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7 Days of readings

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DIARY OF A DRAG QUEEN “I have never wanted to be a woman...” So begins Daniel Harris’s paradoxical memoir “Diary of a Drag Queen,” a witty, satisfying examination of gender and loneliness in the contemporary age. After his partner left him at the age of 45, Harris lights upon the idea that as a drag queen named “Denial” he might occasionally have success enticing an attractive man into his bed. (Stefen Styrsky)

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FAITH FOR BEGINNERS Travel can be a life-affirming experience, but not if your trip is a forced march. In Aaron Hamburger’s debut novel, Mrs. Michaelson has dragged her husband and son to Israel hoping her Detroit suburb’s Millennium pilgrimage will be inspiration for them both. Her husband is dying slowly of cancer, and her son Jeremy, an NYU student, recently placed either a suicide attempt or an accidental overdose under his belt, depending on whom you ask. Hamburger uses humor and insight to get to the heart of Mrs. Michaelson and son Jeremy as he follows them through a variety of tribulations. (Seth J. Bookey)

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GORE VIDAL’S AMERICA Dennis Altman’s new book is particularly welcome for its warts-and-all treatment of the great man’s life and work. Altman’s book is unique in being a critical assessment of Vidal by a writer who, like his subject, is left-wing and homosexual, and who also has made major contributions to the literature on (homo)sexuality, sexual politics, and social change. (George De Stefano)

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LISTENING FOR THE OBOE “I think these sermons are for anybody who cares passionately about living a life of meaning in a world of despair,” commented Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum on her recently-published book of drashot, commemorating her first decade as senior rabbi of New York City’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah. “Listening for the Oboe” compiles Kleinbaum’s and the congregation’s favorite sermons given by her between 1992 and 2003, in which she addresses issues as various as the impact of AIDS on the gay community in the early 1990s, the place of children in an LGBT synagogue, and CBST’s solidarity with the African-American community on the subject of reparations. (Eileen McDermott)

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PUCCINI WITHOUT EXCUSES If a gay author publishes a new book, even one not publicly known as gay, and even if the book has no gay content per se, it may be of interest to gay readers and marketed as such. This is the case with Will Berger, raconteur, operaphile, and even opera crusader extraordinaire who has embarked on an ambitious undertaking in attempting to render mainstream opera more user-friendly-most recently with“ Puccini Without Excuses.” (Larry Mass)

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THE ROMANIAN Writer Bruce Benderson is an intellectual dandy devoted to danger, drugs, thugs, and sexual excess. He’s half Jean Genet, half Joan Crawford, and he tries out different points of view like Crawford modeled Adrian couture. Scornful of bourgeois complacency, he writes from the point of view of an outsider who is aware of his privileges yet still longs for the instability and vitality he observes in the lower and criminal classes.His books “Pretending to Say No” and “User” detailed the seedy glory of old Times Square, and his new book, “The Romanian,” tells the tale of his passion for a street hustler in Romania named Romulus. (Dan Callahan)

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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