Advocate Bookshelf: Tiny Tomes

By Diane Anderson-Minshall

Originally published on Advocate.com March 20 2012 1:00 AM ET

  Closer by Christopher Stephen Soden ($14, Queer Mojo)
The emotionally rich landscape in Christopher Soden's Closer veers from the contemporary to the ancient Greeks, covering the existential to the queer condition, in a delightfully poignant manner. A brilliantly poetic trip to a sleep clinic leads the author to question the nature of touch between two men; in another, he sees the "blizzard of pitch and muck every day, everybody just shoving and biting/and beating on each other." Whether he's grappling with a childhood neighborhood sociopath, a lack of grief over his father's death, a bisexual James Dean, or the secret crossing to man-on-man bliss, Soden's poetry is amazingly moving. QueerMojo.com Closer by Christopher Stephen Soden x390 | ADVOCATE.COM 15 Ways to Stay Alive by Daphne Gottlieb ($15, Manic D Press)
There are few postmodern poets like Daphne Gottlieb, who deals with subjects ranging from broken hearts to postpunk politics and whose voice is always provocative, mesmerizing, and alive with pop culture criticism that's easy to swallow. No wonder Gottlieb, the author of seven books including the feminist must-read Final Girl (Soft Skull), has such a ferocious fan base. If you finish this, try Fucking Daphne, an anthology in which other authors dream of, um, doing Daphne. ManicDPress.com 15 Ways to Stay Alive by Daphne Gottlieb X390 | ADVOCATE.COM  An Arab Melancholia by Abdella Taia ($15, MIT Press)
This slim autobiographical novel by an openly gay man who lives between cultures in Egypt and France is the kind of wry, reflective narrative prose that feels like poetry. Indeed, Taia is the first openly gay autobiographical writer published in Morocco, though he lives in Paris now, and this translated novel, which follows 20 years of his life, is extraordinarily moving. What could feel overly political ("I had no more leniency when it came to the Arab world ... none for the Arabs and none for myself") is balanced by the earnest discussion of of growing up in a world where his identity is allowed in only through a cultural lens of shame and silence (as when he talks of his weight-loss obsession as a way to "distance myself from Javier, to destroy the body he once touched, to go back to being the old Abdellah, the Abdella he never knew"). Beautiful. MITPress.MIT.edu An Arab Melancholia by Abdella Taia x390 | ADVOCATE.COM The Confessions of a Sex Addict Part 1 by Michael Wynne ($10, Kiss and Tell Press)
The old cliché that good things come in small packages certainly apply to Michael Wynne's tiny tome, a breezy but thoughtful collection of stories that read more like diary entries of the authors sexual exploits across London. Indeed, these are wonderfully frank and self- effacing fuck stories, but the tales of Wynne, those of his Jamaican lesbian painter friend McKenzie, and the larger exploration of how gay men relate to each other, if even briefly, make for addictive reading for even the prurient queer lit lover. TheConfessionsOfASexAddict.com The Confessions of a Sex Addict Part 1 by Michael Wynne X390 | ADVOCATE.COM Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry, edited by Julie R. Enszer ($15, A Midsummer Night's Press)
In this land of milk and honey, contemporary Jewish lesbian poets offer up works about relationships, solidarity, community, and more. Several acclaimed writers are featured, including Ellen Bass, Elana Dykewomon, Joan Nestle, Lesléa Newman, and Ellen Orleans. AMidsummerNightsPress.com Milk and Honey: A celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry, Edited by Julie R. Enszer X390 | ADVOCATE.COM Banksy Locations and Tours Volume 1 & Volume 2 by Martin Bull ($20, PM Press)
Collectively, these wonderfully unusual collections offer more than 165 locations and over 300 photos of Banksy's street artwork in the U.K. Photographer Martin Bull's pocket books make for great DIY walking tours of the installments by the guerrilla art icon if you're in the U.K., but even for armchair travelers, Bull sets a lovely documentarian's eye not just on Banksy but also on some of his street art peers including Eine, Faile, Arofish, Space Invader, and Shepard Fairey.Banksy Locations and Tours Volume 1 & Volume 2 by Martin Bull X390 | ADVOCATE.COM  Touch by Henri Cole ($23, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Another author who gets better with each book, Pulitzer Prize finalist Henri Cole has a new novel that vacillates between extremes, innocence and violent self-condemnation, intellect and emotions, the erotic and the elegiac. Love, death, and memory are all touchstones that Cole describes with unusual power. FSGBooks.com Touch by Henri Cole X390 | ADVOCATE.COM  The Incredible Double by Owen Hill ($14, PM Press)
With a cast that includes a lefty soldier of fortune, a drug casualty turned poet, a transgender CIA agent, a part-time book scout/unlicensed private eye, and the Tallulah Bankhead of Berkeley, The Incredible Double is a sexy, sly, and buzzy little mystery. PMPress.org The Incredible Double By Owen Hill  X390 | ADVOCATE.COM Handmade Love by Julie R. Enszer ($12, A Midsummer Night's Press)
In her first collection, this lesbian poet presents poems that manage to be both erotic and feminist in a way that's rare and beautiful. Think sex, love, loss, and LGBT cultural icons, in a style that's sublime, queer, and accessible. AMidsummerNightsPress.com Handmade Love by Julie R. Enszer X390 | ADVOCATE.COM He Will Laugh by Douglas Ray ($15, Lethe Press)
A former Lambda Literary Foundation poetry fellow, Ray has pulled together a vivid debut collection that traces a relationship between two men, barely beyond boyhood, in a cyclical fashion from tragedy to their first meeting to sex and love and the mess of life and back to that original tragedy. Haunting and tender works that make Ray one to watch. He Will Laugh by Douglas Ray X390 | ADVOCATE.COM  Urban Mindfulness by Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D ($16, New Harbinger)
Think being Zen happens only in peaceful, quiet settings? Think again, according to this clinical psychologist, who founded UrbanMindfulness.com. In this easy-to-read pocket-size book, Kaplan lays out exercises for how to make your world a bit more peaceful, including workplace meditations and using Google Earth to envision the natural environment.Urban Mindfulness by Jonathan S. Kaplan X39 | ADVOCATE.COM  To Assume a Pleasing Shape by Joseph Salvatore ($14, BOA Editions)
The characters in Joseph Salvatore's first short story collection are searching for meaning through the crucible of sex and and a quest for intimacy. Salvatore, a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Queer Culture, manages to create stories that are gloriously witty and smart and confoundingly unconventional.To Assume a Pleasing Shape by Joseph Salvatore X390 | ADVOCATE.COM Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys by D.A. Powell ($22, Graywolf Press)
Witty and powerfully lyrical, D.A. Powell's fifth book of poetry aims to demonstrate how the interstitial spaces of boonies, backstage, bathhouses, and bars are all locations of desire for men. He does so with startling clarity and accessibility and winking nod to queer culture. One example: "Q. how do you ruin any good trick? / A. you fatten him up. / If I can't have my health, at least I'll have my humor / Good Humor. Here comes the ice cream man."