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They Change the Subject Paperback – June 27, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (June 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299214745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299214746
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,002,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In this cycle of startling short stories, the youthful narrator, who has just started college, relates a series of homosexual encounters. His recollections of anonymous pickups and intended long-term commitments, which are at once graphic and dreamlike, nonlinear yet concrete, bring to the surface his own problems with both kinds of situations. The spiky, spare language, which distills every sex-love experience, observation, and reaction of the narrator to its most heartfelt as well as glandular essence, gives a particular poignancy to his wistfulness, his yearning for, but misdirection in, finding connection, acceptance, and a working self-definition. The danger of a sensitive person leaving himself vulnerable arises from every story, but never in a pathetic manner, for the narrator is certainly sympathetic, even though the reader wants both to protect him from harm and slap him across the face for his mistakes in leaving himself open to physical as well as emotional danger. Not for every reader, due to the sexual frankness; but appreciators of the short story will marvel at Martin's dexterous use of it. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

“Douglas Martin is a polished, inventive, soulful writer, and this collection is a short, sweet, full contemplation of desire and love.”—Mack Friedman, author of Strapped for Cash

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By NYU Student on August 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
I guess this story collection could be seen as a "novel," or a novel-in-stories, but like Martin's first full-length "fiction" (Outline of my Lover), I think Martin continues to play with audience expectation, he seems to be pretty intent on subverting categories. I think he doesn't want you to know quite what to make of him, or his books, because he wants people to not be so quick to judge. It's like deciding to be in love, it's a leap of faith.

Unfortunately, each of the unnamed narrators of these stories (who could easily be the same boy, or easily be Martin himself) finds himself trapped a bit by what others want to make out of him. Each boy seems to be looking for that thing he can't quite find. Commitment and stability seem to be two concerns, but I think he also wants someone who could look into his mind and want him even more because of what they found there.

Admittedly, I am a fan of short, concise, and carefully crafted stories that can feel as quiet as meditative poems. Rather than a stream-of-whatever, I'd characterize Martin's prose style as spare and deceptively simple. Martin seems as equally unconcerned with easy answers or redemption or glamorizing hustler culture here as he seemed to be with counting syllables or the season in his contributions to another book, a group effort, The Haiku Year. I find him a writer of honesty before anything else.
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63 of 69 people found the following review helpful By just another author on August 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book was bound to find itself between a rock and a hard place--as they say down SOUTH. If you want to unproblematically turn "the other" (ie--not you; different from you; someone you can separate out from you and turn into a scapegoat for your own insecurities/inadequacies--afraid you might be boring if it's not getting you off?), this book might just slow you down. Might ask you to think. Might question you. Might not deliever everything directly to you. Just what do "we" expect to be in a date/trick? If you own a coffee table, and can afford to endlessly supply it, to keep yourself unwittingly entertained, you might not quite get just exactly where the money-shot has gone sometimes. Guess what happens when one pretends to be turned on? What if your eye candy actually had some thoughts about you you had to hear? One begins to think one might be more than that. The profound might just be what goes unsaid. Does everything have to keep being spelled OUT constantly?
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Bernardo on June 24, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this in one sitting. Unsentinemntal, sympathetic, emotional, honest, sparse, and evocative. Martin is a great writer, early in his career, and I think that this one bodes very well for what he might produce in the future. Certainly, it transcends genre, and sexuality. Maybe not for everyone, but for anyone who likes to think and be challenged by an author who's not afraid to leave the extraneous details out. I like to think that shows the rarest of qualities in modern fiction - respect for his reader.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John Ashes on December 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
I really liked this book, a collection of linked short stories that seems to flirt with memoir. The writer is smart and clear-eyed about gay desire and its side effects, and doesn't put on airs. Martin's not a virtuosic, ingratiating writer. His style is cooler and quieter, like Lydia Davis or Marguerite Duras. Another reviewer compared Martin to Dennis Cooper, which isn't quite right. If anything, this book is told from the perspective of one of Cooper's desired boys, who are often unwittingly damaged by the sexual attentions they crave. It's a kind of antidote to a Cooper novel--much sweeter, without violence or drugs abuse--told from the other side of the looking glass. (Though I should add that I totally adore Cooper's novels.)

I found the last three stories of this collection strongest. The first of these is about the inevitable unraveling of an imbalanced relationship. A young twentysomething (a kept boy) navigates the tricky social milieu of his high-profile boyfriend. The boyfriend (bisexual) begins a flirtation/friendship with a famous supermodel that makes the boy feel jealous and diminished. But also, I think, the boy registers disappointment that the older lover is so easily hooked by the model's superficial appeals. A lot of smartly handled, telling details in this piece about the way people cling to their social status and use it to manipulate/hurt others. Seems to be an extension of Outline of My Lover, Martin's first novel.

The next story recounts a gay porn photo shoot. This story is more fragmentary: the explicit (and often hilariously absurd) set-ups of these pictures are described and commented on in an almost clinical way.
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0 of 29 people found the following review helpful By J. V. Mills on May 31, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Did not particularly care for this book. I found the entire book to be a bit shallow and very disjointed. This was more like a collection of poorly written short stories with no general direction.
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They Change the Subject
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