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The Penguin Book of International Gay Writing

The Penguin Book of International Gay Writing

by Mark Mitchell

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Leavitt and Mitchell co-edited last year's The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories, and now Mitchell assembles 46 pieces of fiction and nonfiction in translation by 41 writers from Europe, Asia and Latin America. As before, the authors-famous and little-known, contemporary and ancient-are not necessarily gay, but do depict a broad range of homosexual experience. Many of the names are expected and welcome: Gide, Mishima, Cocteau, Puig. Wisely, Mann's "Death in Venice" is reprinted in its entirety (in a fine new translation by David Luke). By contrast, more than three-quarters of the entries are excerpts from longer works and thus suffer from a sense of incompleteness. In addition, a provocative thread running through many pieces dwells on the carnal fulfillment men find with boys, most notably in an excerpt from Tony Duvert's When Jonathan Died, about a man's physical relationship with a sexually precocious pre-adolescent. Also represented are Barthes, Balzac, Boccaccio, Yourcenar and Camus. Plato attests to the normalcy of homosexual desire. Freud deconstructs one of Leonardo's childhood memories to explore the Italian's homosexuality. Erotic responses to the martyrdom of St. Sebastian and to Christ occur several times, and an appreciation of sadomasochism is traced in several works, including the writings of the Marquis himself. Most rewarding are two short stories debuting in English: "An Angel at Orsay," by Patrick Drevet about a sensual encounter in the Musee d'Orsay, and "Mona," by Cuban Reinaldo Arenas. In the latter, Leonardo surfaces once again, this time as a lascivious Mona Lisa. (Feb.)
Library Journal
While not wholly satisfying, this latest in a stream of recent gay fiction anthologies offers some valuable, hard-to-find works and ultimately provides informative reading. As with all anthologies, some of the choices for inclusion and exclusion are questionable. Why include an excerpt from Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain when the writer's complete Death in Venice is already given 67 pages? After all, there is only one short piece from Klauss Mann, Thomas's gay brother, and nothing from postwar gay German authors such as Hubert Fichte (The Orphanage, Serpent's Tail, 1991). Indeed, the biggest problem is that well-known and much-published authors who might simply have appeared on a suggested readings list are overrepresented here (including an inexplicable excerpt from Camus's The Plague). If this was meant to be a "great books collection," the editor should have justified his choices, placed them in context, and provided author biographies. Nonetheless, finds such as Reinaldo Arenas's newly translated "Mona" and an excerpt from Edward Limonov's out-of-print It's Me, Eddie make this book a worthy addition to most libraries.-Eric Bryant, "Library Journal"

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Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
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6.16(w) x 9.04(h) x 1.35(d)

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