Future Selections for the Group:
(Please note: Schedule is subject to change depending on availability of selections or at the discretion of Group members)

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The Tastemaker Carl Van Vechten biography cover image

Selection for June 2016

The Tastemaker:
Carl Van Vechten
and the Birth of
Modern America

Edward White
A revealing biography of the influential and controversial cultural titan who embodied an ear

The Tastemaker explores the many lives of Carl Van Vecten, the most influential cultural impressario of the early twentieth century: a patron and dealmaker of the Harlem Renaissance, a photographer who captured the ear's icons, and a novelist who created some of the Jazz Age's most salacious stories.  A closed confidant of Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, George Gershwin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the Knopfs, Van Vechten frolicked in the 1920s Manhattan demimonde, finding himself in Harlen's jazz clubs, Hell's Kitchen's speakeasies and Greenwich Village's underground gay scene.  New York City was a hotbed of vice as well as creativity, and Van Vechten was at the center of it all.

Edward White's biography -- the first comprehensive biography of Carl Van Vechten in nearly half a century, and the first to fully explore Van Vechten's tangled relationship to race and sexuality -- depicts a controversial figure who defined an age.  Embodying many of the contradictions of modern America, Van Vechten was a devoted husband with a coterie of boys by his side, a supporter of difficult art who also loved lowbrow entertainment, and a promoter of the Harlem Renaissance whose bestselling novel -- and especially its titles -- infuriated many of the same African-American artists he championed.  Van Vechten's defense of what many Americans considered bad taste -- modernist literature, African-American culture, and sexual self-expression -- created a popular appetite for these quintessential elements of American art.  The Tastemaker encompasses its subject's private fears and longings, as well as Manhattan's raucous, taboo-busting social scene of which he was such a central part.  It is a remarkable portrait of a man whose brave journeys across boundaries of race, sexuality, and taste helped make America fully modern.
Beijing Comrades cover image

Selection for July 2016

Beijing Comrades
Bei Tong
(translated by
Scott E. Myers)
When Handong, a ruthless and wealthy businessman, is introduced to Lan Yu, a naive, working-class architectural student -- the attraction is all consuming.  Arrogant and privileged, Handong is unsettled by this desire, while Lan Yu quietly submits.  Despite divergent lives, the two men spend their nights together, establishing a deep connection.  When loyalties are tested, Handong is left questioning his secrets, his choices and his very identity.

Beijing Comrades is the story of a torrid love affair set against the sociopolitical unrest of late-eighties China.  Due to its depiction of gay sexuality and its critique of the totalitarian government, it was originally published anonymously on an underground gay website within mainland China.  This riveting and heartbreaking novel, circulated throughout China in 1998, quickly developed a cult following, and remains a central work of queer literature from the People's Republic of China.  This is the first English-language translation of Beijing Comrades.
Immaculate Blue cover image

Selection for August 2016

Immaculate Blue
Paul Russell
From the award-winning author of The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov comes the brilliantly conceived and precisely rendered novel Immaculate Blue, which explores the lives of four people -- Anatole, Leigh, Chris and Lydia -- and their intermingled and unwielding desires.  Set in upstate New York, the novel follows these characters as they achieve their aims in lives redolent with loss and hope, humor and sadness, union and alienation.  Russell picks up the thread of his critically acclaimed novel The Salt Point 20 years later and tracks the lives of these friends, some of whom not only lost touch with each other but have also lost their way.  Moving, at times shocking, and always memorable, Immaculate Blue points to where the personal and the political come together and shape our lives in unexpected ways.  With this newest novel, Paul Russell reminds us of why he is one of the most important voices on the literary scene.
Wilberforce cover image

Selection for September 2016


H. S. Cross
At St. Stephen's Academy, the students are on the verge of revolt.  While the younger boys plot an insurrection, the older ones are preoccupied with sneaking out-of-bounds, thrashing each other, tearing each other's clothes off -- or some combination of the three.  Morgan Wilberforce, for one, can't take it any longer.

Everything Wilberforce touches turns to disaster in his desperate attempts to fight off desire, boredom, and angst.  He knocks himself unconscious tackling the unattainable Spaulding on the rugby pitch, his headmaster detests him for crimes committed years ago, and even his closest friends are subjecting him to physical tortures normally reserved for juniors.  When an accident at the boarding school leaves him with more suffering than he could have fathomed, he finds himself alone and adrift.  And the workaday charms of cricket practice, Victorian pornography, canings from classmates, and fumbling with the pub-keeper's daugher can only do so much to mend a broken body and a restless heart.

Stylishly inventive, H. S. Cross has crafted an imaginative, ritualistic world of men and boys narrowly confined by tradition and authority.  Wilberforce is an indelible portrait of a young man caught between lust and cruelty, grief and God, frustrated love and abject longing -- and a tour de force that heralds the arrival of a brilliant new novelist.
After the Parade cover image

Selection for October 2016

After The Parade

Lori Ostlund
The debut novel from award-winning author Lori Ostlund -- "smart, resonant, and imbued with beauty" (Publishers Weekly) that "provides considerable pleasure and emotional power" (The New York Times Book Review) -- about a man who leaves his longtime partner in New Mexico for a tragicomic road trip deep into the mysteries of his own Midwestern childhood.

Sensitive, bighearted, and achingly self-conscious, forty-year-old Aaron Englund long ago escaped the confinements of his Midwestern hometown, but he still feels like an outcast.  After twenty years under the Pygmalion-like care of his older partner, Walter, Aaron at last decides it is tiome to take control of his own fate.  But soon after establishing himself in San Francisco, Aaron sees that real freedom will not come until he has made peace with his memories of Mortonville, Minnesota: a cramped town whose four hundred souls form a constellation of Aaron's childhood heartbreaks and hopes.

After Aaron's father died in the town parade, it was the larger-than-life misfits of his childhood who helped Aaron find his place in a world hostile to difference.  But Aaron's sense of rejections runs deep: when Aaron was seventeen, Dolores -- his loving yet selfish and enigmatic mother -- vanished one night.  And when, all these years later, a new friend in San Francisco offers Aaron a way to locate his mother, his past and present collide, forcing Aaron to rethink his place in the world.

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