by Darryl Pinkney
The New Yorker last week reviewed two books, fiction, both about gay Americans abroad. Speaking as a non-fictional gay American abroad it’s nice to find additions to this classic genre . What Belongs to You is set in Bulgaria and Black Deutschland…well guess. I’m set in London – in a café at the moment.
Not having read them yet I can only postulate on them based on the fact that they were reviewed in TNY and that they’re both published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, the high holy of literary publishing. This means they obviously fall into the “literary” camp as opposed to the “commercial” one or TNY wouldn’t have reviewed them. That means no overtly happy endings, though you can assume someone will come to a deep realisation about themselves that they could only do somewhere where they don’t speak the language and which has the potential to change their lives but probably doesn’t.
Because they’re literary you can also assume that no one has good sex or fun sex, but probably lots of thoughtful sex. Indeed, one of the books (I won’t tell you which one so that you have to read both) is basically the story of a client and his hustler – “…the novel inhabits conventional motifs” as TNY duly notes though they do say that the author goes on to “renovate them” which I assume means the hustler doesn’t die of a drug overdose at the end.
TNY also notes that it’s …”fairly explicitly about shame, punishment, and disgust, among other things.” Sounds like fun no? I assume it’s not Fifty Shades of Grey type punishment.
I read the entire review of Black Deutschland and couldn’t quite figure out what the plot was which means there probably isn’t one. As my friend Rebecca Chance would say, there’s a situation not a plot – black gay American in Berlin in this case, but then how many literary books about black gay Americans abroad are there?
None of this is to imply that these are entertaining and enjoyable reads; they may well be and if I eventually read them I’ll let you know – or if you have already please feel free to comment.
What Belongs to You won’t be released until 7 April in the UK but Black Deutschland is available now. I wonder if they translate it into German if the title will be Schwarz Germany?