Posts tagged “reading

What I’ve Read: Winter 2016

Now that we’ve moved to beautiful and peaceful Colorado, I find I have much more time to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes–reading! In this day and age, and given my social media-deformed short attention span, it’s been challenging to find the time to linger over a good book. This Christmas, determined to change this pattern, I asked Russ for three books: And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality (Mark Segal), Immaculate Blue (Paul Russell), and Based on a True Story (Jameson Currier.) Being the excellent husband that Russ is, he did exactly as instructed, in turn providing me with hours of literary pleasure. Each, in its own way, is worth reading. While I had issues which prevented me from viewing them as truly great reads, you might love them, and that’s part of the fun of reading!

And Then I DancedMark Segal is a legendary LGBT activist. Not only was he at Stonewall–yes, THE Stonewall–but he famously interrupted CBS News with Walter Cronkite, as well as countless other moments of activism, each of which seem to be recounted here. (He must’ve kept one hell of a diary.) And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality (Mark Segal) documents his many efforts and, as a history book alone, is a fascinating read. However, I really wanted more Mark. Who is he, at his core, besides an activist? What drives him? Does he have a personal life? Including such details might’ve helped to flesh out what is, at its core, a recitation of events. “I did this, then this, then this.” He takes pains to acknowledge other activists, but every time it seems that he is getting close to an emotional or revealing personal moment, as a writer he pulls back. This might be due to his job in newspaper publishing, thinking only the factual is important, but as a reader, I closed the book wanting more insight into him. His chapter on the toll of AIDS gives a hint as to the emotion he holds under the surface, and the memoir could have used more telling moments.

Immaculate BlueImmaculate Blue, by Paul Russell, was just named a finalist for Best Gay Fiction in the 2016 Lambda Literary awards. Russell is a wonderful storyteller and writer, and I’ve enjoyed many of his other books, but I personally didn’t connect with this one. It builds on characters introduced in his earlier The Salt Point, which I didn’t read. Perhaps that would’ve helped in enjoying this, as the story circles around four friends, reuniting after 20 years apart, and insight into who they were earlier might have shaped my view. But my problem was that regardless of who they might have been back then, I didn’t enjoy who they are now. In particular, one lead is so unlikeable and his story so dark and improbable that it left a bad taste in my mouth. I actually found myself more interested in some of the secondary characters, in particular a deaf boy, but as the story focuses on the four, it is with them that we are stuck. I’m a bit surprised to find it named a Lammy finalist, but Russell clearly has great skill, as past works have proven.

Based on a True StoryAnother 2016 Lammy finalist is Jameson Currier for his collection of essays Until My Heart Stops, which I look forward to reading. In his novella, Based on a True Story, four men gather at a mountain cabin over Thanksgiving, and slowly reveal the tale of an off-screen couple. In many respects, this reads as an extended monologue, interrupted by attempts at fleshing out the four “main” characters. While the tale is impactful, it is also not surprising, with the outcome easy to guess early on. Still, I liked these characters and wanted to spend more time with them, and that’s always a sign to me of a tale well-told.

Now, I need some new books. What should I read next?

 


To the Reader Who Saved My Life…

Dear Bob,

As we enter this new year, full of promise and possibility, I realized that I could not in all fairness properly close out the old without first repaying a major debt.  One that I owe to you, dear reader, for quite literally saving my life.

To begin, I have no idea when we first connected, or how you stumbled upon my novel…  Maybe it was the cover, peaking coyly at you from a stack in a bookshop.  Perhaps you saw one of the online advertisements, or heard about it from a friend, or read one of the “illuminating” promotional interviews with yours truly.  Whichever the route, you likely had no idea, when you reached for the book, that the very act of reading it could so profoundly affect me, and all for the better.  How could you know, after all, that while I’d long envisioned a life for myself as a writer, until you contacted me, I’d begun to consider stopping altogether? (more…)


Q&A with Marten Weber, Author of “Benedetto Casanova” and “Bodensee”

While readers of gay fiction may be familiar with author Marten Weber due to his best-selling novel Benedetto Casanova: The Memoirs, over the years he has crafted many a tale, with each set in unique and varied places and times.  He graciously took the time to answer some questions as to his work, writing process, and issues with which the LGBT community grapples.

With tales as disparate as Benedetto Casanova (a fictionalized memoir set in Italy), The Almost Unbelievably Curious Case of Jeremiah Hudgejaw: America’s First Gay Wedding (set at the beginning of the last century), Shayno (a tale of mid-life crisis set in Silicon Valley), as well as your new title, Bodensee (sci-fi), it seems you’re intent on covering every place and genre under the sun!  What guides your decision of what to write next?

I think most genres in modern literature have become very stale and narrow. Every new best-selling thriller out there seems follows the same formula. Writers spend too much time copying television shows and learning from bad teachers in overpriced writing courses. I want to bring a new approach to each genre. I’d like to show that it can be done differently, outside the established boundaries.  Not every crime novel has to read like CSI in book form. Luckily, I don’t have the pressures of a publisher’s money-making machine behind me, so I can write what and how I want, and experiment.

What commonalities does your work share?

Most of my writing starts with specific aspects of relationships between men, but I then put them in whatever setting I want. Bodensee may be science fiction, but it’s also an attempt to merge sci-fi into the context of a 19th century literary tradition.

What’s more, I’m not very comfortable with the idea of genres at all. These categories were invented by book-sellers so they knew which shelf to put a book on. Authors shouldn’t care about them.  You’ll find that most of my books cross boundaries. I’m working on a crime novel now which will have neither murderers nor police inspectors as major characters, nor a traditional investigation. So most publishers would say that doesn’t quality as a ‘whodunnit.’

(more…)


Author Spotlight: David G. Hallman

When I lost a partner to AIDS in 1995, I immediately found myself adrift in a sea of ever-changing emotions, which with I wasn’t yet equipped to deal. I didn’t have the tools needed to properly channel and process my chaotic state, until I tried writing about my experience. Author David G. Hallman suffered a similar loss when his partner of 30 years was diagnosed with cancer, only to die just two weeks later. He too used writing as a way to explore his emotional state, and that commonality helped us forge a friendship when we were fortunate enough to finally meet at the Rainbow Book Fair in New York. His memoir, August Farewell, details the death of his partner to cancer and was noted by The Advocate magazine as one of the 21 Biographies or Memoirs You Should Read Now, calling his novel Searching for Gileadan honest examination of questions about God, injustice, love, and death.” It was a pleasure to speak with him recently about his life and journey to author-hood.

Kergan Edwards-Stout: Hi David. Nice to talk to you again.

David G. Hallman: Good to connect with you too, Kergan. The last time was over martinis in New York after the Rainbow Book Fair! I remember getting fortified so I’d be in good shape for the Black Party that night.

KES: Yes, the rest of us were a bit in awe that you were heading out to dance all night after being at the book fair all day!

DGH: Well, I’m not a father of two kids like you and your partner, Russ. That takes an impressive amount of energy. I bow to you in the personal stamina department.

KES: As you mention stamina, you’ve been through quite an emotionally exhausting journey. While you’d written other books prior, you wrote your memoir, August Farewell, after the dramatic death of your partner, Bill, from cancer. When you began writing, was it as a cathartic outlet or were you intending it to be a book?

DGH: I never intended anyone else to see it. Bill was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in August 2009 and died two weeks later. After it was over, I started panicking that I would forget the details of those excruciating, intimate, heart-wrenching, spiritual, god-awful sixteen days that were, at times, punctured by Bill’s uproarious sense of humor. So I started writing the story of those days and spontaneously began integrating vignettes from our thirty-three years together. I wrote nonstop for six weeks. But I only did it so that I could have that record to go back to and relive our time together in the years to come. Just like how we treasure photo albums.

KES: Why did you decide to publish it? (more…)


Meet, Hear, Chat, Sign: Upcoming Appearances!

Hey everyone,

Thanks for all the great notes about my recent letter to Rupert Everett.  Glad it is resonating with so many!

I’m very excited about some upcoming events I wanted to share with you.  I value each and every opportunity to share with readers my novel, Songs for the New Depression, meet you, and answer your questions.

I hope you’ll check out the following events:

  • Tomorrow, Thursday September 20th, I’ll be in Los Angeles at homo-centric, doing a reading and book signing.  The reading starts at 7:30 (promptly) and is at Stories Books & Cafe.  In addition to reading from my novel, I’ll also be sharing a new short story, which will be part of my upcoming collection, Gifts Not Yet Given.  Check out the facebook event page for more details.
  • On Tuesday September 25th at 6PM PST/9PM EST I’ll be chatting LIVE with Tom on Ramble Redhead.  Tom’s podcast recently hit over 500 episodes, which is a huge accomplishment, and I’m honored to be joining the long list of folks he’s interviewed.  We’ll be chatting about my novel, Songs for the New Depression, as well as a whole host of other topics, and I’m really looking forward to it.  Hope you’ll give it a listen!  Ramble Redhead can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook!
  • On Sunday September 30th, 1:30-2:30PM, I’ll be on a panel at the West Hollywood Book Fair and signing books afterward.  Wonderful writer Nöel Alumit (author of Letters to Montgomery Clift) will be moderating a panel on gay fiction, and my fellow panelists will be Eduardo Santiago (Tomorrow They Will Kiss) and George Snyder (On the Wings of Affection).  For a complete rundown on all of the exciting events, please click here.
  • On the weekend of November 3 & 4, head to Palm Springs Pride, where I’ll be appearing at the Author’s Village, brought to you by Q Trading.  More details, coming soon!

If you missed the fun radio podcast I did with This Show is So Gay, please check it out.  They were really terrific, and the interview was lots of fun!

Lastly, there is now a discussion group on Goodreads where folks can ask me any and everything about my book (and future books), writing, activism and life. Please consider joining in and chime in with your comments, questions, and opinions!

I hope you’ll come out and see me at these events.  There is nothing better than meeting readers and talking about art, life, and love, so I hope you’ll come to one of these fun happenings and connect!  More info to follow!

Take care,

Kergan


THIS SHOW IS SO GAY gets even gayer–with me!

A huge shout out to Ken Schneck at THIS SHOW IS SO GAY for the fun interview.  He had actually read the book and done his homework, leading to some really great and surprising questions.  I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to be on the show, and hope that you all check it out.  The podcast is online, and the show is carried on several radio stations, so listen and let me know what you think!


Are YOU an American?… and Other Updates

Marcus and Mason – Idyllwild, CA – 2005

Hey folks, I sure hope all here in the U.S. enjoy the wonderful holiday tomorrow.  To mark the occasion, both Bilerico Project and Huffington Post are running a piece of mine I wrote last year, “I am a Mother-F–ckin’ American”.  I’m proud to note that since its original publication, which included mentioned of President Obama, I’ve been able to remove him from the list of “non-Americans,” due to his recent stance on marriage equality, efforts in increasing healthcare availability, and so much more.  Great job, Mr. President–can’t wait to see what else you’ll do to make this country even better.

I’m also thankful for my pal, Jeff Ballam, who was inspired by a piece I wrote last week, “Am I a Slut or a Prude?“, which prompted him to examine his own life.  He’s done so in a new blog post.  He’s got a new book coming out soon, and I wish him the very best.

The kids are in full summer mode, and very soon we’ll be heading out for a much-needed family vacation to Boston and Provincetown, which makes it even odder still that I’m now in the middle of writing holiday-themed short stories, for a new collection I hope to have completed for the winter!

I continue to receive many wonderful notes and reviews from readers of Songs, and for that I am truly grateful.  It was a labor of love, and I’m glad it has resonated with so many!

Enjoy your 4th,

Kergan


Interview with LL Book Review: Kergan Edwards-Stout

Thanks to the good folks over at LL Book Review for the fun interview!

An Interview With Kergan Edwards-Stout, author of Songs For The New Depression

By Shannon Yarbrough on April 1, 2012

Tell us a little about your book.

Songs for the New Depression captures that moment in the gay community during the AIDS crisis, prior to the HIV drugs we now have, with all of the love, humor, friendship, sex, and danger those days held.  Lead character Gabriel Travers knows he’s made mistakes in his life, and doesn’t want to die without making amends–but has no clue as to how to do that.  With the clock ticking, he begins to peel back the layers and face his demons, with the help of the music of the Divine Miss M (Bette Midler) and his mom’s new wife, a country music-loving priest.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had a partner, Shane, who died in 1995, as well as other friends I lost through my work at AIDS Project Los Angeles, and I wanted to find a way to honor them.  The temptation is to write about that period in sepia tones, but I really wanted to try to bring that period to life, as vividly as I could.  And one day a sentence popped into my head.  I didn’t know who it was or what it would lead to, but that eventually became the first sentence in the novel.

What are you doing to market your book?

Happily, positive reviews are helping to market the book, and my articles on Huffington Post and other publications bring new people to my website.  I’ve also done readings and signings, most recently at the Rainbow Book Fair in New York.  I also looked at this first book as an investment in myself and my future as a writer, and put money into online advertising as well.

How have sales been? Where have you had the most success?

My book is out in hardcover, paperback, and all e-book formats, but–not surprisingly–Kindle is definitely my biggest seller.  Sales are increasing, month over month, so I’m hopeful that this book will reach many people.  I’m not so interested in the financial return, as much as that I really think most folks haven’t really considered the full impact of the AIDS crisis, and I hope my book spotlights that for them.

How are readers/reviewers reacting to your book?

Terrific! The big reviewers, such as Kirkus, Midwest Book Review, and Advocate.com have been very generous.  But I’ve also been pleased with reviews on book blogs sites, and in such unexpected places as Liberty Press, which is a small paper in Kansas.  I had thought, given the location, they’d be less open to this frank urban story, but they totally embraced it.  And being short-listed for the 2011 Independent Literary Awards was a big feather in my cap as well. (more…)


Life’s Many Moments: How Our World Shapes Our Art

Author Gregory G. Allen and I, up until now, had yet to meet. Still, we’d found ourselves bumping into each other virtually on any number of occasions.  Both of our debut novels had been short-listed for the 2011 Independent Literary Awards, we’d continually run into each other on twitter, and Advocate.com asked us for a joint interview, which we were happy to do.  As we gathered together for the Rainbow Book Fair in New York City, however, where we’d both be reading and signing our books, I found myself wondering, “Who is this person?” In a way, I felt as if I knew him quite well, but our conversations thus far had all been about our work, and I was very curious as to whom he was as a person, and how his life’s moments had influenced his writing.  Today, at last, my questions were happily answered.

Kergan Edwards-Stout:  Finally!

Gregory G. Allen:  I know, right?  It seems as if we have been connected for so long–

Edwards-Stout: And yet never met!  I’m so curious, having read your novel, Well With My Soul, as to who you are, and what part of you is in the characters you created.  You write so specifically about two brothers.  What was your situation like, growing up?

Allen:  Well, for the longest time, I was the baby of the family–the youngest of five kids in our blended family.

Edwards-Stout:  Five? Wow, that must have been challenging.

Allen:  I was the peacemaker.  I was the sole offspring of both my mother and father, so my role was to try to pull the other siblings together.

Edwards-Stout: That must have really had an impact on who you’d become.

Allen:  You have no idea.  I was the performer.  I was always on stage, singing or acting–I played Elvis when I was in the 4th grade.

Edwards-Stout:  Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

Allen:  You kidding? It was great! It started an entire career of seeking that limelight on stage. By the time I was 12, my folks adopted my little brother, and I went from being the baby of the family, to an older sibling.  But I was so thrilled to be a big brother, I was more than happy to give up that title…

Edwards-Stout:  Given all of these siblings and your family dynamic, what was coming out like for you?

(more…)


“Alfred Lives Here” Review: “Songs for the New Depression”

Eternally grateful that Songs for the New Depression is finding a place in the hearts of its readers.  Alfred Lives Here, a fun blog about pop culture and nominated for the 2011 Canadian Weblog Awards, gave it a wonderful review, and I much appreciate it!

Alfred Lives Here:  A Touching Story for the New Depression…

“You know, dear, that you are my favorite person with a penis in the entire world. You are funny, sporadically caring, and smart. Perhaps too smart. That you are wrong, even occasionally, isn’t the end of the world…”
– a semi-scolding given to Gabe Travers in Songs For The New Depression

Sometimes a book really works because it takes you to a whole different world. Other times a book really works because it feels like you are in your own familiar world, with a new perspective that makes you think and feel. For me, Songs For The New Depression by Kergan Edwards-Stout was that kind of involving, emotional read.

Songs is an AIDS novel and much more than that; with its reverse timeline and Bette Midler references (the title comes from one of her early albums), this is a really creative book. It’s the story of Gabe Travers, a hyper-articulate, self-centered gay man in his 40s facing death and looking back… to a difficult childhood, lost loves, wounded friendships, racist pancakes and assorted sexual misadventures.

I’ve heard that just before you die, your life flashes before your eyes. There is an element of that here, as Gabe is looking back at his life with wistfulness and wit. This is an emotional and at times outright funny book. And it’s an intimate one, and I don’t mean that in a woo-hoo boys having sex kind of way, though it certainly has that. It is intimate in terms of being real and personal for someone of my age and generation, coming of age in the 80s (hello, Human League!), thinking about our loves and insecurities and loneliness and friendship and complicated families.

Gabe is a flawed person, and the writer’s skill shows in making us care so much about someone who is not warm and fuzzy. Gabe is catty and cruel, makes mistakes, and is insecure and human and real.

While there are sections of Songs that are breezy fun, the book is tough to read at times, because I cared about the characters and they go through difficult stuff. But I couldn’t put it down.

Songs For The New Depression touched me and stayed with me. It’s a competitive publishing world out there, and this is a first novel put out by a small press. I hope it finds a big audience.


Book Talk With Charla – Review: “Songs for the New Depression”

I’m extremely grateful for the terrific review given to Songs for the New Depression by Book Talk With Charla.  Doesn’t get better than 5 out of 5 Stars!