Home » Best Books For October 2023 | Hot Type For Savvy Travelers

Best Books For October 2023 | Hot Type For Savvy Travelers

by Jim Gladstone
Hot type for the Book Savvy October Book List 2023

Typical of the time, their names are published in the newspaper, an act of public humiliation far more punishing than the fines they’re charged for “disorderly behavior,” and their lives are set spinning into unexpected new chapters.

By Jim Gladstone

Curl up this fall with our Best Books October Reading List! Explore exuberant first sex with the buff blond title character of Paul Rudnick’s comic novel Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style, and If you’re a fan of the cinema as well as the stage, dig into the first book by the linguistically playful and intellectually rigorous young critic Kyle Turner, The Queer Film Guide.

the 1979 Teenage Diaries of Sean DeLear

The 1979 Teenage Diaries of Sean DeLear

In 2017, documentarian Stuart Swezey conducted a video interview with Sean DeLear (né Anthony Robertson), a cross-dressing L.A. punk and nightlife scene-maker who coyly avoids sharing the story of how he once broke his neck diving into a river: “Buy the book,” DeLear demurs, “it’s not written yet, but it’ll all be in there.” That sure-to-be-rollicking tome never did get written, because, just a few months after the interview, DeLear, who looked shockingly youthful at 52, died of liver cancer. The book we do have, found among the late author’s belongings, has been titled I Could Not Believe It: The 1979 Teenage Diaries of Sean DeLear (Semiotexte, $16.95. semiotexte.com). It’s aptly summed up in an afterword by DeLear’s friend Cesar Padilla as: “A gorgeous, naïve, innocent yet horny nubile fourteen-to-fifteen year old’s fearless journey of self-identification, hustling, cheap thrills, danger, Donna Summer, and so much more.” Unfiltered and unselfconscious, DeLear’s private jottings are bracingly frank; a high school Oceanography quiz is written about with the same nonchalance as bowling alley glory hole blowjobs. “I want to be a news reporter and interview famous people like Barbara Walters,” he writes in one entry; “I want to be a male prostitute and make a lot of money,” he writes in another. Reading DeLear’s diary feels like finding a glam-punk dinosaur bone, it will inspire you to dig into the internet to assemble some sense of the whole beast; to learn how this frank, Black, Simi Valley teen grew into a beloved transgressive beacon of hope for a whole subculture of West Coast freaks. There’s still another Sean DeLear book to be written, but it will have to be a biography instead of a memoir.

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Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style

Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style

“We weren’t falling in love…we were de-virginizing each other,” recalls narrator Nate Remengson about his exploratory, exuberant first sex with the buff blond title character of Paul Rudnick’s comic novel Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style (Atria Books. $28.99. paulrudnick.com), “…I was doing everything a nice boy from New Jersey shouldn’t be doing. I wasn’t ashamed but victorious. I was verifying that I was seriously, sweatily, joyously, slurpingly gay.” But, in Rudnick’s bitchy, barbed comic saga, these two college freshman do indeed fall in love, beginning an up-and-down, decades-long relationship of a sort that’s rarely at the center of contemporary fiction. While the winding paths of heterosexual marriage have long been popular subject matter for novels, enduring same-sex partnerships have remained in the literary margins. Which makes it feel at once comfortingly familiar and bracingly new to follow nebbishy Jewish Nate, and Farrell, scion of a wealthy conservative Christian family, as they struggle to bridge their differences and keep the flame of mutual admiration burning from the late 1970s through the AIDS-era and beyond. It’s ultra-campy, but ultimately touching.

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Gays on Broadway By Ethan Mordden

Gays on Broadway By Ethan Mordden

Ethan Mordden, author of an incomparable, underappreciated series of linked stories about gay life in Manhattan (featured in seven volumes collectively known as the Buddies chronicles) is undoubtedly better known for his dozens of non-fiction works about Hollywood, opera and theater. The most recent of these, Gays on Broadway (Oxford. $29.95. global.oup.com/academic), incorporates the sort of dishy quips and acid-etched characterizations that help make his fiction such a pleasure. Easily readable from front-to-back, but also well-suited to dipping in and out of, the book finds Mordden moving chronologically from the early 20th Century to the early 21st, spotlighting queer creators, performers and sensibilities on the stage from decade-to-decade. And oh, the treasures he finds! Who knew that Mae West’s famous “Come up and see me some time” was a lift from openly gay drag performer Bert Savoy, who peppered his Broadway revues in the 1910s with his signature “You must come over!”? Or that the first gay love song on Broadway was “Why Can’t the World Go and Leave Us Alone” sung by two male ice skaters in Charles Strouse and Alan J. Lerner’s Dance a Little Closer, which closed after one performance in 1983 (just months before the opening of smash hit La Cage Aux Folles). Everything from the work of Tennessee Williams; to 1980s AIDS plays As Is and The Normal Heart; to the kitsch of Xanadu and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert are examined by Mordden’s gimlet eye. And special attention is paid to gay playwrights Terrence McNally and Edward Albee (who, he reminds us, were once lovers). Mordden’s encyclopedic knowledge and razor-sharp critical skills dazzle on page after page. You’ll want to rise from your reading chair to give him a standing ovation.

BUY BOOK When you purchase a book from our curated Bookshop.org shop we earn an affiliate commission. The books are independently reviewed by our book editor and the potential commission does not influence the review in any way.


The Queer Film Guide by Kyle Turner

The Queer Film Guide by Kyle Turner

If you’re a fan of the cinema as well as the stage, dig into the first book by the linguistically playful and intellectually rigorous young critic Kyle Turner, The Queer Film Guide: 100 Movies That Tell Great LGBTQIA+ Stories (Smith Street. $29.99. tylekurner.com ). Turner, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Vulture and elsewhere, has crafted provocative mini-essays about each of his picks, which include, but go far beyond, the post-Stonewall Hollywood fare that many readers will already be familiar with (Cruising, Carol, Brokeback Mountain). Beginning with a selection of silent films including Michael, director Carl Dreyer’s 1924 portrait of an artist and his male muse and ending with this year’s Fire Island, Turner casts his net far and wide. There are non-English language gems (French coming-of-age romance Wild Reeds; Fassbinder’s German classic The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant); documentaries (Paris is Burning, Southern Comfort); and brilliant indie fiction features (Parting Glances, Watermelon Woman, Mysterious Skin). In his pithy introductions, Turner provides new lenses through which to view old favorites and hard-to-resist invitations to check out unfamiliar work. Each film is featured on a vibrant two page spread, accompanied by an iconic, color-saturated illustration by Andy Warren. This is a reference book you’ll be happy to keep on the coffee table.

BUY BOOK When you purchase a book from our curated Bookshop.org shop we earn an affiliate commission. The books are independently reviewed by our book editor and the potential commission does not influence the review in any way.

AIRPLANE READ OF THE MONTH

Countries of Origin Javier Fuentes

Countries of Origin Javier Fuentes

It’s got other things going for it, but the debut novel by Javier Fuentes, Countries of Origin (Pantheon. $27. javifuentes.com) is at its unputdownable best during an in-flight flirtation between narrator Demetrio, a pastry chef moving from New York to Spain, and his younger next-seat neighbor, Jacobo, a wealthy Madrilleño who’s been studying at NYU. The palpable but unspoken attraction between the two men will have you squirming in your own seat and perhaps cruising the aisles for fellow queer passengers. Fuentes hits similar sensual high marks when he’s focused on the details of Demetrios’ culinary work orthe vibe of downtown Manhattan between the 1990s and today. In other respects, the book is a bit too sketchy. Fuentes brings in elements of class differences, immigration law, and Spanish political history, but can’t quite pull them all together. Still, the crux of it all is a love story, and Demetrio and Javier are one hot couple.

BUY BOOK When you purchase a book from our curated Bookshop.org shop we earn an affiliate commission. The books are independently reviewed by our book editor and the potential commission does not influence the review in any way.


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Airplane Reads Archive

Airplane Reads (photo by Berkalp Turper)

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