Are There LGBT Characters In: Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima (rapid review)

Title: Confessions of a Mask

Author: Yukio Mishima

Rating: 4/5

Are there LGBT characters? Yes, the main character/narrator is gay

Brief summary / book review: So, this is a really interesting book. It was written in Japan in 1949, and it’s a semi-autobiography about the author/main character dealing with the fact that he’s gay. The author himself is fascinating — besides being gay, he was also a nationalist who founded his own right-wing militia and attempted a coup to try to restore the Emperor to pre-WW2 powers. When it failed, he committed seppuku.

With that in mind, reading the book itself becomes very interesting, in the sense it feels less like a work of fiction about a character named Kochan, but a true confession from Mishima. Not only does Kochan discover that he is sexually aroused by men, but he is also drawn to the idea of blood and sadomasochism, fantasizing about murdering his lovers and making them suffer.

The narrator goes into the self-delusions, denials, and mind-games closeted people go through when they struggle to accept that they’re gay. Some queer feelings are universal, it seems, and transcends time and nationality. What surprised me the most was how frank the language was, and how clearly it was written. I was expecting something a little more allegorical or archaic, but nope, the narrator will straight up tell you that he jizzed all over a table after masturbating to an art book. It gives the work a rawness and almost an honesty, but don’t let that deceive you because in the end, the reader is not reading a face, but a mask.

About the ‘Are There LGBT Characters’ series of posts: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.

Are There LGBT Characters In: The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan (rapid review)

Title: The Steel Remains

Author: Richard K. Morgan

Rating: 4/5

Are there LGBT characters? Yes, two of the main characters are; one is a gay man, the other is a lesbian.

Brief summary / book review: Grimdark fantasy about a trio of former mercenaries who are living through their traumas and trying to adjust to their post-war lives, only to find that mysterious forces are at work. Ringil is one of the gay characters, and he has been hired by his mother to find a lost cousin, and of course promptly finds himself in way over his head. Archeth, the lesbian character, is the servant of an Emperor and has been tasked to discover what really happened when a town has been razed. The third, Egar, returned to his people to run his family and his family’s tribe, but has found himself ill-suited to leadership.

The plot itself doesn’t move very quickly or dramatically, but this is more character-driven than anything else. From an LGBT perspective, it’s good to see that the author doesn’t shy away from portraying his characters with real sex lives (for instance, this is not a book where the straight characters get to boink but the gay characters lead chaste lives). Every character gets his chance to, er, shine in the bedroom in explicit detail, some more graphically than others. Explicit violence is also a part of this book, and sometimes, the sex and violence happen at the same time. The result in that particular scene isn’t very pleasant, obviously.

My biggest issue with the book isn’t with its treatment of LGBT characters, but rather, how all characters sound the same. They all have, essentially, the same vocabulary. They all say “fuck” often, and in similar ways. There isn’t an erudite character, a quiet character, a character who lies and exaggerates, a character who delivers blunt truths, etc. Strip away the dialogue tags and descriptors, and you wouldn’t be able to tell who’s speaking.

That aside, if you like your fantasy to be dark, bloody, and sexy, this book might be right up your alley.

About the ‘Are There LGBT Characters’ series of posts: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.

Are There LGBT Characters In: Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem (rapid review)

Title: Gun, With Occasional Music

Author: Jonathan Lethem

Rating: 3/5

Are there LGBT characters? Nope. But there are talking animals (including gorillas, kangaroos, and kittens). And talking babies.

Brief summary / book review: It’s a noir-inspired sci-fi story, about a private detective who gets tangled up in a case (murder, of course), set in near-future Oakland. This is a world where people are constantly taking drugs, where animals and babies have evolved to be able to communicate (and, in the case of babies, drink heavily). It’s a little funny, a little disturbing, but tonally inconsistent at times. The mystery isn’t enticing, but the worldbuilding is the more interesting part. Written in 1994, there are a few places where the technology of the story hasn’t caught up to the technology of today, but nothing too distracting. The main character is someone out of a Raymond Chandler novel, set in a world that’s got a bit of Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick sprinkled in it. Not quite a guilty pleasure read, but close to it.

About the series: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.