The World of Normal Boys
Karl Soehnlein

It's award time again! This year's round of Lambda Literary Award winners (a national award for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered oriented writing) was announced May 31. Portland's own Judith Barrington came in first in lesbian nonfiction for her autobiography, Lifesaving. Barrington recently celebrated her 25th anniversary of contributing to the Portland literary scene.

Karl Soehnlein, a first-time novelist, won in gay male fiction with The World of Normal Boys, a coming-of-age and coming-out novel set in '70s suburban America. Protagonist Robin MacKenzie is a wistful adolescent, firmly middle class, who listens to rock, disco, and show tunes too.

In a first-time sex-and-stoned scene, Soehnlein writes, "Scott pulls out of the kiss and slams harder into his crotch. Robin thrusts back and Scott pounds at him again, it's almost painful to Robin but he pushes back over and over until he is just counting the beats of this rhythm like a crude children's song--bum-bah-bum-bah-bum--forgetting about the voices in his head and what he wants to say, just trying to do whatever Scott is doing--for how long they do this, he doesn't know. The whole world is just the press of Scott against him and him trying to keep up. And then without warning the sound from Scott's mouth is not a growl but a gasp and his teeth clamp down on his lower lip. He stretches out flat as an iron. Everything freezes. ...Scott peeks out from under his arm. He reaches his other hand out and pokes into Robin's crotch as if he's testing a loaf of bread. 'Did you come, man?'"

About the award, Soehnlein says, "I'm feeling pretty high about this, naturally, and still mostly in shock. I hadn't expected to win, as there were three veteran writers nominated in my category." The "veteran" writers nominated include Edmund White, Christopher Bram, and Bernard Cooper.

Congratulations to Barrington, Sohnlein, and Michelle Tea, for placing first in lesbian fiction with her novel, Valencia.

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