PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewA smart, refreshing essay collection on the subject, and deals directly and honestly with the paradoxes surrounding the topic of men ... Each essay in The Male Gazed intertwines stories from Betancourt’s own life with a consideration of a facet of masculinity, contending with the idea’s enduring allure and its suffocating anxieties ... Betancourt’s analysis, even (or especially) when he turns a critical lens on himself, feels like a deft appropriation of the props and behaviors of conventional masculinity, repurposed for his own ends. The Male Gazed is at its weakest when Betancourt apologizes for his own desires ... What seems like a playful, self-deprecating joke has the effect of undercutting his own voice, intimating that his desires are rooted in some moral shortcoming ... All in all, though, The Male Gazed provides a welcome perspective on a thorny, timely subject. Readers are sure to leave with a useful lens through which they can give masculinity a second look.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt’s largely the ugly that High-Risk Homosexual is concerned with, and though often heavy, Edgar Gomez’s debut is also a breath of fresh air ... It’s a compelling portrait of machismo: a surveilled, violent dance ... As a writer, he invites us into the chasm between what he is expected to do and what he is capable of, giving himself plenty of room for emotion, self-deprecation and acerbic observation ... Gomez writes with a humor and clarity that generally keep the melodrama at bay, an absolute must in a memoir that might otherwise have been a laundry list of painful experiences ... Ever committed to parsing its central themes of masculinity and queer identity, High-Risk Homosexual does circle back on itself a bit, the chapters teetering on uniformity. Gomez’s voice is equal parts warmth and acid wit, like a good friend you’re slightly afraid of, but there are times in the middle of a passage where you’ll feel you know what he’s going to say before he says it ... These minor complaints do little to dull the shine of an exciting debut from an author with a rare point of view ... By its own admission, the book doesn’t have all the answers, but it makes a compelling case that they will come from the razor-sharp queers living in the margins.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewWhether Brandon Taylor knows it or not, in Filthy Animals he’s provided a perfect companion piece for our nervous era of reopening. Following the success of his much-lauded debut novel, Real Life, Taylor’s first story collection presents sumptuous, melancholic portraits of characters overwhelmed ... stories that range from stellar to pretty good (I’m not sure Taylor is capable of \'bad\' writing) ... Taken as a whole, the book is a study in rogue appetites, and though the connected story line holds the most gems — and benefits greatly from the same attention to structure that Taylor brought to “Real Life” — the others are not to be missed ... shines here, in the dirt ... Taylor has a talent for taking the dull hum of quotidian life and converting it into lyrics ... These intimacies, often cozy, pair splendidly with the uglier, more brutal elements to establish the book’s focus: the feral that lurks under the veneer, the unspoken impulses that can lead people to contort themselves into gruesome shapes ... These doses of ferocity add much to the experience of the tamer stories ... highlights another strength of the collection: its handling of queerness, particularly in its physical manifestations. It’s notable for an author of Taylor’s caliber to depict so unflinchingly these unsanitized queer hookups ... Appalling decisions, squirm-inducing acts of aggression and, throughout, demons lurking in the shadows: Filthy Animals makes human contact seem like a thrilling horror story. As such, it speaks to both the anxiety and allure of \'getting back out there.\'