Gays Reading

Jason & Brett Answer Listener Questions

March 12, 2024 Brett Benner, Jason Blitman Season 2 Episode 43
Jason & Brett Answer Listener Questions
Gays Reading
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Gays Reading
Jason & Brett Answer Listener Questions
Mar 12, 2024 Season 2 Episode 43
Brett Benner, Jason Blitman

Jason and Brett take a break from talking to authors to answer your questions! Everything from choosing books and finding time to read to their experience and relationship to books as queer people. 

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Show Notes Transcript

Jason and Brett take a break from talking to authors to answer your questions! Everything from choosing books and finding time to read to their experience and relationship to books as queer people. 

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Jason Blitman:

Were you just, what were you just singing?

Brett Benner:

Do you know what I almost broke into? I don't know why it's one of those. It's I don't know you, but I love to from, from once.

Jason Blitman:

ones.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. I don't know why that sometimes these things just dislodge. So this is a little bit different for us today. Cause normally, we are, we have our authors on. So this is this is just. us

Jason Blitman:

I know it's been a minute since we've done just us.

Brett Benner:

Yeah, but

Jason Blitman:

began.

Brett Benner:

that's exactly right. But this is almost like an origin story. But it's fun because we've taken some questions from our listeners. and we thought we'd answer some of those, which hopefully will be interesting and informative.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. Back when we started our first episodes, just the two of us, I never thought I'd be drinking coffee out of a gay reader mug like I am right now.

Brett Benner:

I bet you found that through the link on our page and went to our shop and got that.

Jason Blitman:

I did. And I wasn't intending this to be a plug, but I, it was more about who would have thought we'd have merch? And people have been buying it and

Brett Benner:

I know.

Jason Blitman:

It's so fun. And anytime I have my like, literarily tote bag on, I guess people compliment me on it all the time. It's very silly. And a very good high quality tote bag too.

Brett Benner:

It's really cool.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. So today's episode is going to be the two of us just talking about answering some questions and talking about, bookish things. So you're stuck with us

Brett Benner:

That's exactly right.

Jason Blitman:

and, if for some reason. This is your first episode that you're listening to. Let's, we'll give you a proper intro. I'm Jason

Brett Benner:

and I'm Brett.

Jason Blitman:

and enjoy this Q& A episode of Gaze Reading. A little one on one.

Brett Benner:

A little one-on-one. I feel like we should be I'm creating a visual. I feel like we should be on two stools next to each other on pretty much a bare stage, but with one light on the side. And we both have a mic in our hands.

Jason Blitman:

yes, we have to have the mic in our hands. I think it was Ann Patchett talking to our Eric Thomas about how if you don't have a handheld mic it's hard to be funny without a handheld mic.

Brett Benner:

Oh, that's hilarious.

Jason Blitman:

have to agree with that. I've moderated conversations before where I've had a lavalier pinned to me, and I've also

Brett Benner:

It's just not the same.

Jason Blitman:

a hand mic, and it just isn't the same. You're, I'm much funnier with a mic in my hand.

Brett Benner:

And you know what the funny thing is? I'm thinking about when I went to see Ann Patchett here in LA and she absolutely had a hand mic. She had it. Absolutely. I had one in her hand.

Jason Blitman:

Yes, of course.

Brett Benner:

It's probably a prerequisite now. She's I must need I need a hand mic.

Jason Blitman:

Feel free, anyone who's snickering at me saying I need a mic in my hand, snicker away. He's very handsome.

Brett Benner:

Exactly. Exactly. I'm old enough that if I say Mike, I think of Douglas. You're like, who is that?

Jason Blitman:

Michael Douglas?

Brett Benner:

No. That's Michael Douglas. Of course, you'd know who Michael, I hope you would know Michael Douglas. Mike Douglas. Okay. Mike Douglas, Mr. Rosie O'Donnell's greatest fan, Jason was her inspiration of what she wanted to do for her show. Mike Douglas used to have an afternoon show called the Mike Douglas show. And when I'd come home from school as a young lad, my mother would be watching him and he would, he'd sing and then he'd have guests on and it was the whole, it was, that was the template for the Rosie O'Donnell show.

Jason Blitman:

Okay. I, first of all, I'm not her biggest fan. I am a big fan of hers, but I don't want to, there are people that have, I'm sure, koosh balls and her stuffed doll.

Brett Benner:

the level of Koosh ball.

Jason Blitman:

I don't know. Just her koosh balls that they like, got from the show that they went

Brett Benner:

Oh,

Jason Blitman:

That wasn't me. No, I was just the kid who like loved watching it when I got home from school every day. But I'm glad to know now about Mike Douglas, not to be confused.

Brett Benner:

With Michael

Jason Blitman:

Michael Douglas, the very talented actor.

Brett Benner:

Yes. Of the Douglas dynasty. Yes, exactly. Exactly.

Jason Blitman:

I want to see Doug Dynasty instead of Duck Dynasty and see the Douglasses.

Brett Benner:

the Douglas dynasty. That's a good reality show now. Kirk and Michael

Jason Blitman:

Speaking of, there is that reality show of Sylvester Stallone's family?

Brett Benner:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

The Family Stallone?

Brett Benner:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

Who's watching that?

Brett Benner:

Somebody. Cause

Jason Blitman:

Raise your hand if you're watching that. Oh, nobody.

Brett Benner:

it got renewed. Yeah. It's done.

Jason Blitman:

He's probably paying for it with Rocky money.

Brett Benner:

There's so many people who there's come on, we could, that's a whole, that's a whole episode to unpack who's watching these shows. anyway,

Jason Blitman:

we have a handful of questions today, are relevant to our experience on the podcast, which I think is really fun. And we'll keep this, nice and short so people don't need to just listen to us yammer on. But, A question that came up was how does the act of reading as a queer person shape your interpretation or experience of a book? Are there specific instances where you found a book to be more relatable or impactful because of your identity? Or on the flip side, have you ever felt alienated by a book due to a lack of representation or understanding?

Brett Benner:

that's a loaded question. I'm just thinking about it for a

Jason Blitman:

Yeah, there's a lot.

Brett Benner:

There's a lot in there. here's What I would say in response to the first part of it. I don't think this even speaks to just exclusively a queer person, but I don't know how anybody's own lived experience does not. In some ways, bleed into their experience of reading a book.

Jason Blitman:

You don't think that's true?

Brett Benner:

No, what I'm saying is I do think it's true. I do think that whatever one's life experience, so if I'm speaking for myself, surely the fact of as a queer man, an older queer man, but just even in all my life, reading something, I'm reading it with that in the back of my mind. I'm reading that in the back of my head. Coming at something with who you are.

Jason Blitman:

Thinking about our conversation with Bianca Bosker, talking about context, context matters. And reading as a queer person, I think that there is. A much less representation of queer people in books. Certainly, there's more than there was once upon a time, but I think the odds are that you're not seeing yourself in the story. And so there is a bit of distance or disconnect between you and what you're reading. So there's this interesting buffer.

Brett Benner:

quiet. Cause I'm thinking, do I feel a buffer? Do I feel to the first part of what you said? I exactly agree with you. If you're someone who is. You talk about, you listen to people who grew up never seeing themselves, say, as a child represented in a Disney film, right? They're only seeing a princess or a character that's a certain way. But I think my experience as a reader has grown the more I've read because I've become a more empathetic and understanding person of someone else's experience because of reading. Now, whether or not. Part of that is because I'm queer going into it, so already I feel like a marginalized group. That's perhaps true, but I didn't, before there was even conversations about marginalized groups, I don't know that I would have felt that. I just would have felt like, okay, I like this, or I like this, or this makes me uncomfortable. But there was never, certainly it's the difference between then finding something or finding a text that's a story that's gay or characters that are gay to suddenly glom onto, which there was none of that really

Jason Blitman:

Sure, but maybe being queer allows you to be more empathetic. Or maybe

Brett Benner:

Yeah, that's what I'm saying. That's what I, yeah, that's what I was saying. I do think. Being queer has allowed me the opportunity to perhaps see things from a different angle than I might not have seen it before. And not just in terms of whatever, say, I was going to grab at the obvious fruit on the tree, which is discrimination, but Even to see things from a woman's point of view, perhaps, or a female it's not that different from probably an actor embodying a role in terms of when you approach something. I think if an author has done a successful job, There's a way to key in, and there's certainly, I've keyed in with characters that I never thought I would key into, but, wow, this is so fascinating.

Jason Blitman:

Sure. And I also wonder is it, are you more inclined to, to prioritize diversifying your reading?

Brett Benner:

I think that's absolutely true.

Jason Blitman:

yeah. No, I

Brett Benner:

But there is more, but there is more of that now, too, as well. And, It's about being cognizant and to be intentional about what you're reading and how you're reading it. And I do think that has changed so dramatically, why I could say for me within the last three to four years of being very deliberate about the kind of things I'm going to pick up about the kind of authors I want to look at and the kind of things I want to read and discover,

Jason Blitman:

and so then the follow up to that was, are there specific instances where you found a book to be more relatable or impactful because of your identity? So like specifically gay. And I think, we've addressed this in our gay books episode, which was, earlier on in our first season. But I think I really loved Red, White, and Royal Blue in a way that other people might find it twee, because I related to it in a way, right? Or and I say this again about the great believers. Not only am I gay, but the story is about a gay man living in Chicago, and his sister lives there too. And I lived in Chicago as a gay man, and my sister lived there too, right? So it was like, I was deeply relating to that story. And I think it affected me so much because I felt like I could have been reading my own story.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. Yeah. No, I agree. It's just so interesting because I'm thinking back to when I was young, I'm thinking specifically like college, the amount of content that was actually out there. And I think we, we even talked about this a little bit with Armistead. Mopin when he was on the show is there wasn't a lot to grab hold of. So I remember reading Giovanni's room and I remember reading Morris by EM Forrester. And both of those books were hugely impactful. Patricia now warns the front runner, but it wasn't until I've really hit tales of the city and that series that I found these books that I found, even though I wasn't a 25 year old gay man living in San Francisco, I did find these experiences relatable. And a kind of interaction with people that mirrored in some ways what I had even with my friends who were straight and gay and we were all mixed together. And it wasn't this kind of exclusive or one thing, if that makes sense. Sure.

Jason Blitman:

are there specific, the question is about identity. And I think we can interpret the word identity however we want, right? Identifying as a person who prioritizes chosen family, a person who has a husband, right? Like I am a husband. I like, what are my identities? And so I think a book is interesting and a story is compelling when there is something, perhaps, quote unquote, non traditional, if it's a, excuse me, if there's a straightforward, male, female, straight presenting love story that sort of follows the tropes of standard boy meets girl, and they fall in love and they live happily ever after. That's maybe the only kind of book where I feel like, quote unquote, alienated or is perhaps let the least compelling for me, but to your point earlier I think there's always something that one can tap into a book or see yourself in some way in a book. And even if that's just like a character flaw in somebody else that you see in yourself, right? There are ways to tap in. So another question was, how do you discover new books to read? You mentioned Bookstagram, but are there other ways you find new and exciting books? Now that we're doing this podcast, we are very lucky in that we get a lot of books pitched to us. So there are some times where we have not had a book on our radar at all and it's exciting when we make these new discoveries in that way, and it's also cool because we've gotten to know some of these publicists and the publishers and they know what we like or what we don't like, or what they. are what they want to how they want to stretch us a little bit. And I think the first that comes to mind is Pigeon Bogonis book, Nobody Needs to Know. They were not on our radar at all. And I was unfamiliar with their work entirely. And I loved talking to Pigeon. And, Jedidiah Jenkins, his book was pitched to us. But otherwise, I love. Bopping around a bookstore the good old fashioned way,

Brett Benner:

Yeah I love a bookstore cruise. That sounds really wrong. It does sound like it sounded, but again, taking it back to my early days in California. No, but I,

Jason Blitman:

meet you in the back room

Brett Benner:

a different light bookstore. No, but I I love two things. First of all, I am somebody that does deep dives down in the bookstagram world, and I love to see what people are posting about. It's also the kind of world that you start to figure out like minded people and who has your kind of taste, who is responding to things that you respond to. I get a lot from that. And booktube as well on over on YouTube. I'm not someone tick tock. I just don't do because to be perfectly honest, the general demographic of tick tock for me is young enough. And I'm looking at those tables and bookstores and most of that stuff is not my jam. So I'm just not into the plethora of fantasy and romance and so that's not for me. So the other thing I've really gotten into lately, and we were lucky enough to be asked by Kirkus Reviews to, we, how would you say work with them? Or we were doing a promotion of partner with them. I had never opened an issue of Kirkus Reviews previous to that, I don't know why, I'm obsessed with it. It reminds me of like, when I was in high school, my mom once bought me for Christmas a subscription to People Magazine, and I used to run down to the post office every day, I mean via the mailbox, when I'd get home every week, because I knew a day was coming. And I feel that way about that Kirkus Reviews, I just, first of all, there's so many books in there. That I love to go through and just see what's coming out. They have so many people reviewing their books and there are enough ahead that you think, Oh, I'm going to put these on my radar. And then I just add them to a list a lot of times, but then we end up talking about it. But that's been a great resource to me just in terms of stuff that's up and coming.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah, you know you talk about bookstagram, too And I think it's the longer you follow people or the more people you follow you discover you know, who has similar taste as you do, or you read, you start to read things. And you say, Oh, I keep reading, or I've read a bunch of books. And this person is the one that recommended all of them. And I've liked all of them. And that's a person I should trust and get recommendations from. And frankly, that's part of how you and I connected. Um, there are a few books, like Chris Whitaker's We Begin at the End and there was one other that year, oh Sarah Winman's Still Life. Those two books were books that you had posted about, and I think you had shared some other things, where I was like, oh, I've liked those books, therefore, we probably have somewhat similar tastes, or our overlap is big enough, and then I read those two books based on your recommendation, and They're two of my all time favorite books, hands down. I tell everyone to read them. So listeners, Sarah Winman's Still Life, which is quite queer and Chris Whitaker's We Begin at the End. Highly recommend.

Brett Benner:

yeah, and it's interesting about Sarah Winman's book because it, there's elements of it that reminds me very much of the Avid Reader Press book that came out

Jason Blitman:

The Curse of Pietra

Brett Benner:

yeah, they're very, there's a lot of similarities in terms of art, in terms of the war, in terms of all those things. And both books, by the way, have incredible covers for those of the people who are into cover art, both have incredible covers.

Jason Blitman:

also back to what we were talking about, they both have themes of chosen family. And, so just back to the conversation about what you can tap into. It's, yeah, it's really interesting. And historical fiction, I don't always necessarily care for. And both of those are quite historical fiction.

Brett Benner:

the thing I found out it's been interesting because of as well as discovering new books and especially I have to credit it mostly to bookstagram because I've been on there now a couple of years is it's also helped me slowly start to evolve in my own taste of what I like as a reader. And in terms of the way I look at things in terms of, literary fiction versus commercial fiction and what falls within those boundaries and what can intersect. And it's been a really interesting education in a way. And and a lot of people who have fostered that along.

Jason Blitman:

and part of it is also just like understanding what you like, and I think that there are a lot of people that read across genres, but it's also good to know a place to start. Yeah, there are people who will ask me. what they should read, or they'll say, oh, I saw you post about this, and I read it, but I didn't like it. And I was like, oh had you asked me, I would have known that you wouldn't have liked it, because I know your taste enough to know that wasn't really a book for you.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. It's interesting.

Jason Blitman:

But yeah, those are the ways that I, that we find new and exciting books. Also the more, and this sort of leads into the next question, but the more I talked about reading amongst people that I know, the more it would come up that other friends of mine are also readers. And then I would hear from friends what they're reading.

Brett Benner:

You weren't like closet readers.

Jason Blitman:

I know it's very weird. So the next question is, you both said you became readers late in life. What caused the change? How do you, quote unquote, make time for reading, aka what do you remove from your life to make time? How does reading compare to what you used to fill that time with? Do you have advice for someone who wants to read more? Those are all great questions!

Brett Benner:

They're great questions. I didn't, first of all, I'll say just as a I didn't, I'm not really a latent leave late in life reader. I've always read and I've always, and it's just I've had an increase in it since I've gone on to Instagram, certainly. But unfortunately, I, talking about removing something from my life, I don't think I've removed anything from my life to make room for reading.

Jason Blitman:

me either.

Brett Benner:

which has only become problematic. What I, but I will say this is what I do personally. This is what I've introduced in the last, like even nine months. I do a lot more audio books just to flesh things out. And again, that goes into the argument of someone saying audio books aren't reading. And it absolutely is reading because that's, it's a, it's an absolute legitimate and true way for people to consume literary

Jason Blitman:

Sure. And what I say about that is if you could talk to me about the plot, if you could talk to me about the ending that I didn't understand and you could talk to me about the crazy character that reminds me of your mom. You've read the book, you've

Brett Benner:

Yeah. And what if you're blind?

Jason Blitman:

I also understand like the term reading, the act of reading, does involve eyes. So I think that there is a consuming of the content and there is this idea, storytelling in and of itself. It was a listening

Brett Benner:

of man.

Jason Blitman:

Exactly. No, audiobooks are very much you consume audiobooks you are consuming the story and that's that.

Brett Benner:

a hundred percent. And I do think, look, it's a different skill set. And for people who have never done it, come people say, I can't concentrate like that. And I understand that there's certainly things I can't do. I can't listen to an audio book and say, make a list for work. I can drive in the car and listen to an audio book. But for what I would say as a suggestion to someone who perhaps like my sister has just gotten into audio books after me convincing her, start with something that's nonfiction, like a celebrity biography and start there. Start with someone who tells their story to you and let them tell their story. And. That's how I started. And then I slowly began to move into actually thrillers on audio, which worked great because it was the kind of thing, again, like the storytelling tradition of hearing something. And now, frankly, audiobooks have so stepped up their game. There are so many books that have full casts. They have incredible actors who are, frankly, Meryl Streep hello, performing Tom Lake.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah I have a very hard time with fiction just because no matter what it is, it's hard, it can be hard to follow. That said. fiction, first person fiction stories are much easier to follow on audiobooks. A recent one that comes to mind is Big Swiss was a very easy audiobook to follow. But yeah I'm a huge fan of non fiction audiobooks because they're the ones telling you their stories. I have a perhaps harder time with Nonfiction that's not narrative. So, like the Psy Montgomery books are a little harder for me. But an audiobook that's really fun that I'll shout out that's worth starting with is The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jennifer Lewis. And her second book, Walking in My Joy, In These Streets Jennifer Lewis is an icon, she's a star, and she is, she's so specific, and her stories are so good, and she's just so compelling, and her I've devoured both of those audiobooks, they're so good. But yeah, that's another great way to read more. I also say It's so overwhelming, but just like anything else, if you do it, you just have to do it, right? So it's like getting yourself into some sort of routine, and if you wake up and you read for 10 minutes while you're drinking your coffee in the morning, maybe you'll bang out five pages. And that's okay. Then within a month, you've read a book, right?

Brett Benner:

that's exactly right. Yeah. I personally do

Jason Blitman:

that much time.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. It's my it's my morning. If I, if, even if I go to the gym at six or 6 30, I come home and I spend one hour and read in the morning and then sometimes I'll read at night too. When I get into bed, I have great, I have one of those stupid book lights that Jenna was promoting. I call it stupid, but it's actually fantastic.

Jason Blitman:

I know. I need to get one of those.

Brett Benner:

That goes around your neck. It has multiple, they're 23. In fact, I'm going to find the link and we'll put it down on show notes on Amazon because they're great. It's great. And and so I could read it in bed and it doesn't wake my husband up. And I just even if I read five or ten pages before I fall asleep, it's quiet. So it's great. I also, I do have a Kindle. I read stuff and I have a small Kindle that I can carry with me anywhere. I'm never anywhere without a book because I'm always afraid that I'm going to be stuck somewhere and not have, my, my attention span can't be by itself. I need something to focus on.

Jason Blitman:

Sure. And also, I think it's really overwhelming for people to just think about where to even start. And some of it is about it loops back to the Bookstagram thing of it all, right? It's knowing, okay, what am I in the mood for? And who should I ask for, for a recommendation for right now at this point in your life? Oh, I want something light and fluffy. Or, ooh, I want something thoughtful. Or, ooh, I want something that'll fill my soul. Or whatever it is. Um, it's just under, it's mood reading. And the other thing that's worth saying is not being afraid to put a book down if you're not feeling it. And I think that's everything from, it's just not the right time for you, right? Oh, this is not a right now book. This is a, I'll pick it back up in the future book. And I've had so many of those. Or, it's a, you know what? This isn't my brand. This is not for me. And that's okay. It's clearly for somebody else because the books have been published. At least one person liked it enough to say, I want to put this on a shelf. And that's amazing. No, exactly. But, and there are plenty of books that I don't love. But that's okay. They're just not for me. They're for someone else.

Brett Benner:

Like David Grand's The Wager, which I just finished. Not for me, but clearly Barnes Noble Book of the Year last year. But, and I will be excited to watch the movie when Martin Scorsese does it in five years. So

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. So that's another thing too. I think the idea, the pressure of reading a book or seeing, how many pages you have until the end feels very overwhelming. And of course, we get that. We're surrounded by like mountains of books and I just feel like I'm never going to get to read all of them. And I probably won't get to read all of them and that's okay. And it's just a matter of the right place and right time. And that's okay too.

Brett Benner:

Yeah, because it's the same thing I've always said in regards to what you just said, when people were like I don't like to read this, or I don't like to read this, or I'm not a reader, and I've said this before. I believe that anybody can be a reader if they find the right thing to read, and they perhaps just haven't discovered that. And there's so much stigma attached to, I see it with my daughter, because she's in school, and they're required to read certain things. for school. And I'm like, there's a whole world out there of incredible things and incredible, I'd mentioned on another show, a graphic memoir that I read, and I don't read a ton of graphic novels, but that's a whole different art form. And there's just so many different types of books to read. I think some of it is, Just find if there's something

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. And if you really want to get into reading, but you feel like you have a short attention span or whatever it is, and you need to work up the muscle, think about reading a young adult novel or reading something that's shorter or reading a novella or start by reading articles, right? There are things to get into the practice and into the habit. Short stories. A friend of mine was just telling me she loves reading poetry because she has two young kids and got into poetry. Yeah. Yeah. And especially because it's digestible, you could, she could read a page and a half and then not pick it up again for two weeks if she's, dealing with her children. So it's finding that right thing that fits your moment.

Brett Benner:

I have time for a haiku.

Jason Blitman:

Listen, whatever you have time for. Um, this was fun answering some reader questions.

Brett Benner:

Totally fun. Submit us more guys and maybe we'll do another one

Jason Blitman:

Yeah, gazereading at gmail. com. Follow us on social media or on Instagram, at gazereading. All the books we've talked about will be on our bookshop. org page, which you can find the link to in our show notes. And yeah, thanks for listening to us yammer on about books.

Brett Benner:

week after week and we'll see you

Jason Blitman:

I know, forever, I know, I'm, we're grateful to all of our listeners,

Brett Benner:

No, we really are.

Jason Blitman:

we'd be nothing without you.

Brett Benner:

That's another song. I hear it coming.

Jason Blitman:

Have a great rest of your day.

Brett Benner:

Bye everybody.

Jason Blitman:

Bye!