Short Stories 

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False Colors: An M/M Romance

Alex Beecroft

Running Press, $12.95/paperback / Release date: April 13

Apparently, male/male romantic historical fiction is the newest publishing trend. According to the press release for False Colors: An M/M Romance, the movie Brokeback Mountain "demonstrated the lure of the subject for a female audience." Alex Beecroft would have done well to consult the original Brokeback short story by Annie Proulx; within those pages, Beecroft would have discovered a powerful love story between two conflicted, emotionally raw characters, so well-written that we barely notice the heroes are the same sex. In False Colors, we can't forget it. The shallow, predictable characters speak in unrealistic dialogue, and their story is clichd and trite: An experienced gay sailor falls in love with his conflicted captain, who can't escape the guilt of his Christian upbringing. A few gratuitous sex scenes and the well-researched historical setting (England, 1762) aren't enough to save this sinking ship. Amanda Lundgren

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The Beats: A Graphic History

Harvey Pekar, Ed Piskor, Paul Buhle et al.

Hill and Wang, $22/hardcover

Many of the writings of the 1940s and '50s Beat Generation are autobiographical, vivid portraits of the now-canonized authors and their addictions and carefree wanderings. The Beats further unravels the backstories of Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Co., replete with enough drugs, promiscuous sex, neurotic penmanship and imagined dialogue to tie all the milestone events in each person's life together. American Splendor's Harvey Pekar heads up the meandering storyline, which also delves into several other Beat characters (Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti), the second Beat generation, and inspired literary movements. On the whole, The Beats stands as an ambitiously constructed, clever tribute, ideal for those already enraptured by the Bohemian scene. Newcomers might do well to read a few of the iconic Beat works first, to see if this jazz is their speed. Matthew Schniper

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The Composer is Dead

Lemony Snicket

HarperCollins, $17.99/hardcover with CD

When Lemony Snicket (he of the Series of Unfortunate Events) was asked to narrate a performance of Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, he consented but later told the New York Times, "It's a great piece of music, with spectacularly lousy text." So, along with composer Nathaniel Stookey, he set out to better the children's classic with The Composer is Dead. The delightfully witty work debuted in 2006, has been performed around the globe, and now is being captured for everyone to enjoy in a new children's book. So does it top ol' Peter? Well, it's so clever, you will laugh out loud by page 3. The subtle, sophisticated illustrations by Carson Ellis provide a great complement to the writing. And yet, the accompanying CD is the star. It features a lively reading of the work by Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), with the full musical piece beautifully performed by the San Francisco Symphony. Jill Thomas


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