The Book that Saved Me from Madness: Plato's Symposium
The last time I was in love in a way that I thought would kill me, I carried The Symposium around with me everywhere. I wanted a world where all that mattered was love and the attempt to make sense of it. I also needed the drama and comedy to elevate my own words. My boyfriend was a cynic; Plato was my ally in the face of that.
The Book that Makes me Cringe:
Andrew Holleran's The Beauty of Men
A cautionary tale about what will happen if you leave the city without a boyfriend, move to the sticks, and become obsessed with a gorgeous man. And all this with your mother dying in the background. The relentlessness of Holleran's prose and observations frightens and inspires me. Whenever I want to take emotional short cuts I think of The Beauty of Men and don't.
The Book that Keeps me Hard:
Flesh and the Word 3, ed. John Preston
Preston is the greatest porn-writer intellectual; his I Once Had a Master is a classic. My favourite story in this collection is Deke Phelps' The Man I Made: A Bodybuilding Memoir. Even lines like 'Oh yeh, honey, grab your man's muscle and feel my power' don’t turn me off. You have to be there to really appreciate it.
The Book that Made me Cry the Most
Michael Arditti's Pagan and Her Parents
I didn't know it was possible to sob for 50 pages until I read this and found myself snivelling through the last quarter of the book. It's about time someone made a movie out of Pagan, but then maybe there are too many happy homosexuals in it.
The Book that Makes me Happy
Mark Doty's Sweet Machine
For the sheer exhilaration of language and frills and shiny bits, Mark Doty's poetry is the place to go. His generosity sweeps you off your feet and makes you want to be gorgeously in love and marvellously generous; he makes you want to rub against white kimono fabric, buy diamond earrings for your boyfriend, and eat� well, no-one really eats in Doty's work – who needs sushi when language is so satisfying?
The Book I Dream of Imitating
Christopher Coe’s Such Times
Christopher Coe is my Barbra Streisand. I've never met him, but I adore him. I'd buy his shopping lists if Sotheby's was auctioning them off. I love his voice, no matter what he sings. Such Times is not a particularly amazing story – it's about love and obsession and dying – ah, but the way it is sung! And everyone eats well and drinks daiquiris and negronis.
The Book that Taught Me a Thing or Two:
Reuben Lane's Throwing Stones at Jonathan
Reuben's a friend of mine, so I know what the stories looked like before they became fiction.
The Book that Is Really a Diary:
Derek Jarman's Chroma
A bit like Doty's poems, Jarman’s book is full of luscious images and tender memories, as well as great quotes from queer men like Wittgenstein and Michelangelo. Between Shadow (The Queen of Colour) and Translucence, each chapter explores a different hue. Like The Pillow Book, Chroma is a great teacher on journal-keeping.
The Book that Changed my Mind:
David Leavitt’s Arkansas
I don't like David Leavitt. He's too neat and too comfortable. Nothing in his writing disturbs me, and I like to be disturbed. But the three novellas in Arkansas are such great stories, and they're so beautifully crafted and easy to read, that it's worth booking a holiday in Ibiza just to have the appropriate setting for the perfect beach read.
The Book I'll Never Read:
Proust's Remembrance of Things Past
It's too long and too slow and I can't imagine having the free time one needs to get through Proust. A friend of mine took a year off to read him. I like dipping into Swann's Way, though, and stealing sentences. I also steal from Rumi and Tsvetayva and Chekhov. In the past, I used to shoplift quite a lot.