Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Susan Schuurman, Stephan Ausherman, Leslie Davis, Chris Romero

NOVEMBER 24, 1997: 

Speaking Freely: A Memoir
by Nat Hentoff (Knopf, cloth, $25)

There are certain individuals who defy category, and Nat Hentoff is one of them. As a staff writer for the Village Voice who specializes in First Amendment issues, we're tempted to simply label him a liberal journalist. But that doesn't do this unpredictable radical justice. As Meg Greenfield puts it, Hentoff "has come to the defense of some of the most loathsome human beings." In our conservative society, there is a modicum of risk in sounding out the progressive call; but Hentoff displays the courage to enrage members of his own "group," especially for his notorious anti-abortion stand. His enemies would make strange bed-fellows and include: the FBI, pro-choice advocates, the Catholic church, the ACLU, fighters of pornography and black nationalists. The reason he manages to anger so many is that he truly writes from conscience, no matter the price. An original journalist of profound integrity, if not exceptional style, Speaking Freely is well worth investigating. (SS)


Byrne
by Anthony Burgess (Carroll & Graf, cloth, $20)

The author of A Clockwork Orange and about 50 other books left this one just before his death in 1993. It's a novel in epic verse, the likes of which I have not slogged through since my last college course in Brit lit. More specifically, it's Lord Byron's Don Juan but with copious references to testicles, feces and English obsessions such as Hitler, Graham Greene and the "C of E." Contemporary readers will probably find this more accessible than Byron and his lot. In fact, some of the humor in Byrne is pitched at about the same level as Benny Hill. But who in their right mind these days reads long poems that rhyme? Burgess' anonymous narrator poses the same question, and answers: "Call it a tribute to a craft that'd (sic) dying." (SA)


The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat
by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer (Knopf, cloth, $18.95)

Foudini M. Cat is an old, philosophical, albeit neurotic, cat. As an adopted alley cat, he has encountered the dangers of the world first-hand. This book is his effort to contribute his insight to his domesticated brethren, especially his new, obstinate ward, Grace the kitten. He recounts his experiences, including near-drowning, the perils of washing machines and the trauma of abandonment. He describes the affectionate relationship that he developed with Sam the dog, who became his friend, advisor and protector. He muses about the peculiarities of his human providers, whom he has named Warm and Pest. His perspective allows the reader unique insight into the trials and tribulations of the feline world. At times cautionary, occasionally whimsical, his story will amuse the cat lover immensely and provide pearls of wisdom for the kittens of the world. (LD)


Best American Gay Fiction 2
edited by Brian Bouldrey (Back Bay Books, cloth, $14.95)

I'm always wary of a body of literature that claims to be the "best." Anthologies do this frequently in an effort to centralize attention and lure readers into a potential buy. Afterall, universities across the globe rely on these beasts as curriculum guides, and besides, who wouldn't want the best?

Unfortunately, for those of us readers of gay fiction, such a claim (in this genre) is a lofty one at best. Fortunately, though, there is such a work as Best American Gay Fiction 2. The writers included here, so meticulously chosen by editor Brian Bouldrey, spew fiction so horrific, tumultuous, dramatic, sarcastic and bombastic (to categorize a few) to warrant many blue ribbons. My emotions were slapped and beaten, then caressed and lulled--and this after only four of the 21 stories. (CR)


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