Jeremy Atherton Lin’s beautiful, lyrical memoir, Gay Bar: Why We Went Out, cloaks [...] lived history in [...] learned history, examining an objective subject — gay bars — to create a highly subjective object: a book about his life, flensed down to just the bits that made it past the bouncer ... Gay Bar dances on the edge of that third space between fiction and nonfiction, a space often reserved for poetry ... Atherton Lin himself is rendered only in relation to the bars he walks us through; you’ll find yourself hard-pressed at the end to say where he was born or how many siblings he has (and you won’t care). But Atherton Lin has a five-octave, Mariah Carey-esque range for discussing gay sex ... Gay Bar is well crafted [...] with a strong authorial hand that makes the reader feel carefully shepherded through the text, even as Atherton Lin jumps decades and continents. The nonlinear chronology allows him to start in the present moment, cluing us in to a central truth of the book: We are always in the present ... Atherton Lin’s final realization is that it may not matter why he went out (that question may not even be answerable) but the act of going out, of being in that particular 'we' in those particular bars, has made him — gloriously, irreparably — who he is.
The subtitle of Atherton Lin's book is Why We Went Out, and the London-based author offers plenty of reasons in this remarkable debut. Gay Bar combines memoir, history and criticism; it's a difficult book to pin down, but that's what makes it so readable and so endlessly fascinating ... The prospect of losing gay bars leads him to reflect on their presence in his life. He writes beautifully about his college days in Los Angeles, where he went to his first one, though he can't recall the name ... Much of the book details his relationship with Famous Blue Raincoat, whom he met at a London nightclub while traveling through Europe with a college friend. The two fell in love pretty much instantly ... The passages about Famous Blue Raincoat are tender; while it can be difficult to write about romantic relationships in a memoir, Lin does so with real affection that never turns cloying ... Atherton Lin describes the gay bars that he frequented, and his descriptions of the establishments are endlessly evocative ... Atherton Lin explores topics like architecture and urban geography, as they relate to gay bars, beautifully; he writes with a real knowledge that's more than just intellectual dilettantism ... Gay Bar is a book that's beyond impressive, and Atherton Lin's writing is both extremely intelligent and refreshingly unpretentious.
Jeremy Atherton Lin brings a wise, wry voice to his masterful Gay Bar: Why We Went Out . This thoughtful study is part memoir, part research project, part travelogue and a large part classic essay-as-assay, seeking answers on the page ... Lin's writing is consistently intriguing, descriptive and lovely:As narrator he is by turns pensive, funny, self-deprecating, exasperated and reverent; he can be delightfully suggestive.