Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Another year, another season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Part of the show’s appeal lies in how deftly it manipulates the reality television template; this season even opened by separating the queens into two teams in order to generate more drama. But one tension that the show always picks up on is the dividing line between the older queens and the younger queens. This tension is especially potent right now, because six seasons in, there are queens competing who grew up with the show professionally. So you end up getting queens who have little to no knowledge of drag or camp history. Case in point: the conflict between Vivacious, an old-school New York City club kid queen, and the spry, shrill younger queens of the season, especially those who seem to think that drag is all looks. (…Gia Gunn. I’m talking about Gia Gunn.)
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
As you can imagine, working at a bookstore has done some serious damage to the reading spreadsheet, which is large enough to start looking for a job. Books used to haunt me by turning up under my questing fingers in libraries or thrift stores; now, they stare me down as I refresh displays and make sure the overstock piles aren’t going to fall over and knock me unconscious. While the exposure is much more constant, I still get those serendipitous hauntings. A used copy of Mystic Vision: The Making of Eragon turned up at the store months ago and I’m still pretending that it’s not going to come home with me. At this point in that film’s life, it’s pretty clear that it was meant to cross the path of someone who loves crap fantasy films.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
For some reason, the film version of Never Let Me Go and Let Me In, the American remake of the film adaptation of Let the Right One In, are linked in my mind. Something about speculative fiction horror and the fact they were released in the same year squashed them together in my brain, to the point that I’ve often, in the past three years, had to remind myself they’re not when reading through, say, Keira Knightley’s filmography. I have been meaning to read the original novel of the former for quite some time, but reading Margaret Atwood’s thoughts on the novel in In Other Worlds made it rise up the list.
Lyra’s Oxford by Philip Pullman
I really enjoyed revisiting His Dark Materials, even if I didn’t quite enjoy the second two as much as the first. Lyra is just such a fantastic heroine—clever, good-hearted, and sneaky. For the most part, the current run of Journey Into Mystery has been keeping me well-stocked with a similar hero (kid Loki would definitely give Lyra a run for her money; and, given the laws of the Internet, I have just summoned that fic into being), but sometimes, you just have to go back to the original. Plus, I’ve been meaning to revisit Pullman’s works, and I rather like the idea of getting through the new His Dark Materials stuff before revisiting the Sally Lockhart trilogy. (Via audio, of course.)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
Let’s face it; I read this because I wanted to see the movie, which is one of those British films with an all-star cast. (It is a bit easier when your island is so small.) As someone with bad taste, I’m acutely aware of the fact that whatever I come to first, I like better—the book or the movie, the original or the cover. (I think the only time this has failed is with “Helter Skelter”, which I thought Pat Benatar had written for a few weeks. Yep.) So I knew I would need to read the novel first. But I waffled a bit; it’s part of a series, after all, and I’m a completionist. The first novel in the George Smiley series was on my list until I decided to streamline things and just pick up Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and get it over with. After several weeks of bashing my head against the wall the novel turned out to be, I realized it was really the best choice.
The Brontë Myth by Lucasta Miller
I think I’ve mentioned it in passing, but my senior thesis focuses on Jane Eyre and its derivative works. This is a fancy, academic way of saying “it’s about Jane Eyre fanfiction”. (I actually considered Pride and Prejudice, but I think I would have drowned.) I have been rereading Jane Eyre, but my readings are too close together for much personal enjoyment, and I do want to get onto the derivative works as soon as possible. So, to keep my chin up, I decided to pick up The Brontë Myth to give myself something new to look at in the first week or so of my research.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
I was not going to read this book, for much the same reason I’ve been avoiding Stieg Larsson. I don’t fall prey to the idea that something getting popular makes it somehow unworthy—I mean, I’m a fantasy fan, for Pete’s sake. But I still had the same reaction; just breezing past it as something I don’t want to read. And then one of my very favorite professors told me he had enjoyed it. Feeling guilty about talking about speculative fiction non-stop, I decided to pick it up so we’d have something to talk about. …Yeah, it’s going to be an awkward conversation.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Providence smiled upon me with The Secret History; I found a first edition in a local thrift store. Normally, this doesn’t matter to me unless it involves my beloved Tolkien, but the people over at Alfred A. Knopf believed in Tartt’s debut so much so that they printed the first edition in a run of 75,000—compared to the 10,000 usually reserved for debuts. It’s also pretty fancy, with a plastic cover that slips over a lovely hardcover. Jenny absolutely adores this book, and I thought it was high time to ignore my library books and get to my own tiny pile of unread books. (I do, in fact, have one! It is in my closet.)
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
After reading David Levithan’s contribution to Geektastic, “Quiz Bowl Antichrist”, I’ve been steadily making my way through Levithan’s bibliography—you can read my review of The Lover’s Dictionary here. I thoroughly enjoyed that one and picked up this, his first novel, a few weeks after polishing it off. After Spellwright, I really wanted something special—but, while I enjoyed it, Boy Meets Boy was ultimately too flimsy for me.