Autumn reads, part 2

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday September 5, 2023
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Autumn reads, part 2

Here comes the second part of our fall books roundup, which will give you an idea of what is coming to bookstores over the next several months. There are new novels from Michael Cunningham and Justin Torres, a smashing debut from Kyle Dillon Hertz, and memoirs from Charles Busch and former San Franciscan Mattilda B. Sycamore.

Fans of iconic superstar musicians Madonna and The Cure will be thrilled with new books publishing in the coming months. Keep those pages turning and stay tuned for part three next week.

author Michael Cunningham  

'Day' by Michael Cunningham, $28 (Random House) November
A multigenerational family saga is the driving force behind Pulitzer Prize-winner Cunningham's latest novel. Across the span of three years, the lightly plotted story delicately captures the bewilderment, confusion, and fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic through a New York family primarily comprised of Isabel Walker and her musician husband Dan Byrne. They are a couple whose relationship has seen better days.

Isabel is a photo editor and mother of two whose brother Robbie lives in their brownstone's attic, while Isabel's kids (and Dan's rebellious brother) flit in and out of the narrative with their associated dramas.

Robbie, a schoolteacher riddled by wanderlust and owner of an Instagram alter-ego, is the much-beloved stabilizing force driving the story as it ebbs and flows through an unpredictable global outbreak. Written with rich insight and suffused with gorgeous prose and perceptions of love, loss, hope, and promise, this intimate, memorable family portrait is classic Cunningham.

'The Lookback Window' by Kyle Dillon Hertz, $26.99 (Simon & Schuster)
This impressive debut from Hertz follows a Manhattan gay man wrestling with demons from his adolescence as he juggles an impending marriage and grad school. Dylan is 26 and happily engaged to his fiancé Moans, but finds himself distressed about a newly enacted statute allowing sexual assault victims a one-year window for filing civil suits against their attackers after the statute of limitations has run out.

The story backtracks to Dylan's painful teenaged years when he was seduced, drugged up, and pimped out by Vincent, a violent older boy in his hometown. Though his therapist helps, Dylan is determined to even the score and vanquish his emotional trauma by confronting one of his rapists on his own, which expectedly leads to an epic final blowout. Cathartic and revelatory, this is a gritty recovery story that packs a punch.

'Blackouts' by Justin Torres, $27 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) October
Queer author Torres combines styles and genres into this novel about a young man who reconnects with an elderly, desert-bound friend. When a flood displaces the unnamed narrator from his apartment, he relocates to Juan's complex in the playa to live, but in exchange for completing Juan's life project about a 1941 research study on homosexual sex.

Juan's copy of the original project has blacked out sections, leading to intensive conversations between the two about the origins of queer history and how fact and fiction play a role in its continuous revision. Inquisitive, pensive, and delightfully puzzling, Torres, after his terrific 2011 novel about family dynamics, "We The Animals," continues to display immense literary talent and a knack for distinctive storytelling.

'Touching the Art' by Mattilda B. Sycamore, $27 (Soft Skull) November
Prolific author Sycamore escorts readers down the Memory Lane of her adventuresome life anchored by a unique relationship with a relative. Interspersed with lucid, opinionated commentary about books by Mary Gabriel, Grace Hartigan, and the works of Andy Warhol, Sycamore evokes the very essence and memory of her late grandmother Gladys, a Baltimore-based abstract artist who painted her at various stages of her life and coached her to harness the creativity that flowed within.

That is, until Gladys found Sycamore's expressions to be too queer for comfort. Unapologetic and reflective, Sycamore's memoir invokes the very nature of art and the mindset of the artist, noting "When you allow your work to express what you see, sometimes your work expresses more than you know." Queer artists will find much to ponder in this outspoken, deeply felt examination of creativity, family, betrayal, and independent expression.

'Leading Lady' by Charles Busch, $27.95 (Smart Pop) September
Charles Busch needs no introduction. He remains a legendary cabaret entertainer, drag icon, playwright, actor, and director, and this memoir is the ideal vehicle to showcase, memorialize, and celebrate his legacy. The book is overflowing with stories and memories about the star, whose talents as a raconteur are addictive and devilishly dishy.

Readers looking for the insider scoop on the Grande Dame's difficult early life or about the celebs Busch rubbed elbows with back in the day (Joan Rivers, etc.) are certain to be tickled many times over as the memoir leaves no rhinestone unpolished and lays bare the essence of a true queen and performance superstar.

author Helen Scott  

'Live, Laugh, Lesbian: How to Navigate Life as a Lesbian in the 21st Century' by Helen Scott, $18.95 (Jessica Kingsley) October
This unique self-help guide to being a contemporary lesbian comes courtesy of Helen Scott, a UK-based broadcaster, social media influencer, and "vocal ambassador" for the lesbian community.

Her guide, mainly targeting the young, fresh-faced "baby gays," delves into the issues of coming out and manifesting your own identity as a lesbian, self-acceptance, sartorial uniqueness, and how many different styles and preferences make up the global lesbian community (i.e. lipstick, butch, etc.). Newly out women and those who favor a fresh perspective on the Sapphic community at large will want to take a look.

'The Old Gays Guide to the Good Life' by Mick Peterson et al. $31.99 (Harper Wave) November
This fizzy upbeat glimpse at the four Palm Springs-based gay elders who make up the Old Gays group is as fun, sassy and unapologetic as their viral TikTok videos. The quartet, comprised of Peterson, Robert Reeves, Jessay Martin, and Bill Lyons, share the secrets to their longevity, and impart spicy opinions on fashion, manscaping, dinner parties, faith, homophobia, desert life, and how they all survived the AIDS epidemic. Joyous and effortlessly valiant, this book represents how much personal happiness and liberation can arise from gathering with a group of fearless friends.

'Madonna: A Rebel Life' by Mary Gabriel, $38 (Little, Brown) October
This new Madonna biography clocks in at nearly 900 pages and multi-prize-winning author Gabriel drills down into the controversial, button-pushing superstar's life. From Madonna's quirky beginnings in Michigan in 1958 to the epicenter of her fame, the evolution of her fashion sense, and a primed look into her future, this is a must-have for any (and every) Madonna fan.

'Curepedia: The A-Z of The Cure' by Simon Price, $35 (Dey Street Books) November
Robert Smith and the band that changed the world get their due in this unique literary celebration of the group arranged in alphabetic format ("B is for Babacar and Ballet; J is for "Just Say Yes"). Photographic visuals are included by longtime Cure collaborator Andy Vella and are interwoven into the book's contributions of trivia, insider facts, exclusive and in-depth song origins and lesser-known details about the band, its frontman, and their 40-year evolution through the decades. Cure fans will definitely want this one for their bookshelves.

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