I’m going to get my major problem with this book out of the way right at the beginning. I didn’t think it would be a perfectly even split between gay and lesbian books (and don’t get me started on those being the only categories), but I wasn’t expecting it be so heavily weighted on one side. By my tally, there are 38 essays on gay books, and 12 on lesbian books. I wasn’t expecting nearly triple the gay books than lesbian books; it’s really more “Fifty Gay (and Lesbian) Books”. It’s not that I don’t like reading about non-lesbian books, but it got a little old about half way through that there were so few lesbian essays. This is exactly why I agree with Rosalarian that GLBT is a strict hierarchy, including in terms of recognition/coverage. Moving on…
Fifty Gay and Lesbian Books Everybody Must Read is interesting in its diversity of theme. Some essays are straightforward discussions about books with gay or lesbian content, but some are more about queering text: looking at stories from a queer point of view. The essays also range in terms of length and academic content. Some were a little difficult for me to get through because they were so academic, while some were extremely casual. I especially liked the essays that showed how the novel affected the essay writer’s life, how their personal story interacts with the narrative.
This book doesn’t claim to be a canon, but it does claim to identify books that everyone should read about the gay/lesbian experience, not just queer people. I’m not sure if it really achieved that goal, especially since many of the essays are more about their personal experiences with the novels and not everyone’s experiences. I’m sort of glad it didn’t. Do we need to have mandatory gay/lesbian books? Aren’t all people allowed to have their tastes differ and be able to identify their essential books for themselves? Again, I’ve been pondering the concept of canon lately, and it fascinates me.
Have you read Fifty Gay and Lesbian Books Everybody Must Read or something similar? What did you think of it?
Also, I’m sorry if I go a little while between updates; my laptop won’t charge. I’m taking it in to be fixed soon, but until then posts might be a little erratic.