The reading by the Lambda Award finalists was worth waiting for. One poet read, many novelists, and countless memoirists, making up a total of 12 readers that evening. Many were entertaining, but only a few reached into the place where only literature can reach.
I was captivated by a fictional narrative about a black boy joining an all-white class in an all-white town. The narrator, a girl classmate, was utterly convincing in her perplexed courage. What could have come across so easily as moralistic turns out, instead, to be truly novelistic in its depiction of characters and situation.
The other fascinating reader was another lesbian who wrote about a character's obsession with neatness and order. The character was also obsessed by the first line of Rilke's Duino Elegies. The prose was unashamedly poetic.
I thought the women writers stronger on the whole than the men. The women tackled a broader range of subjects, and risked a variety of tones and methods. The men wrote about love or sex in distinctly familiar settings: gay quarterback breaking the heart of his best girlfriend; gay boy who gets soaped by his brother's best friend after athletic training; interracial sex in which the game is to guess which speaker is black, and which is white. The writing was smart and knowing, but that may be part of the problem: the men sounded the same.