Book Reviews

Mountain Climbing in Sheridan Square by Stan Leventhal at ReQueered Tales

Genre Gay / Bisexual / Historical / Recent (1980s) / Fiction
Reviewed by ParisDude on 24-June-2020

Book Blurb

A series of discrete episodes among friends provide snapshots of one gay man's life. There are parties, concerts, dinners with everyday life – and death – interwoven in the rich story-telling. An actress, a painter, a set designer, a writer – all sweating and surviving in Manhattan, all scoring their first successes. Part autobiography and part documentary, artfully written, it details the lives of these creative people. Young and professional, they know there is more to life than money. There is trust and the sort of love that trades in deeds of kindness.



First edition published by Edward William Pub Co., February 1988.

Lambda Literary Awards Finalist in 1988, this new edition features a 2020 foreword by Christopher Bram.


Book Review

It’s funny that today’s bloggers are probably unaware that their writing technique—the short, easily and quickly readable snippet focusing on a particular topic—is not new at all. I immediately think of Nobel Prize winner Camilo José Cela’s ‘The Hive’, published in 1950, which I’ve always wanted to read (I tried, but alas, in Spanish—a doomed project if you compare Cela’s rich Spanish with my own rudimentary and rusty command of the language). Stan Leventhal’s novel is another example of how to use the “blog post”-writing technique in a highly skillful and enjoyable way—years before the first blog was created. Leventhal was kind enough to write in English, too, for which I’m immensely thankful.


Examined objectively and outwardly, one could think the book to be a mess, a hopeless jumble of apparently unrelated bits and pieces, a book where the structure defies chronology and logic. As a result, this should be an unreadable book. But it isn’t. In fact, there’s someone who holds the whole thing together and imbues it with a logic of its own. This someone is… the author, incidentally also the main character of the book, or so I surmise. No name is mentioned, the book is told from a first-person-perspective. But so compelling is the narrator’s (and thus the author’s) voice, so intriguing his story, so well-balanced his pace, so crystal-clear and pleasant his writing that I didn’t notice the breaks and jumps from one subplot to the next. It all fit together seamlessly to create a panorama of a place, a time, a mindset.


The place is New York, the time the early eighties, the mindset that of young artists struggling to find their path to success, to happiness, to love. The narrator is a twentyish singer slash songwriter who works odd jobs to earn a living (in a factory, in a theatre ticket booth, in a record store, as a music editor, then as a writer). He’s living in a small flat in Sheridan Square, observing from his window what’s going on downstairs, musing on the people he sees, on relationships, on friends, on music, on AIDS, on art and artists, with the recurrent theme of what aliens would make of us humans (very funny). With wry humor, he retraces major moments of his friends’ lives as well as some of their conversations. Woven into this web of small pieces are snippets of his own long-time relationships. First there is Amos, compulsory lier and cheater, whom he meets in New Orleans and soon invites to New York to live with him. He’s very much in love with the guy, or rather, it seemed to me, in love with the idea of being in love with him (weren’t we all at that age?). He finally realizes there’s no future for the two of them and throws him out. He then meets Mike, a sweet and shy man, with whom he finally finds the love he’s been looking for all this time.


I really loved this novel. The short chapters, each coming with a new topic, were easy to read, the larger narrative easy to follow, too, despite jumping from aliens to a conversation with someone to Amos to Mike to the narrator’s dealer, a larger-than-life black drag queen cum esoteric teacher, to something else altogether. If a bad writer had attempted to tackle a book like this, I would have been confused after a few chapters, but Leventhal pulls it off effortlessly. The narrator he (re)presents is an endearing, nice, curious young man with sane views on life, love, and the rest, if I may say so. He tries to see everything with an open mind, never taking himself too seriously, pursuing his career without being obsessed with getting rich. He seems to be a sweet, unprejudiced guy, always ready to question himself, always keen on understanding others. A person I really would have loved to meet—I’m sure we could have discussed anything and nothing for hours.


Of course, the snippet-technique made me read on and on without once looking up. I had just learned a new twist in Amos’s story, say, and of course wanted to know where it all would lead to. Very cleverly made, very addictive, in fact. I giggled, I was sad, I was made to think, I was enlightened. When I closed the book, I was just slightly disappointed that it wasn’t any longer. Which means I highly recommend this novel—a good example of how books can be literary, intelligent, and entertaining.






DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the author. This book has been provided by the editor for the purpose of a review.


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 195 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 17-March-2020
Price $5.95 ebook, $16.95 paperback
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