Monthly Archives: July 2009

Sprout by Dale Peck

Buy it Now at Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.

Daniel Bradford, a.k.a., Sprout is the token gay kid in his rural Kansas high school. Kansas is, as Sprout points out, the home of Fred Phelps and of enforced teaching of Intelligent Design. Thus, it’s not the best place to be gay.

Sprout refuses to assimilate despite the urges of his English teacher Mrs. Miller, who has plans for Sprout to win a statewide essay contest. She sort-of accepts that he’s gay, and she’s fine with his vibrant green hair, but she wants him to rein in his personality for the sake of appealing to the less-than-tolerant contest judges.

Sprout’s father also sends mixed signals. When he finds out Sprout is gay, he destroys their computer. (They also don’t have a television, ergo, Sprout entertains himself with a dictionary.) However, he seems to mellow out as the novel progresses.

Ah, the dangers of acceptance that only goes halfway. Sprout knows he’s safe, but deep down he doesn’t know his love is right, and that makes all the difference when Ty enters the story, and Sprout does fall in love. Sprout may have an unenviable life— a drunk widower for a father and a vine-covered trailer for a home, but Ty has it far worse as his dad is a Christian extremist and physically abusive to the point that all of Ty’s siblings have left home in one way or another—some tragically.

Mrs. Miller and Sprout’s dad may want Sprout to keep his feelings in check (while they fall in love themselves, no less), but as we all know from Romeo and Juliet, you can’t tell a teen in love anything, and soon the word-master with the dictionary is stepping on land mines of his own devising. While the book doesn’t have the same level of appealing rebelliousness of Blair Mastbaum’s Clay’s Way nor is Sprout as “crush-able” as Kevin Doyle, the narrator of Brian Malloy’s classic, The Year of Ice, Sprout is an engaging and memorable character with one of the most distinct voices in current fiction. This should appeal to teens, both gay and straight, as well as adults looking for the newest twist on the calamity of first love.

Reviewed by Gavin Atlas

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Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division – Jon Ginoli (Cleis Press)

Buy it Now from Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.

I am ashamed.

As the owner of over 2500 CDs and about 320 gigs of music on two hard drives, Pansy Division has been one of those bands I’ve heard more about than heard. PD’s founder, principal songwriter and front man Jon Ginoli’s history of the band, however, has changed all that. Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division is an informative and entertaining ride through the world of rock and roll.

Pansy Division is, of course, the first openly gay pop/punk band. They wore their label proudly, Ginoli writing wonderfully honest and honestly catchy tunes like “Curvature,” which glorified the natural bends of the male member, “Homo Truck Drivin’ Man,” “Fem in a Black Leather Jacket,” “Smells Like Queer Spirit” (a Nirvana knockoff Kurt Cobain loved), “The Cocksucker Club” and “Rock and Roll Queer Bar” (think Ramones gone gay).

Is it any wonder these boys never hit the big time? They were too out there, too ahead of the curve, too damn good to be popular. Still, they achieved a measure of success opening for Green Day and they were big enough on the gay (and non-gay) club circuit to get their names pretty well known in the indie/punk/alt rock community.

Frustrating? Sure it was, but Ginoli never lost his sense of perspective or humor, and the same wit and wonder that came through on those songs shines like a beacon on these pages. From the difficulties of finding a drummer (I lost count at six) to harrowing encounters with homophobic fans and rockers to frank and funny accounts of life on the road, Deflowered is a no-holds-barred memoir of a take-no-prisoners band who happen to be unapologetically gay.

And of that, we can all be proud.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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Icarus: The Magazine of Gay Speculative Fiction, ed. by Steve Berman

16614-coverVarious issues of Icarus are available here.

How fitting that the inaugural post of our new blog should be about the first issue of a terrific new quarterly magazine of fantastical gay fiction, essays, poetry, artwork and interviews edited by Steve Berman of Lethe Press. The Summer edition of Icarus is a perfectly chilling complement for those hot summer days poolside.

The world of reprints is well-represented by Jeff Mann’s engaging and entertaining essay, “Watching Dark Shadows,” about his lifelong love affair with the 1970’s gothic soap opera and all things Collinwoodsian, originally published in Edge. But Mann is no mere Barnabas wanna-be – he not only goes to a “Dark Shadows” convention but even tours the Carey Mansion in Newport, RI where the TV show was filmed. Along the way, he melds those experiences into ruminations about being Southern and gay in a manner that is as personal as it is universal.

Not resting on this laurel, Icarus also includes Steve Berman’s interview with author Dan Stone about his novel The Rest of Our Lives, Toby Johnson’s conversation with photographer Peter Grahame, some well-thought out book reviews and poetry. But the meat of the magazine is in the fiction, and Berman serves some well-done courses.

Joel D. Lane’s “The Willow Pattern” is a wistful dreamscape about an ex-lover who has committed suicide but returns to haunt the dreams of his former partner. Jameson Currier offers “The Man in the Mirror,” a tidy summation of a gay actor’s career as seen by the men he used to be in the mirror of his conscience. My favorite, however, is the magical, crackling story of a summertime teenage romance, “Lightning Capital,” by Tom Cardamone. By turns sensual and sensitive, his poetic prose illuminates the characters like a summer firestorm and ends with an outrageous pun that will bring a smile to your face.

Berman has assembled an wholly absorbing collection of essay, poetry, prose and art in an attractive package. Order this today and you’ll find yourself wishing for Fall’s issue before the leaves turn brown.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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