The lives and loves of New York divas

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The House of Impossible Beauties: A Novel. By Joseph Cassara. Ecco; 416 pages; $26.99. Oneworld Publications; £14.99.

BEFORE the High Line and the new Whitney, the astronomical rents and gastropubs, Chelsea was a playground for queer misfits. The Christopher Street Pier was where they gathered, sauntered and made a quick buck. Diva elders taught fresh-faced runaways the art of turning a trick: how to spot the white men cruising for a taste; how to kneel on cement without cutting their knees; and, most important, how, in extremis, to “just bite it”—after getting the money up front.

This is the New York of Joseph Cassara’s vivid and engaging debut novel, “The House of Impossible Beauties”. It is a city of hustlers and mad men, strip clubs and graffiti, big rats and bigger dreams. Gritty yet glamorous, Manhattan from the late 1970s to the early 1990s was a rare place where “even the most outrageous people could have a home.”

That is what draws in Mr Cassara’s…Continue reading

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