Spring reading: Oscar Wilde, Harvey Fierstein & Chateau Marmont

In my youth, I didn’t have the time or luxury for reading, but in recent times it has become a passion. Spending hours of a summer afternoon reading is pure joy. My books of choice used to be non-fiction biographies, history or political commentary. While those genres are still on my reading list, you’ll now find fiction creeping its way in. So with that, here’s some suggestions for your summer reading.

Over the years I’ve read almost everything that Oscar Wilde wrote, then I read his various biographies, and the biographies of those he loved and those around him. I’ve read about the man who is suspected of being the inspiration for Dorian Gray, and it’s not Lord Alfred Douglas as most believe. I’ve also read the Oscar Wilde Mystery series by Gyles Brandreth who has Oscar solving murder mysteries along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holms fame, which I highly recommend. 

Which brings me to “The Return of the Century: The Death and Further Adventures of Oscar Wilde.” The premise is that Wilde didn’t die in Paris in 1900, but was secretly taken from his deathbed, nursed back to health, and attempted to come to terms with who he was in his now ruined public life, how he was perceived in death, what he feels needs change in his rebirth, and what was and will be his humanity and identity going forward. We are brought along with such characters as Sigmund Freud, Auguste Rodin and other famed individuals from that period. It’s an adventure across Europe with some interesting twists. For all of us who have come to know Wilde through his work and words, this truly has the voice and humor of Wilde. What more could be asked for in a pleasant afternoon or evening of reading.

If you’re looking for something more current and theatrical with Gay Liberation and gender identity tossed in, there’s Harvey Fierstein’s memoir “I Was Better Last Night.” Having known Harvey during my theatrical and Gay Liberation Front days in New York, as well as the couple of times I brought him to Philadelphia for benefits, the book at times relives the birth of both a new LGBT community and an OUT loud theater community with Harvey literally at its center. His hurt, humor and frustration along the way to success will speak to your heart. If you want a front row seat to the growth of a cultural icon and activist with backstage gossip you will devour this book. 

Finally there’s the history and scandals of the most famous building in Hollywood, Chateau Marmont, titled “Castle on the Sunset.” This storied hotel’s history is more than just the celebrities who lived, partied and infamously died there (think John Belushi). It’s a story of a famous and at times an infamous building and those connected to it, and the book tells not only the story of the building, but the birth of the city of Los Angeles and the film industry. The book is full of celebrities, egos, kindness, and sexuality. And if you think this is just history, know that the building is still a major force in Hollywood, including being the location of Beyoncé’s Oscars After Party each year.

If it’s a great murder mystery that you thirst for, there is no better then “The Thursday Murder Club” by Englishman Richard Osman. While not LGBT in any way, it is a murder thriller with the most delightful humor. Not to give too much away, it’s set in a peaceful retirement village in the English countryside. Four senior citizens discover a body, and they have, shall we say, an unorthodox but brilliant way to solve the case. The book has sold millions around the world and is now being made into a film by Steven Spielberg. 

If you’re a romantic at heart there are literally hundreds of books that have made up the cottage industry of same-sex romance. Look for authors Keira Andrews and Ana Ashley whose books are the gay equivalent to harlequin romances. I must admit they’re my guilty pleasure.

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