Buy it Now at Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.
Nairne Holtz, Montreal author of The Skin Beneath, which won the Alice B. Award for debut lesbian fiction, brings us a book of stunning short pieces that collectively study love and dependence, both emotional and chemical.
The book kicks off with “When Gay is the New Straight,” originally published in Sean Meriwether’s excellent online magazine, Velvet Mafia, is about a middle-aged Elvis impersonator who performs marriages at his Crystal Wedding Chapel. But he’s not exactly accustomed to doing those darned same-sex weddings and finds himself strangely ambivalent about it. “No Parking” is an interesting portrait of a “straight” woman who dabbles with a dyke’s heart and ends up with more than she bargained for. “Just the Man to Straighten Her Out” is an office romance between questioning Valerie and her boss Ian, who knows he’s straight. No wonder so many of these situations end up in workplace violence.
The book’s centerpiece is “Are You Committed?,” a novella about straight-laced university student Clara and her lesbian affair with Kirsten against the backdrop of a student-run newspaper at McGill University. The characters here, especially Clara, are so vivid and complex you can virtually watch them grow as the chapters speed by.
Two of the last four stories that close the book are among my favorites here. “Crows” is the story of junkie couple Sonya and Kelly and their heroin-chic suburban friends, Steven and Rachel. A short but brilliant episode in four very confused lives, the night Steven overdoses is a grim game to Sonya and Kelly, rife with flirtation and the kind of anger you can only have for the one you love. But “Crows” isn’t nearly as deliciously disturbing as “Phantoms,” the tale of Anna, a recent double amputee who turns her back on girlfriend Kirsten in favor of being fetishised, her stumps worshipped by Richard, a man she meets over the internet. Creepy yet oddly affirming, this story will stick with you for a long, long time.
I haven’t read Holtz’s debut novel, but this collection is so good that I’ve ordered a copy. You’ll be reading about it as soon as I finish it, but until then please enjoy these tales. They’re well worth your time.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler