Title: Bob the Book
Author: David Pratt
Cover Artist: Peach Boy Distillery and Design
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions
Buy Link: Amazon
Length: Novel (186 pages)
Genre: Contemporary gay fiction
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie
In a nutshell: Think Toy Story for adults, with books instead of toys.
Meet Bob the Book, a gay book for sale in a Greenwich Village bookstore, where he falls in love with another book, Moishe. But an unlikely customer separates the young lovers. As Bob wends his way through used book bins, paper bags, knapsacks, and lecture halls, hoping to be reunited with Moishe, he meets a variety of characters, both book and human, including Angela, a widowed copy of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, and two other separated lovers, Neil and Jerry, near victims of a book burning. Among their owners are Alfred and Duane, whose on-again, off-again relationship unites and separates our book friends.
Will Bob find Moishe?
Will Jerry and Neil be reunited?
Will Alfred and Duane make it work?
Read Bob the Book to find all the answers…
It is an honor to be able to review this book just days after it won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Debut Novel, Gay Fiction. It’s a worthy prize, too, as this was a wonderful story that will definitely be on my Top Ten list for the year.
When the story opens, we are introduced to Bob the Book, who is living on a shelf at the Gay Diversions Bookstore on West Tenth Street in Greenwich Village. Bob’s full name is Private Pleasures: Myth and Representation in Male Photo Sets and Pornography from the Pre-Stonewall Era to 1979 (sounds like a book I would review!). Bob is very proud of his seven hundred and eighty-five pages, Introduction, Foreword, Preface, two hundred-plus black and white and color photographs, thirty-six pages of citations and “a deliciously detailed index in tiny type.” Bob sits patiently on the shelf, watching the patrons come and go and wondering who will buy him. Oh, he also ogles the UPS guy in his cute brown shorts.
One day Moishe (Beneath the Tallis: The Hidden Lives of Gay and Bisexual Orthodox Jewish Men) appears next to Bob. Their relationship starts off a little testy, but eventually they become friends and even fall in love. Moishe dreams of having an owner who will highlight him, underline him, and make notes in his pages. Bob just wants an owner who will read—and love—him and keep him in his collection.
And thus the story begins. The conceit—books who have personalities, who think, talk and establish relationships—is clever and fun. There’s lots of very funny dialog and droll “inside jokes” for book lovers. What do I mean? Well, consider the Selected Greek Tragedies who, when talking about their owner, Owen, say:
“Thus, thus is Owen fallen! Weep, Manhattan, for Owen, thy fallen son! Seek him not in thy piano bars, but alone at Armani Exchange! Seek him alone before his closet, in lonely quest for a more fabulous outfit!”
Or Fleur, a new vegetarian cookbook:
Often they heard Fleur sighing to Ina, an older cookbook, “I know how conflicted you must be. You have the word ‘joy’ in your title, but you can’t experience joy, knowing that you’re contributing to the suffering of animals.”
You might think that a bunch of books couldn’t sustain a story arc over 186 pages but if you thought that, you’d be wrong. As Bob, Moishe, and their assorted friends move from bookstore to home library to fundraising used booksale to conference and more, they experience love, heartbreak, regret, happiness, sadness and love again—along with their human owners. Moishe achieves his dream of being annotated but his wish becomes a curse when he is slammed down on the photocopier, spine broken and with flashing lights shining against his pages. It was almost like he was being raped. I cried a little at that part.
My mother used to tell me not to fold the corners down on a page to mark my place; she always admonished me to use a bookmark instead. “It hurts the book,” she’d say. “It makes them cry.” If you have ever loved a book so much that you read it until it fell apart, I think you will love Bob the Book. And even if you are not that emotional, I think you will still find this a satisfying, fun, and very entertaining story.
* * * * *
While I’m on the subject of the Lambda Literary Awards, Normal Miguel by Erik Orrantia, won for Best Gay Romance. Victor Banis reviewed the book just about a year ago and gave it five stars. You can read the review here and buy the book, in print or ebook, from Amazon or All Romance ebooks (for ebook formats other than Kindle).
Edited to add: Erik is offering a free copy of Normal Miguel to one lucky winner who leaves a comment on his blog. Drop by for a visit: http://erikorrantia.com