The National Book Awards released its longlists today for Young People's Literature and Poetry.
Among those up for the award in Young People's Lit is David Levithan's gay teen novel Two Boys Kissing.
Levithan's novel interweaves the stories of a number of gay teens, foremost among them one couple who decides to break the world record for longest kiss.
Levithan interweaves all these players with surgical skill and with an unabashed attention to bodies. If the book's title doesn't get it banned from a thousand school libraries, its frankness will: "Peter lingers his hand down Neil's back, slips his fingers beneath his waistband, rests on the skin there, the heat. Neil moves in the opposite direction, his hand rising under the back of Peter's shirt, between his shoulder blades. ... Neil touches the nape of his neck, then slowly retreats back down, fingernails raking skin…."
What sets this book apart from Levithan's previous work (including the charming "Will Grayson, Will Grayson," co-written by John Green) is its yearning for tragedy. For brooding over these youths is a Greek chorus of ghosts: the generation of gay men who lived and loved and died in the first onslaught of AIDS.
"We are your shadow uncles," they declare, "your angel godfathers, your mother's or your grandfather's best friend from college, the author of that book you found in the gay section of the library."
Among those longlisted in Poetry is Frank Bidart's Metaphysical Dog.
Towleroad book critic Garth Greenwell praised the book in a review earlier this year.
For nearly half a century, Frank Bidart has been obsessed by a single theme. In this brilliant new collection, he calls it “hunger for the absolute”: our seemingly inescapable need for purity and perfection, for some significance that transcends the organic. Whether this hunger leads to philosophy or religion, politics or love or art, it both instills our lives with meaning and makes them intolerable.
...I’ve been reading Bidart for more than half my life, and with this new collection I feel again how much his work has become crucial to my sense not just of poetry but of my own "ordinary divided unsimple heart." Bidart’s work is one of the unfolding wonders of the literature of our time. Read this book.