O’Callaghan, Ryan with Cyd Zeigler. My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me. and Ended Up Saving My Life. Brooklyn, New York: Edge of Sports, 2019.
Reason read: as part of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.
When I requested My Life on the Line I was not prepared to have my heart broken. This is the simple story of an NFL football player trying to conceal his true self throughout his sports career. For twenty eight long years he had a secret. Hiding behind anything and everything to make himself look “manly” Ryan O’Callahan was in constant fear of being outted as a homosexual. No one could find out. No one. Tough language, big trucks, country music, guzzling beer, deer hunting, drugs, and bullying were all part of the smoke and mirrors game; all tactics O’Callaghan used so no one could accuse him of even a hint of being gay. His perception was a homosexual man wouldn’t use foul language. A gay man wouldn’t drive a big truck or take drugs and he certainly wouldn’t listen to Garth Brooks! At the center of it all was being a professional football player. For as long as O’Callaghan was playing this manly game he reasoned he could stay alive. Without football he was convinced he couldn’t hide; being exposed meant certain death at his own hand. Even when people close to him started to suspect, O’Callaghan would emphatically deny it, thinking the NFL was his perfect cover.
Then came the injuries and the surgeries and the pain, one after another like unrelenting sea surge. The more O’Callaghan damaged his body the faster his addiction to pain killers grew. He had easy access to prescriptions and at one point was using from nine different doctors. The prospect of playing football professionally hung in the balance as his drug use spiraled out of control and like all dangerous games, it had to come to an end sooner or later.
An added bonus to O’Callaghan’s story was learning a little more about NFL quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. His story was a little disappointing…
Proulx, Annie. Brokeback Mountain. New York: Scribner, 1997.
Reason read: June is Short Story Month and LGBTQ Pride month.
Confessional: I saw the movie before I even started the Book Challenge. As a a rule, I would rather read the book first so my imagination is not tainted by images of the movie. I can only compare this avoidance to a hearing a song and how you sometimes lose the interpretation after you see the accompanying music video.
Having said all that, I was surprised at how the written story moved so fast. In a mere sixty-four pages Proulx tells the devastating story of Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. Both young men find themselves on the same job as ranchers guarding sheep on Brokeback Mountain in beautiful Montana. One accepted amorous advance leads to a deep connection that time and space cannot sever or erase. The love they have for one another remains strong despite the fact they put distance between them and move on to have relationships with women.
Line that moved me the most, “In a disquieting way everything seemed mixed up” (p 16).
Oddly enough, I didn’t take notice of the movie’s most famous line “I wish I knew how to quit you.” It is an original line from the book but there were others I liked better.
Author fact: E. Annie Proulx has ties to Connecticut.
Book trivia: Everyone knows of the 2005 movie starring Jake Gellenhaal and Heath Ledger. It won an MTV award for best kiss…or something like that.
Nancy said: Pearl called “Brokeback Mountain” Proulx’s “most famous story” (Book Lust To Go p 264), but that surprised me. In regards to the written word I would have figured Postcards or Shipping News to be more well known. Maybe the movie is the reason “Brokeback” is more widely known. Pearl calls the movie “superb.”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “WY Ever Not?” (p 264).
Miller, Isabel. Patience and Sarah. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1969.
Reason read: Alma Routsong was born in November; read in her honor.
This is such a fascinating story. Isabel Miller learns of two real life pioneering women, Mary Ann Willson and her partner, known only as “Miss Brundage,” and has to write about them. Willson and Brundage set off to find a place where they could live as an openly homosexual couple. Their courage sparked a story in Miller and Patience and Sarah was born.
To meet the women: Sarah Dowling was raised as a boy; taught to shoot a gun and chop firewood like a man. In Patience’s mind, Sarah needed rescuing from that existence. Patience White was a demure and quiet painter, but it was she who started planting the seeds of running away early in her relationship with Sarah. “But could you take it pioneering with you?” Patience asked of the ax Sarah was wielding.
Patience and Sarah was originally published under the title, A Place For Us. The book ends with Patience and Sarah leaving their old lives behind to find a new place where they could be themselves as a couple. Their love endures ridicule and prejudice and even among themselves they harbor doubts. Sheer courage carries them forward.
Patience and Sarah could be considered the very first lesbian historical novel.
Lines I loved (and there were many), “Women might peck at her with their sharp mean noses” (p 18), “There would be no way out except through” (p 49), and, “…but as soon as he kissed me I knew I could not live a life where that happened all the time” (p 102).
Lines about love, “I keep thinking every shadow is you” (p 47), and “I felt my heart melt and drip off my fingertips” (p 105).
Author fact: Isabel Miller is a pseudonym for Alma Routsong. Alma took her mother’s maiden name (Miller) and an anagram of the word lesbia (Isabel) to form her pen name. Another interesting fact is that Isabel left her husband and four children. Luckily, they all forgave her.
Book trivia: The American Library Association honored Patience and Sarah with its first ever Gay Book of the Year Award in 1971. Another last piece of trivia: the book was made into an opera in 1998. That seems a little odd to me.
Nancy said: Pearl said it would be “interesting to compare” The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall to Miller’s Patience and Sarah. (Book Lust p 94).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Out of the Closet” (p 93).
What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
- Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.
- Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.
Fun: nothing decided yet.
Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.
So June went by lightning fast, as I expected. Had good shows with Imagine Dragons and Dead and Company. Spent quality time with family and friends. Ran next to nothing for miles. But, the books! Thanks to not running (still) and all the travel I was able to get a lot of reading done…
- Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson (EB & print)
- Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams (EB & print)
- Afterlife by Paul Monette (EB & print)
- Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason (AB)
- Six Days of War by Michael Oren (print) – confessional: did not finish
- Cactus Eaters by Dan White (print)
- I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman (print)
- Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn (AB)
- Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
- Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame (EB & print)
- “Xingu” by Edith Wharton (EB)
- “Verlie I Say Unto You” by Alice Adams (EB)
- “Roses, Rhododendrons” by Alice Adams (EB)
- Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU by Julie Foudy
Monette, Paul. Afterlife. New York: Avon Books, 1990.
Reason read: June is Gay Pride month in some states. In other places it is in May, so I started this early in honor of both months.
The very first word that comes to mind when trying to describe Afterlife is heartbreaking. Taking place at the “start” of the AIDs epidemic in the heart of United State’s “ground zero” in San Francisco, it tells the story of a group of gay men trying to make sense of the horrific disease while coping with personal loss. Facing their own mortality, each man has lost a partner to AIDs but display very different coping mechanisms as they have very different support systems. They form a Saturday night support group of survivors, each asking themselves, but for how long? This is a story of courage; the willingness to live and love in the face of death.
Quotes to quote, “There were enough coffins to come” (p 224) and “This worthy man, terminally unctuous but otherwise bland as a serial killer, insisted on driving them up to the North Garden in his own Cadillac” (p 256).
Author fact: Monette was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Book trivia: this should have been a movie.
Nancy said: This was included in Book Lust because it fit in the category of “Books with characters who are gay or lesbian” (p 95).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Our of the Closet” (p 93).
June is going to go by lightning fast. For starters, there is a concert in Bangor, Maine that I cannot wait for! Then, a concert at home. After that, a week later, an art show reception for my talented sister’s work. Then, a vacation with my best friend (Maine for the third weekend in a row). I will have many opportunities to read. Hence, the huge list:
- Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson – in honor of the first month of boating weather (EB & print).
- Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams – June is short story month (EB & print).
- Afterlife by Paul Monette – in honor of gay and lesbian pride month (EB & print).
- Jar City by Arnaldur Andridason – National Icelandic Day is in June (AB).
- Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Middle East by Michael B. Oren – the Six Day War started in June.
- Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Almost Found Myself by Dan White – June is national hiking month.
- I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman – in honor of Gallman’s birth month.
- Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn – in honor of Zinn’s birth month.
- Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
- Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame – to finish the series started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.
Downing, Michael. Breakfast With Scot. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1999.
Less than 200 pages long this was a quick, in-one-sitting read. At first blush I would call this story “quirky” for the simple fact that all of the characters have their issues. What makes this fun to read is how they deal with those issues as well as each other. This is a story about relationships and relating to people around you. The point of view is told from Italian art magazine editor, Ed. Ed and his chiropractor partner, Sam, have become guardians to eleven year old Scot. Scot doesn’t fit in for a multitude of reasons. For one, Ed and Sam have never wanted children. For another, Scot is the child of Sam’s brother’s girlfriend, only the brother is not the biological father. Topping it all of is Scot’s unique personality; his affinity for hand soaps and charm bracelets. While Ed and Sam are homosexuals they are not sure how to deal with Scot on any of these levels. As the reader you want them to not only work it out but work it out as a happy ending.
Poignant line: “But Scot’s the kind of kid other kids push down and kick simply because of the way he puts his hand on his hip” (p 50). This line sums up the entire book.
Reason read: November is national adoption month and while Ed and Sam don’t “adopt” Scot, per se, they are legal guardians.
Author fact: Michael Downing is a local boy, growing up to the west of me and working to the east.
Book trivia: Breakfast with Scot was made into a movie in 2007.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Adapting to Adoption” (p 1).
Baldwin, James. “Giovanni’s Room.” Early Novels and Stories. New York: Library of America, 1998. 221 – 360.
I want to say Giovanni’s Room is ground breaking but that’s only because it puts homosexuality front and center at a time when one’s sexual orientation wasn’t so openly discussed (1956). The beauty of the story is that it could take place today or tomorrow in any city or town on the planet. Admitting homosexuality isn’t any easier today than it was over a half century ago. Giovanni’s Room has been called autobiographical because it mirrors Baldwin’s personal life: an American expatriate living in France openly engaged to a woman while secretly attracted to men. David is constantly questioning his manhood because he seeks the company of men. His engagement to Hella is nothing more than a cover for his true desires. When his Italian bartender/lover is accused of murder David’s world falls apart. More than the plot, Baldwin’s writing much be savored. The pictures he paints are raw and honest.
Favorite line: “And we got on quite well, really, for the vision I gave my father of my life was exactly the vision in which I myself most desperately needed to believe” (p 235). I think that is the most telling line of the whole story.
Author Fact: Baldwin was a child Pentecostal preacher before the age of 17. He died of stomach cancer in his early 60s.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: He Says” (p 10).