirst to the one who seeks to drink their juice. The experience of life creates the desire for more life, and an unquenchable thirst is the essence of yearning. Michel's dwelling stands in a garden which is girded by a wall. Within the enclosure stand three stunted pomegranate trees. The pomegranate, like the colocynth, does not appease thirst but creates a fiercer, deeper craving for its fruit. The fact that these trees are retarded in their growth and most likely barren illustrates symbolically that Michel's adventure ends in sterility. Begun when he first tasted the forbidden fruit of consciousness in the gardens of Biskra, his quest has exhausted itself in the pitiful garden at Sidi--which is not the paradise he had thought to regain.

One of our members asked whether his wife might also be a symbol of Gide, of a split psyche between respectability and immorality, between the imprisoned and the free.

He no longer fancies Charles when he grows whiskers and wears a bowler hat. This confirms the difference between a pederast and a homosexual

One can’t help but agree to: 'I have a horror of honest folk. I may have nothing to fear from them, but I have nothing to learn either. And besides, they have nothing to say . . . Honest Swiss nation! What does their health do for them? They have neither crimes, nor history, not literature, nor arts ... a hardy rose-tree, without thorns or flowers.'

I had to look up ‘Caryatid’ p. 36 = a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head.

There’s an irritating, unnecessary apostrophe ion ‘Thursday’s’ p. 97

During World War I, Gide worked for the Red Cross, then in a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, and later offered shelter to war refugees. During the 1920s, he became an advocate for the oppressed peoples of colonized regions, as well as for women's rights and the humane treatment of criminals. In 1947 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Gide died in Paris on 19 February 1951, at the age of eighty-one. Six years later, his entire works were entered in the Roman Catholic Index of Forbidden Books.


Thinking Straight
Thinking Straight
by Reardon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.26

4.0 out of 5 stars accurate but manic towards the end, 21 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Thinking Straight (Paperback)
This is like Erzen’s study of ex-gay ministries ‘Straight to Jesus’ in story form. Indeed, the very name of the institution described is the same. The ‘treatment’ is accurate – no pop music, no fashionable clothes, no internet access etc.

However, it is a bit ‘preachy’ and I doubt that a teenage boy could deconstruct bible texts in the way Taylor does.

Each chapter begins with a biblical text, used the way a self-affirming person would read it, not the way fundamentalists rip things out of context.

One Jewish girl insightfully remarks that fundamentalists project their wrathful god on to Judaism by claiming that the Old Testament God is more vengeful. Their understanding of the New Testament contains far more vengeance and not much, if any, love.

Indeed, one of the ‘counsellors’ talks of the behaviour necessary ‘to be worthy of God’s grace’. Grace, by definition, does not need to be earned.

One reviewer thought this was a Roman Catholic setup. True, Taylor uses the term ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’ and, later, ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God’ but the institution seems very protestant/fundamentalist in its use of Bible texts. Indeed, Charles says that Roman Catholics are heretics. Maybe the author doesn’t know about denominations.

It’s a cross between a gulag and a Trappist monastery, where they seek to break your will, where you can’t discern who is friend and who is foe, using solitary confinement and group spying. It gets a bit unrealistic towards the end when it becomes a sort of ‘Escape from Sobibor.’

There is a lot of suicide but that is regarded as a better option for someone that returning to homosexuality.

I had to look up ‘luau’. Apparently it’s ‘a traditional Hawaiian party or feast that is usually accompanied by entertainment.’

The verdict might be the words of Taylor, that ex-gay means, literally, no longer happy. (So don’t try to pray away the gay.)


Tale of Two Summers
Tale of Two Summers
by Brian Sloan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.62

4.0 out of 5 stars like totally, 19 July 2014
This review is from: Tale of Two Summers (Hardcover)
Two teenagers have been best friends for a very long time. One is gay. The other is straight and is away at a summer school so they write to one another almost every day and this book charts their lives, loves and feelings.

Some of the teenage slang made me feel elderly!

There’s too much drugs in this book.

I am surprised that a 16-year-old doesn’t have his own house key.

And fear of commitment must be a good thing from someone so young.

Ultimately, I wish that people who get boy/girlfriends/married wouldn’t drop their best friends. You never know when you’re going to need them. Which is ‘like totally’ the moral of this book.


If it Die (Modern Classics)
If it Die (Modern Classics)
by Andre Gide
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars boring compared to his other work, 18 July 2014
Gide has no time for notion that children are innocent. He talks about the bad things he did under the table with another boy. He is almost an apologist for the doctrine of original sin.

He loved his kaleidoscope and laments that children no longer have them. I did, much later on.

His childhood was lonely except for his mother’s governess, Anna, who always welcomed him and treated him as a humans being rather than a nuisance.

Like me, he wasn’t allowed to go to his own father’s funeral.

He asks his mother what an ‘atheist’ is and gets the reply ‘horrid and foolish’.

He observes that the French need to take sides, to belong to a particular party.

He is derided for getting full marks in school – this is often assumed to be a modern thing but, clearly, it isn’t.

Someone speaks of ‘domicilliary visits’. I have only ever heard that term once before, in 1978, from someone very pompous.

We get several boring pages about philosophy, art and poetry.

The person who had this copy before me pencilled in all sorts of ridiculous comments that made this book seem even more pompous. Some of his remarks are in French and some show that he knows little about Gide. For example, when Gide writes that he loathes virtue, the frantic scribbler adds a question mark.

Compared with other stuff that I’ve read by Gide, I found this somewhat boring.

Perhaps this comment says it all: Memoirs are never more than half sincere, however great one's desire for truth; everything is-always more complicated than one makes out. Possibly even one gets nearer to truth in the novel


Rainbow Boys
Rainbow Boys
by Alex Sanchez
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars tell me the old, old story, 15 July 2014
This review is from: Rainbow Boys (Paperback)
It’s the same old coming out story that has been told several times over, though there is up to date information at the back about help groups. It has the stereotypes, the jock, the goofy and the effeminate. The speed at which these teenagers come to terms with things is unrealistic. There’s some misinformation- that it is ‘safe’ for two HIV+ to have sex, given that there are different strands which can lead to cross infection. It’s also unrealistic that a doctor in an STI clinic would moralise.

It’s good that schools, even church schools, tend to have compulsory homophobic policies these days, so some of the stuff to which a blind eye is turned should no longer be happening.

That being said, it was a nice way to pass the time so I might get the sequel.


The Vast Fields of Ordinary
The Vast Fields of Ordinary
by Nick Burd
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.29

4.0 out of 5 stars update of a familiar genre, 13 July 2014
This is his first novel so we sort of assume that there is an element of autobiography in it. One interview has him saying: I’m gay and I grew up in Iowa, but it’s not really that autobiographical. My parents are very different than Dade’s parents. And there’s not really anything about his personality that is like mine. ….I grew up in a religious environment. The things in the library weren’t gay or lesbian oriented. My sexuality was forming in my mind in sixth, seventh, eighth grade, and I couldn’t find any young adults geared towards gay kids. When I found adult themed gay books that was kind of a big deal.

As for the ‘religious environment’, this is well described in the book as ‘crazy church.’ (Where ….:mid-hymn and twitched with the spirit. He said that it never ceased to terrify him, that he didn't understand why anyone would want to voluntarily lose themselves in something when it seemed like life was all about trying to find yourself.)

It won the Stonewall Book Award It’s a classic coming of age novel but there have been many before. What might make this book different is that is more up to date, though the stupidly-named pop group ‘Vas Deferens’ doesn’t exist, nor it is funny. Johnny Morgan does exist but I cannot work out why anyone would want a shrine to him in their bedroom. It deals with the awkward summer between high school and college, as do most others. The hero falls for the high school jock (who blanks him when he is with his sporty mates) but people like Patricia Nell Warren have dealt with this much better and more sexily.

I note that the hero’s mother shops before he goes to uni. and buys him five pares of jeans? That many? Is he going to bring his washing home every vacation? She also buys him a microwave and a fried. This Americanism seeks to have taken hold in the UK where students, after graduating, through all this stuff out saying ‘It was for uni.’ despite it being still perfectly serviceable.

The hero’s mum is going through a difficult phase of her life and he rightly recognises the sort of ‘crappy in self-help books’.

The invented small town of ‘Cedarville’ conjures up endless boredom. Maybe that’s why the hero ate two dinners one evening.

The best bit is the intro by e. e. cummings: "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting."

How’s this for a cliché?: we were kissing again, slow and deliberate like ice melting on a countertop.

Being an American book, I had to look up ‘kabobs’ = kebabs! I had to look up ‘muy caliente’. It means "very hot"’.


Corydon (Gay Modern Classics)
Corydon (Gay Modern Classics)
by Andre Gide
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars an essentialist view, 10 July 2014
This book consists of four Socratic dialogues on homosexuality. Its name comes from Virgil's pederastic character Corydon. Parts of the text were separately privately printed from 1911 to 1920, and the whole book appeared in its French original in France in May 1924 and in the United States in 1950.

An old school friend visits Corydon, who has become a doctor. He is very slow on the uptake but I suppose that give the author the excuse to go into great detail.

Corydon marshals a range of evidence from naturalists, historians, poets, and philosophers (many from the classics, of which I have virtually no knowledge or interest) to support his contention that homosexuality has pervaded the most culturally and artistically advanced civilizations, that homosexuality is natural, or better not unnatural, and that it pervaded the most culturally and artistically advanced civilizations.

He explains that he was going to marry but fancied her brother who later committed suicide because of his unrequited love for Corydon.

We get lots of information about female animals being on heat and how males can’t help themselves when they smell them whereas human males can choose and the female has to wear make up to attract. Males have more semen that is needed for reproductive purposes so isn’t it natural for them to sow their seed all over the place.
Anti-Semitism dismisses some words of Leon Blum.

Some say that it’s outdated, but the debates contained within it still rage today – is it nature or nurture? So what if animals indulge? Aren’t humans endowed with a higher nature?


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