For the last month of the year, I thought it only appropriate to choose three books which could be considered some of the best lesbian fiction of the year 2012. Of course, this search turned out to be not entirely objective, as I haven’t read all of the lesbian fiction of 2012, so how am I to say what’s the best? Regardless, all of these have received high praise from the book world, and I genuinely want to read every one.
Without meaning for it to turn out this way, two of the books also happen to be story collections, with only one being a full-length novel. While I know the short story sometimes drives people off, it’s the breadth of experience that these books are trying to capture that intrigues me. It’s the thrill in the possibility of hearing not just one voice and one story, but many, and understanding what those multiple meanings taken together really say about the human experience. Or whatever.
Astray, Emma Donoghue
The stories contained in this book travel through all varieties of time and spaces, from New Jersey to Toronto to Louisiana to Texas to the Yukon, through four centuries of tales. Yeah, four centuries! That’s not ambitious or anything! Most interesting to me, each story originated from random, actual historical facts and stories that Donoghue uncovered in one way or the other over the last 15 years. The tales of love hidden throughout seem to cover all types of relationships, queer and not, but undoubtedly all quirky. They’re also all centered around the theme of wandering, with the stories broken into three sections: Departures, In Transit, and Arrivals and Aftermaths. I’m a big fan of wandering myself; in fact I’m a sucker for pretty much everything included here: history, geography, love.
The Last Nude, Ellis Avery
Speaking of history and love, this is our one true novel of the bunch, and it’s spun in the past: Paris in 1927, to be specific. The Jazz Age, full of so much intrigue, so much indulgence in between catastrophic wars, so much sex and art and all things bright! This novel is also inspired by historical truth, based on events in the life of the Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka. Originally from Russia, she meets an American in Paris, Rafaela, who models for Lempicka and becomes her muse as well as her lover. (Ooh la la.) Alas, it turns out that Lempicka is a complicated person to fall in love with (artists, amIright?). On top of this passionate affair, like all Jazz Age tales, the impending doom of the future looms near for everybody. Also, this book has “nude” in the title, so there’s that.
Love, In Theory, E.J. Levy
This is a debut collection of stories from Levy, although she was the editor for the Lambda Award-winning anthology Tasting Life Twice: Literary Lesbian Fiction by New American Writers almost a decade ago. The theme of the ten stories here is–wait for it–love! But this means love in all its forms, “whether between a man and woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman, or a mother and a child.” Yes! These types of meditations on what love really encompasses always get me in the gut every time. And in contrast to the other two novels, these tales contemplate love in the now, today, in the world of hyper-information. The reviews I read made it sound like Levy’s writing is “literary” (oh, the feelings I have about this word), with characters who are often entrenched in academia, while also being extremely readable and satisfying. This also won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and if you ever need a solid lesbian recommendation, something with Flannery O’Connor in the title is a pretty good bet.
So what do you think?
To those of you who asked me to list these choices earlier in the month, I know this is not terribly earlier than normal, but I hope you will have slightly more time to acquire copies. All of these books are also available as e-books, which you should hopefully be able to purchase across country lines.
I’ll announce the winner on Friday, so all you people in the States can add the winning title to your Black Friday Shopping List! Do people buy books on Black Friday? Do bookstores even have sales? I don’t know. I like staying at home and mentally sending out all my love to retail employees instead. I feel your pain, you beautiful, underpaid workers, you.
I’ll also have the Official Discussion Post for Santa Olivia ready by next Monday. Until then, vote, and keep reading!