What do you read on vacation?
Last week the Husband and I went on an Atlantis Mexican cruise. For those that do not know, Atlantis is a company that charters cruise ships for gay men (and a handful of lesbians). So there were 1800 gay men sailing down to Mexico with a lot of time on their hands.
And some of them brought a book.
And your humble blogger decided to take a look at what the boys (and a handful of girls) were reading on the ship. So armed with my digital camera, I scoped the ship in search of the literary. So what follows is a totally unscientific look at what the gays were reading this year. Of course it depended on what books I could get a decent photo of. I’m sure that many of these guys thought I was some sort of creep as I strategically aimed my camera between their legs.
The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown
Now I’ve never read any Dan Brown, but he usually pops up on cruises and on the gay beaches of Miami, Provincetown and Sitges. Released on September 15, 2009, it is the third Brown novel to involve the character of Harvard University symbologist Robert Langdon, following 2000’s Angels & Demons and 2003’s The Da Vinci Code. It had a first printing of 6.5 million (5 million in North America, 1.5 million in the UK), the largest in Doubleday history. On its first day the book sold one million in hardcover and e-book versions in the U.S., the UK and Canada, making it the fastest selling adult novel in history.
The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
The Marriage Plot was released the day the cruise set sail but still I saw a few copies around the ship. I enjoyed Eugenides’ last novel, Middlesex and am looking forward to reading The Marriage Plot. It’s been nine years since the release of Middlesex and I’ve been waiting for it patiently (as patiently as Jonathan Frazen’s Freedom, released last year). According to the Amazon review: “Eugenides describes a year or so in the lives of three college seniors at Brown in the early 80s. There is Madeleine, a self-described “incurable romantic” who is slightly embarrassed at being so normal. There is Leonard, a brilliant, temperamental student from the Pacific Northwest. And completing the triangle is Mitchell, a Religious Studies major from Eugenides’ own Detroit. What follows is a book delivered in sincere and genuine prose, tracing the end of the students’ college days and continuing into those first, tentative steps toward true adulthood. This is a thoughtful and at times disarming novel about life, love, and discovery, set during a time when so much of life seems filled with deep portent.”
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
At first I was a tad surprised to see Jay, Daisy, Nick et al sailing down to Puerto Vallarta. But I recall that once I sat on 12th Street Beach in South Beach reading A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft because I had a Poly-Sci exam the next week. And Gatsby is one of my favourite novels. And the story travels well. Either on a cruise or your first semester survey course in American lit.
Exit to Eden, Anne Rice
Exit to Eden is a novel by Anne Rice, initially published in 1985 under the pen name Anne Rampling, but subsequently under Rice’s name. The only novel I’ve ever read of Rice’s is Interview with a Vampire back after surgery in the early 90s. Exit to Eden explores the subject of BDSM in romance novel form. According to a plot summery found online: Lisa Kelly manages an isolated BDSM resort called The Club that offers its high-end clients an exclusive setting in which they can experience the life of a Master or Mistress. Prospective sex slaves, paid at the end of their term at Eden (which varies from six months to two years), are presented at auctions by the most respected Trainers from across the world. As Head Female Trainer and co-founder Lisa gets first pick of the new slaves, and chooses Elliot Slater — with whom she shares an immediate and undeniable chemistry that intensifies throughout their time together, eventually resulting in love. Now this seemed like an appropriate novel for an Atlantis cruise.
Memories of Ice, Steven Erikson
I had never heard of Steven Erikson. I don’t read fantasy lit. But perhaps I should have my first taste with Erikson. Steven Erikson is the pseudonym of Steve Rune Lundin, a Canadian novelist, who was educated and trained as both an archaeologist and anthropologist. His best-known work is the ten-volume fantasy series Malazan Book of the Fallen, which by 2006 had sold over 250,000 copies. According to Wikipedia, Memories of Ice “ focuses on the renegade Malazan 2nd Army and their new allies on Genabackis, and their battle with the Pannion Domin, a new power emerging from the south of the continent. It also reveals a great deal more about the gods, ascendants and the history of the Imass, K’Chain Che’Malle and the Tiste races.” The novel was first published in the United Kingdom on 6 December 2001.
The Kindle and other e-readers are making it more difficult to take a peek at what others are reading. I find this a great loss as I am a nosey bugger that likes to know what folks are reading on subways, cruise ships et al.
The Forgotten Waltz, Anne Enright
Anne Enright is and Irish author whose novel The Gathering won the 2007 Man Booker Prize. According to the press release for her new book: The Forgotten Waltz is a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing, that reads with breathtaking immediacy. In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009, it has snowed. A woman recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for “the love of her life.” As the city outside comes to a halt, she remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, she awaits the arrival on her doorstep of his fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie.
There was also some non-fiction on board
Second Acts: Creating the Life You Really Want, Building the Career You Truly Desire, Stephen M. Pollan
From Publisher’s Weekly: After spending decades on Wall Street, Pollan, at age 48, became ill and was forced to re-create his professional life. Now he’s working as an author (of more than a dozen financial and self-help books) and life coach, helping others to follow their dreams and stage their lives’ “second act.” In this volume, Pollan and Levine offer tales of individuals of all ages who realized that something was missing from their professional or personal lives and decided to make major changes. Referring back to those real stories, the authors provide a guide to understanding dreams, translating dreams to life goals and overcoming the obstacles to making those goals into realities. Pollan believes that for some, it’s enough to rediscover the joys inherent in a current career; for others, it means more drastic decisions. Peppered with inspirational accounts of “famous second acts” (including J.K. Rowling, Hillary Rodham Clinton, George Foreman and former junk bond king Michael Milken), this book offers useful exercises and helpful advice about changes that range from tweaks to overhauls.
And the strangest book I found
Kabbalah for Teens, Louis Belmont
According to the (heavily punctuated with exclamation points) Amazon press release: “Unlock the secrets of the universe Right now, you’re facing challenges in every area of life, choices to be made regarding relationships, future goals, even what you’re going to do on your summer vacation! There are moments, sometimes days, when everything seems totally out of control. School, self-esteem, independence…couldn’t somebody have already figured all this out?! They have, and through the wisdom of Kabbalah you too can find the answers. Kabbalah is speaking with intensity to many: Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Britney Spears, Rosie O’Donnell, Deepak Chopra. It is an ancient and deeply insightful spiritual system, not a religion, that can teach you to understand what’s happening and help you make choices you’ll feel good about. Discover a powerful, practical way to gain the happiness you deserve and enrich the world around you—for life.” Hey, whatever floats your boat (if you’ll excuse the expression).
And your humble blogger?
The Cat’s Table, Michael Ondaatje.
After the cruise ended in San Deigo I bought The New York Times and read their review of The Cat’s Table. It was a rave. Your humble blogger was not as enamoured with the novel as much as The Times… or the Wall Street Journal or The Boston Globe or The Globe and Mail or The Daily Telegraph. Who all loved the book. From McClelland publishing: “In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly “Cat’s Table” with an eccentric and unforgettable group of grownups and two other boys. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys find themselves immersed in the worlds and stories of the adults around them. At night they spy on a shackled prisoner — his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.”
I have a real pet peeve of books that have a letter (long lost usually) that explains everything at the end. But who am I to criticize a Booker Winner (actually, I didn’t like English Patient either, but I digress).
So tell me, what did you read on vacation?
Jeffrey, The Gay Groom