Monthly Archives: September 2010

Destiny’s Bastard – Hank Edwards (Loose ID)

Buy it now direct from Loose ID 

Anyone who reads this blog regularly—and I hope that’s
everyone—knows I enjoy books that defy my expectations; books that lead me down
one path then spin me around in a delightfully different direction. I confess
to being a jaded reader, so the element of surprise always scores points with
me. And Hank Edwards wins big with Destiny’s Bastard.

In fifteenth century England, Sir Gerard Fogg—handsome
knight and protector of the Royal family—is having a beautiful and passionate
love affair with Prince Tristan. The only threat on the horizon, other than the
discovery of their relationship, is a mysterious band of robbers threatening
the countryside. Their leader, Malcom, is a time-traveler from the future who
finds the simple English country folk easy marks. When Tristan is killed by
Malcom in a sneak attack, Fogg finds himself traveling into the future for
revenge. But he finds much more than that.

Okay, so I’ve already ruined the time-travel surprise for
you. Sorry about that. But it’s no more than you’d get in any decent
description and there are plenty of other twists and turns to engage your
attention. Does the story have a happy ending? Well, of course it does—but it’s
not the one you expect. Edwards does a wonderful job of avoiding many pitfalls
and cliches, primarily the forced fish-out-of-water humor I’ve seen lesser
authors attempt in time-travel novels.

And those sex scenes … mmm-mmm. Hairy muscle-bears with
swords, leather and linen breeches. I have to say I found those scenes hotter,
but that’s my particular preference. Edwards has a way with the medieval sex
scenes, but there’s plenty of hot interludes both past and future to fire your
rockets. Or launch your catapults.

Hot sex notwithstanding, Edwards is on his game all around
here. The plot winds well around Gerard, who is a well-developed character (and
I’m not just talking about his pecs, either). Edwards also acquits himself
nicely with the action sequences. They’re suspenseful and pointed—and the pacing
is top-notch. The book moves with grace and assurance, never faltering or
making a misstep.

And I have to say this is one of the most well-edited
e-books I’ve seen. Someone has taken a great deal of care to weed out
misspellings, spacing problems and other layout issues, allowing me to immerse
myself in the end product without any of those annoying flaws to jerk me out of
the narrative.

Even if you’re
not normally interested in swordplay and knights in (and out) of shining armor,
old fashioned romance never goes out of style, and you’ll certainly find that
and so much more in this winning, wonderful tale.  

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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The Accidental Publisher by Fay Jacobs (an Out in Print exclusive)

I’ve got two cars on the driveway and a garage stacked with books. I’m trying to learn about the world of publishing as fast as I can but I’m drowning in sell sheets, ISBN numbers, e-books, backorders and other terminology from the publishing wars. Not to mention bubble wrap. I’m up to my ass in bubble wrap. I wish my mentors were here to help. But of course, they are not and I’m in this alone, unless you count my spouse Bonnie who now has the official title of Fulfillment Manager for A&M Books. That means she drags heavy book cartons to the UPS Store.

This isn’t the glamorous Vanity Fair book party kind of publishing, nor is it New York Times Best Seller kind of publishing and it’s certainly not the “Let’s option this for Julia Roberts” kind of publishing. But it’s the keep-the-legacy-alive kind of publishing and when I’m not too pooped to notice, I’m honored and delighted.

Anyda Marchant and Muriel Crawford, my mentors and the founders of the legendary Naiad Press, represented more than half a century in the evolution of lesbian literature in America.Their lives spanned almost the entire history of the gay rights movement in this country – thus far, of course. I was lucky enough to know them, love them, learn from them and agree to try, to the best of my ability, to carry on for them. 

They were Rehoboth’s Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, serving scotch instead of marijuana brownies. In the early 1970s, when no novels had happy endings for lesbian stories, Anyda wrote the novel The Latecomer and could not find a publisher. In fact, it was almost dangerous to submit something so outrageous to a main stream publishing house. The Latecomer was the tale of two women finding love together and, scandalously, it had a happy ending.

So Anyda decided to create her own publishing house. She and Muriel would call the publishing house Naiad Press,based on Greek mythology. Naiads were beautiful water nymphs and Naiad Press would allow lesbian feminist writers’ words to flow. Anyda and Muriel put up the $2,000 required to print The Latecomer, but no printer would touch a lesbian book with the proverbial ten foot pole. After several irritating encounters with insulting printers who refused the job, the women finally found a Florida company, whose only other big client was a Baptist Church. “It was a remarkable combination,”  Anyda said.

The Naiad Press was officially launched on January 1,1973, with the publication of The Latecomer a year later. The printer shipped the finished books to Anyda and Muriel, who distributed them from their garage. “We were shipping clerks,” said Muriel.

Anyda, ever the lawyer, saw to it that by 1974, Naiad was incorporated in Delaware, with Anyda and Muriel,Barbara Grier and her partner Donna McBride as shareholders. Thanks to the large network of independently owned lesbian-feminist bookstores and fledgling gay newspaper outlets cropping up throughout the 70s, Naiad Press started to make a name for itself.

Through the rest of the 1970s and early 80s, Anyda continued to write novels,with Muriel acting as a sounding board and informal editor. In addition to the early Sarah Aldridge novels, Naiad Press began to publish romances, mysteries and novels by other female authors–writers like Katharine V. Forrest, Renee Vivien, Valerie Taylor and many more. Anyda was most proud of the business as an incubator for lesbian writers who otherwise might never be published. She and Muriel never expected financial success and never cared if they got any money back on their investments. They used the money made from the sale of The Latecomer to pay for publication of the next book, which in turn financed another. And another.

Over the years, Naiad published eleven Sarah Aldridge novels and dozens of other books by lesbian/feminists—surprisingly growing from a small business in the back of a garage to an impressive feminist publishing company with its own warehouse,staff, author list and first-rate nationwide reputation.

In the early 80s, Naiad author Jane Rule, who had written the novel Desert of the Heart, saw the book turned into the now classic lesbian film Desert Hearts. Naiad Press was in the thick of it. In 1985, Naiad also published the ground-breaking and controversial book Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, a collection of true stories. But by the late 1980s the Naiad partnership was on the rocks. “Too commercial, not literary,” was all Anyda would reveal.

It turned out that Anyda felt Naiad was retreating from its original goal – a publishing opportunity for quality lesbian/feminist writers who might not otherwise be able to publish. Also, as it turned out, the vision Grier and McBride had for the company took Naiad in a much more commercial and controversial direction. In fact, soon after Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence was released, Naiad Press sold the rights to one of the interviews to MS Magazine, which published it in August 1985.  Apparently, Naiad, with Grier and McBride at the helm, also sold other stories from the book to the men’s magazine Forum. The selling of the chapters to Forum deeply disturbed Anyda and Muriel on many different levels. Grier’s sale of rights to publish excerpts in Forum caused a firestorm of controversy within the feminist and lesbian communities but the controversy also served to make the book a best seller.

Eventually, Barbara Grier and Donna McBride bought Anyda and Muriel out of Naiad Press and in 1995 Rehoboth’s best known publishers started a new company, A&M Books of Rehoboth, once again, out of their home and garage. As part of the financial settlement with Naiad, A&M Books retained both the existing stock and the rights to all of the Sarah Aldridge titles. And Anyda, at 83, was still writing. If nothing else, A&M Books would be the avenue for publishing more Sarah Aldridge novels. Although by this time, the Aldridge novels were joined in gay and mainstream bookstores by an explosion of lesbian-written, lesbian-themed and lesbian-published novels, romances and the new hot genre, mysteries with lesbian detectives, cops and investigators.

Keeping with the style she knew, Anyda kept on writing. With the lesbian publishing industry growing so rapidly—by this time Naiad was joined by several other successful lesbian publishing outlets—the lesbian community had their own thriving literary culture . And the Sarah Aldridge novels were fast becoming collectible classics. While continuing to write her romantic novels energized Anyda, her goal was to bring A&M Books to prominence by finding other unpublished authors and letting their words flow as well. The publishers worked together on A&M Books projects every single day for over a decade, at a pace slowed by age, but with more gusto than most people decades younger. The thirteenth and fourteenth Aldridge novels were released and they worked to send out publicity, fill orders and keep the publishing business going.

Anyda’s fourteenth Sarah Aldridge novel, turned out to be her last. O, Mistress Mine, was released by A&M Books in 2004 with a big,celebratory book signing party in Rehoboth.. Lots of sales, lots of press.Happy, happy publishers. A&M also published two books of essays by this author, titled As I Lay Frying – a Rehoboth Beach Memoir and Fried &True – Tales of Rehoboth Beach. The latter was published just after the 2006 passing of both Anyda and Muriel within four months of each other—Anyda at age 95 and Muriel at 92. The book told the story of their lives, their adventures in publishing and their fifty-seven year romance.

And they left the publishing house to this writer to carry on their work. I was flattered, awed and very much a novice in the publishing world. So I rolled up my sleeves and became a publisher. Now before you start thinking I’m Random House, let me explain the realities of a tiny publishing house (or garage in my case). It’s almost impossible to sell enough books to make any money. Not that the books don’t sell. Anyda’s are still selling, and I’m luckier than I ever imagined, with my first book into a third printing. That’s a lot of books sold—all over the country, and I am so flattered. 

But the distributors, book stores and take a big cut (I’m not complaining—they get those books out there!) and shipping is so costly that this publisher earns just enough money to schlep the next carton of books to UPS and send them on their way. Okay, and maybe a little extra to help with travel to book events. It doesn’t hurt that those events are in gay Meccas, either.

The ladies of Naiad never cared about what it cost—their mission was to publish books written by lesbians and get them into the hands of lesbian readers—who often had nothing else in print that related to their lives. The A&M Books publishing house operated by me has no such luxury. We’re operating hand to mouth. Or possibly foot in mouth.But either way, investment money we do not have. Which is why I chuckle when I get several e-mail inquiries a week from writers eager to have A&M (that would be me and Bonnie) publish their gay or lesbian novels, self-help books, poetry, short stories and in one case, a children’s book about gay ferrets (really).

We’d love to. Even the ferrets. But until we win Powerball or Hollywood options As I Lay Frying for a major motion picture (that sound you hear is me exhaling, breath not held) all A&M Books can do is be keeper of the flame for the Sarah Aldridge novels. I was able to use some of the funds the ladies left me to publish my second book, Fried & True to tell their story as was their request. Although I cannot predict the future, I hope I can continue the mission of those early Naiad days and have A&M Books be a launching pad for female writers who otherwise would have no outlet. In 2009 I published the 35th anniversary edition of The Latecomer with commentary by well-known lesbian writers and icons.It’s been selling very well. This year, 2010, I published the novel The Carousel, by writer Stefani Deoul. It’s an exceptional story about strong female characters and I know that Anyda and Muriel would be proud. 

So here I am, with a teeny tiny publishing house. My den is my distribution center, with books piled four feet high and purchase orders, packing tape and the ubiquitous bubble wrap filling every available crevasse. I can easily lose a Schnauzer in the clutter. But I’m a very lucky writer. My third book is in the works and that bitch of a publisher is breathing down my neck. I expect For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries to be released in early fall, 2010.

And none of this would have been possible without the ladies of Naiad and their vision that there could and would be happy endings for lesbian literature. Cheers to Anyda and Muriel!

By Fay Jacobs

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Home is the Sailor – Lee Rowan (Cheyenne Publishing)

Buy it now from our store – Home is the Sailor

If I had read the first three books
in Rowan’s Royal Navy series, I suspect my thoughts on Home is the Sailor—the fourth in the series—would, of course, be more
studied, more critical. But I didn’t. So bear with me.

Home is the Sailor occurs during a short-lived period of peace between
Bonaparte’s French Republic and Great Britain, codified by the Treaty of Amiens
signed in 1802. Against this historical setting, Commander William
“Will” Marshall and his lover, Lieutenant David “Davy”
Archer, return from what is described as a “…supposedly routine mission
to pick up an agent of His Majesty’s secret service from the coast of
Spain.” The primary tension of the storytelling arises quickly when
Marshall’s ship is attacked, and Davy emerges from the relative safety
belowdecks to assist with the defense of their lightly armed vessel, the
Mermaid. Seems that in a prior book of this series, Davy was
gravely injured during another attack at sea—this after he and Will had become
lovers—and, thereafter, Will’s passion for command, for his love of the sea and
confronting the dangers upon it, paled to his fervor to protect his lover,
Davy, from any further harm. The emotional conflict: How can Will continue to
serve His Majesty, when his ability to command is compromised by the presence
of Davy upon the same ship? Protecting Davy becomes tantamount to Will’s
ability to command. Davy understands Will’s dilemma, and considers the
necessity to resign his commission, if only for the sake of his lover, Will.

Once returned to safe harbor in
England, Will and Davy report to their superior, Sir Percy—a kind of cloak
and dagger
character who seems to have been
at the center of some clandestine operations against “Boney” (Bonaparte),
to which Will and Davy were a party—who advises the men it would be in their
best interests to hide out for a while as, apparently, they have a price on
their heads. So it is off to the Archer estate, Davy’s home—Grenbrook Manor in
Devon—where the lovers will tarry for a time, and await their fate.

Davy, the third and youngest son of
a quite tyrannical father, an Earl, arrives at Grenbrook Manor with Will, only
to find that his oldest brother, the heir to the estate and title, has died,
supposedly in a hunting accident. Their arrival also sees the house filled with
sisters and female cousins, a bed-ridden, bereaved mother, and the comings and
goings of the second oldest brother—now, with the death of the eldest, the heir
apparent—who is, from his first introduction, an unsavory, arrogant presence
and surely (the reader will immediately presume) up to no good on several

Rowan shows us the structured
protocols of life within an English estate, an earldom, at this particular time
in history. The women of the household are, of course, subordinated to a status
of, well, just being there until they
can be married off.  The
paternalism of the times oozes from the pages. Rowan’s handling of this perhaps
ancillary component of her storytelling was, for me, quite fascinating,

To reveal more of Rowan’s
storytelling as Will and Davy pass their days at Grenbrook Manor would, I fear,
provide more of the plot than should be shared in this review. I believe it is
enough to tell you that there is mystery, adventure, guile, sleuthing and, oh,
yes, there is some gently told, not explicit meeting of the flesh to be
savored. You will find a little surprise at the end, also. No, I will not tell
you if Will and Davy come to terms with the essential tension that is revealed
in the first pages of the book. Readers of this genre will, however, be
satisfied with the outcome.

There are few ruffles and
flourishes in Rowan’s writing. There are no literary meanderings. She writes
with a beautiful simplicity of style that enables the storytelling to flow as
smoothly as a soft breeze against a foremast.

I don’t often read this
genre—historical romance. I’m glad I did. It was refreshing to just settle in,
sip a little grog, and let Rowan take me on this journey; a lovely journey that
is well worth the read.  

Reviewed by George Seaton                   

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Under the Red Velvet Cover – Grant Garris (AuthorHouse)

Buy it now direct from AuthorHouse or from our site – Under the Red Velvet Cover: Conquering Victimhood and Breaking the Silence of Abuse, Corruption and Family Secrets – My Life Journey

Writing is a very personal event regardless of the
genre.  Every word and every
sentence that is put together, captures something about the author in a way no
other form of expression can. Sweat, blood and tears are often shed to write
something that we feel good about, or at least would let others read.  It’s when we open ourselves up to the
world and really put ourselves out there, that we as authors can make a
difference.  And there is no better
example of this than Under the Red Velvet Cover, by Grant Garris.

It starts out with a simple telephone call to the Dallas
County Police Station.  That one
act changes everything for Grant and sets in motion a painful journey back
through his childhood, learning twenty years later of the family secrets and
lies that surrounded the molestation, physical torture and mental cruelty that
he endured at the hands of his own grandfather.

It’s a story that should only be in the pages of a fictional
novel, but unfortunately the story is all too real for Grant, and for anyone
who has ever been the victim of childhood abuse.  Grant doesn’t hold back.  He has opened himself up, exposed old wounds that are
decades old and I’m sure shed many tears in telling his story. 

The book is difficult to read, but equally as difficult to
put down.  The one thing that
struck me most of all about the book is the fact that this is not a book about
being a victim as one would expect, nor is it necessarily one that has a happy
ending.  It’s about overcoming
adversity.  It’s about learning
where and what your strengths are and using them to survive.  It’s about conquering fear, self-doubt
and self-hatred.

It’s a book that everyone should read.

Reviewed by William Holden

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Shirtlifter – Steve MacIsaac (Drawn, Out Press)

Buy all of Steve’s magazines by visiting his website or at our store – Shirtlifter #1

On his way to a party, musclebear Matt walks through a Vancouver business district and stops to look through a vacant store window. A sign tells us that a restaurant will be opening here in the foreseeable future, but for now it’s mostly a large, bare room. There are signs of change—some sawhorses with scaffolding, a table saw, power cords crisscrossing the floor—but it’s too soon to tell what the place will look like, or whether or not it will succeed. No doubt this scene has caught Matt’s attention because his own life, now that he has separated from his husband of eight years, has become a work-in-progress with not much to show so far. In fact, the renovation site is reminiscent of Matt’s bachelor pad, which is barren except for unpacked boxes; and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that his unwillingness to commit to a space has a corollary in his inability to consider the possibility of a new relationship. It’s not just his physical belongings that need unpacking, but also his damaged soul.

This brief, wordless scene, which contains so little yet says so much, might be from a film that you could catch at your local art house, but it’s not. Would you believe it is actually from a comic book?

Anyone who doubts the power of the illustrated story need only turn to the recent news about Apple’s heavy-handed censorship of two graphic novels on iBook, Ulysses by James Joyce and The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde. These works have been part of the literary establishment for so long that you would think they’d lost any claim to controversy; but adding a graphic representation of a bare breast or gay kiss was enough to rankle the Apple corps.

Steve MacIsaac is a talented artist who knows the power of the illustrated word and has wielded it well in many anthologies. You may also have seen Sticky, the Bruno Gmunder volume on which he collaborated with Dale Lazarov. MacIsaac’s Shirtlifter is a quality magazine that highlights his work along with a few guest artists; now that Shirtlifter #1 has been brought back into print, all three issues are available. Here’s the rundown:

Shirtlifter #1 is devoted to a short story called “Unmade Beds,” about an American male couple who have relocated to Tokyo on what is supposed to be a short-term basis. The move was occasioned by Michael’s job,but the story is told from the point of view of his husbear Derek, who spends his time teaching, tricking, going to the gym—and complaining. A lot. Therein lies the only problem I have with the story.  MacIsaac’s storytelling skills are in evidence, and we understand that Derek’s dissatisfaction with his locale is a symptom of his unhappiness with a relationship that’s gone stale; but it would be a richer,better tale if we could see more of Derek than his petulance. Certainly the subject matter—a realistic look at a gay mid-relationship crisis—is worthy of an artist who wants to delve into the gay male psyche.

Shirtlifter #2 is a further demonstration of MacIsaac’s urge to tackle thorny subjects. These short, mostly autobiographical pieces deal with coming out, to oneself and to others; being the lone queer in a large family; hunting for sex in bars and online; the anomie of urban life; and the role that geography plays in life events and relationships.  Here MacIsaac is in full control of his storytelling techniques, and every story packs a punch.

Shirtlifter #3 contains the first three chapters of Unpacking,including the brief scene I described at the beginning of this review. Unpacking shows every sign of being a terrific graphic novel. (Just to give some context, by ‘terrific’ I mean a work that compares with Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse, Beg the Question by Bob Fingerman, or Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson). MacIsaac keeps refining his ability to tell stories graphically, and the results are stunning. Matt is a three-dimensional character, and the narrative deftly covers every area of his life, capturing the feel of upheaval and transition,the itch to see what will happen next. I can’t wait to see more of Matt.

Shirtlifter #3 also contains stories by Justin Hall, and an artist who goes by the name Fuzzbelly. Justin Hall’s story, “The Liar,” is a dark, unsettling tale of a sociopath on the road; Fuzzbelly’s story, “FBuds,”is a funny personal essay about a queer cartoonist’s search for authentic eroticism. Fuzzbelly, as his name implies, favors the kind of big men who don’t fit into the “musclebear” category, but have an appeal that’s all their own.

Not that there’s anything wrong with muscle bears. MacIsaac really knows his way around brawny, hairy men: his characters are breathtaking and mouthwatering. If you’re only looking for eye candy, Shirtlifter doesn’t disappoint.  It’s our good fortune that MacIsaac’s work satisfies on many other levels, too.

Reviewed by Wayne Courtois

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Disturbed By Her Song – Tanith Lee (writing as Esther and Judas Garber) (Lethe Press)

91WgjKuVn-LBuy from Lethe Press

I have always been attracted to stories which have an Old World flavor—ivory cameo-miniatures with gorgeous language and intriguing characters moving at a languid pace—so Tanith Lee’s collection, Disturbed By Her Song, is just what I’ve been looking for to while away these long summer nights.

Lee writes here as both Esther and Judas Garber, alter egos she spends too much time fleshing out in a prologue to the stories. This prologue is so superfluously detailed, I almost stopped reading the book. Unless you’re dying to know their background and how Lee came to “know” them, this can be skipped with absolutely no difficulty.

The meat of the book is the stories, and the meals that follow this passionless appetizer are sumptuous, indeed. The first course, “Youth and Age,” is comprised of two stories by Esther Garber,  “Black Eyed Susan” and “The Kiss” in which young girls interact with older women. “Black Eyed Susan” is an interesting ghost-story-without-a-ghost featuring Sylvie, a hotel chambermaid and her investigation into the origin of a mysterious black-eyed figure she encounters on the stairs. “The Kiss” is a tight vignette about an autograph seeker with an unusual request of an aging stage actress.

The second section, “Youth,” begins with Judas Garbah’s “Ne Que V’on Desir,” a terrific story about a strange, sexually ravenous train passenger which also appears in Steve Berman’s Wilde Stories 2010. Loaded with atmospheric dread, this is Lee at her best. Also notable is Judas Garbah’s coming-of-age story “The Alexandrians,” which features a young boy and the older man who helps him to realize who and what he is.

However, it’s Esther Garber’s “Death and the Maiden,” that makes the strongest impression. It’s the story of a woman named Ruth who becomes involved with Vera Blaze, the wife of a famous painter, and her daughter, Emerald, who worships her father to … well, unhealthiness. In order to win Vera, Ruth must first seduce Emerald—and do so well enough that the girl will ultimately reject all men in favor of the female sex. It’s a tall order and one that has surprising, shocking results for all involved.

The last section, “Age,” begins with two sketches by Judas Garbah, the short short “Fleurs en Hiver” and the impressionistic dreamscape of “The Crow.” Again, Esther Garber ends the section with the title story, “Disturbed By Her Song,” an elegy for a potential relationship between two actresses, Georgina and the exotic and unknowable Sula Dule.

None of these stories is plot-driven. They are all about characters who unfold like rare orchids, the movement of each petal a revelation until their secrets are shyly revealed. Buy a copy, bend down and inhale their heady aroma. It will make you dizzy, beguile you and stay in your head for days.

Just the perfume for late summer madness.

© 2010, Jerry L. Wheeler

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Slut Machine – Shane Allison (QueerMojo Press)

Buy it now direct from Rebel Satori Press or from our store – Slut Machine
In these days of politically correct, non-subversive, bad-for-the-queer-movement sex negativity, it’s incredibly refreshing to see someone celebrate the sluttiness queer life has to offer despite all those wholesome images HRC displays to make us seem “just like everyone else.” Poet Shane Allison will never be one of their poster boys, and his book of poetry, Slut Machine, will not be finding its way to their shelves. And that’s a good—no, a great—thing. 
The titles alone tell much of the story: “Ass,” “I Want to Fuck a Redneck,” “In the Event of My Dildo’s Demise,” “Pretty Pink Pricks,” “If You Find Me Dead in a Bathhouse,” “I Want to Eat Chinese Food Off Your Ass,” and “My Fuckbuddy Has a Girlfriend” are all they represent themselves to be in glorious, expletive-ridden detail that rings of a vulgar freedom few mainstream writers can take advantage of. 
Allison uses this freedom to expose all aspects of his sexuality with powerful, unashamed lyricism, from his beginnings (“Becoming a Man in the Ladies Department of J. Byron’s” and “Teenage Drag Queen”) to his current crushes (“Jarrett”). But vulgarity is not all Allison has to offer us here. He always has a purpose; a method behind his metaphors, and while much of what’s here is about sex, the book never gets boring. 
Allison is savvy enough to change up his meter, his rhythms and his subjects so that he never comes across as a one-trick-pony. He uses pop culture as his touchstone (“George Costanza Doesn’t Love Me”) and his family as a referential base (“Kin Folks”, “Why Can’t My Parents Be Hollywood Movie Stars?,” “When I Move Out of My Parents’ House”), but he always comes back to sex and its trappings as a vehicle to display his tough exterior as well as his soft chocolate center. 
But nowhere does Allison put it more succinctly or precisely than in the title poem, “Slut Machine”:
Why I’m such a slut?
Because I don’t bother to ask their names afterwards. 
Because frankly, I don’t give a damn.
Because I go down without interrogating them on their sexual history.
Because it feels better raw and unprotected …
Because with every chest I have caressed, 
        With every dick I have touched
        With every set of lips
        With every man that has whipped it out, stuck it in, shot a load, 
                zipped up and gotten out, 
I have looked for the love of my life in the faces of them all. 
Preach it, sistah. Amen, and fuck you HRC.   
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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Insignificant Others by Stephen McCauley (Simon & Schuster)

Buy it now from our store – Insignificant Others: A Novel

Having read three previous novels by McCauley, I knew to
expect sharp wit and keen observation.
A prevailing air of despondency was something new.  Aging is something few people look
forward to, and McCauley’s character, Richard Rossi, is ever-aware of his
fading looks despite his two workouts per day and the increasingly limited time
he has to make major changes in his life.
These depressing facts come packaged with the general misery of the Bush
Regime including what Rossi sees as the irreparable decline of America and
Richard’s unpleasant high tech place of business with surly co-workers and
clear glass walls everywhere which leave zero privacy. 

I think some readers will initially have trouble warming up
to Richard.   At first, he’s a
bit cold with his sister and just about every female in the book.  He’s also more than a little disturbed
when he finds out his partner, Conrad, is having a long distance affair while, hypocrite
that he is, he’s had his own “insignificant other,” Benjamin (married with
kids), for several years.  Richard
does relate that he and Conrad have something of an unspoken agreement, and he follows
the belief that gay relationships should be “handcrafted” instead of following
a heterosexual model to allow for the needs of male libidos.  (Richard notes that the only long-term
relationship he knew of where it was evident that two partners still retained a
strong sexual spark was a lesbian one.)

However, Richard becomes both sympathetic and dynamic.  In a former career, he was a
psychoanalyst, and it’s apparent he’s accustomed to playing the role of the one
who holds up the mirror and shows other people their true selves.  Through the efforts of several
characters, including his sister, his hot Brazilian personal trainer, his
partner’s business associate, and his protégé at work, Richard begins to see
new facets and new solutions.
Sure, not everything comes up roses, but I found this to be hopeful and
honest, even with the unavoidable heartbreaks.        

Insignificant Others
is poignant, thoughtful, and filled with subtle humor.   McCauley’s take on the present
time also makes this book sharply relevant and discerning.  A lovely read.

P.S.  If you’re
looking for some side-splitting hilarity, you might want to pop over to Stephen
McCauley’s blog
and experience the shenanigans of McCauley’s imaginary (I
hope!) summer assistant who is quite thrilled about his role as the Hot Naked
Neighbor with No Lines in a very bad community stage production. 

Reviewed by Gavin Atlas 

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A Conversation with Peter Dube

By Jerry L. Wheeler

Peter Dube is a big man in terms of stature as well as ideas—and his talent is gigantic enough to make even the grandest vision a reality. This Montreal-based author, editor and critic of art and queer culture has brought his visions to life in such books as At the Bottom of the Sky and Hovering World. His latest novel, Subtle Bodies (Lethe Press) is a highly readable look at the Surrealist movement as seen through the eyes of one of its prime exponents, author Rene Crevel.

But Crevel’s life was only a springboard for Dube’s imagination. “I wouldn’t want anyone to read Subtle Bodies as a representative or reliable biography,” states Dube, “because it’s not one. Some of the events and the basic timeline are reasonably close to Crevel’s actual life but many things are simply made up. I wrote a fiction about his life, in order to explore things I was interested in: how life and art overlap, for example, the inner drive to pursue vision and the ramifications of that drive, the dynamics of friendship… a whole bunch of stuff that isn’t biographical data about Crevel the man, but that struck me as valuable in terms of looking at what goes into making the narrative of a life.”

The blurring of lines between a real life and the hybrid Dube achieves is a tricky balance and not without its problems. “There are really two big problems with “fictional biography” as a project,” he explains. “One is that you have to do a lot of research in order to create any credibility, even if you don’t use most of it. So I would advise anyone considering it to make sure the subject is one they are passionate about and fascinated by. In my case, this was happily not a problem.

“The other issue has to do with readers’ expectations. When a fiction is about an ‘actual person’ there’s a strange tension in how readers approach it, one rooted in what in the book might be ‘true,’ or not; did incident X really happen or didn’t it? Of course,given the number of questionable memoirs published in recent years I understand some of the nervousness.That understanding, however, shouldn’t be taken to mean I have any reticence about writers playing with or blurring the lines between genres. Quite the contrary, I love it and want more! It’s simply to underline that even when in hot pursuit of the experimental or formal innovation,writing, and especially story telling, remains above all else a social act. And that always involves ethical and political considerations that need to be accounted for.”

Authors often find that in the process of writing, their project changes. Dube, however, didn’t have that experience with Subtle Bodies. “I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the overall structure was framed to some extent by Crevel’s actual biography. So most of the fussing and changing and morphing had to do with the order of scenes, the character’s visions and other less overarching things. I did have a few elements in the original concept that fell by the wayside while the book was working itself out, but when I compare that to the countless rewrites and re-creations I usually go through, it was relatively straightforward, which is not to say that it was easy.”

But Crevel is not the only ‘real life’ figure in Subtle Bodies. Andre Breton, one of the founders of the movement is an important character in the book as well, but also one of the most homophobic.

“I have a serious love/hate thing with him,” Dube says. “The man was a mass of contradictions. He was a political radical who was also very reactionary about certain questions. Every account of him I’ve read indicates he had an enormous heart, and yet he could turn on his friends so quickly. There’s no question that he was a visionary and brilliant, but in some ways his prejudices have stained the movement and the perception of it. That damned homophobia… and lets not overlook the hideous sexism! He seems like a pretty complex, and not always agreeable guy… But, in fairness, and though nothing is especially explicit, there are indications that he may have wised up somewhat later in life.”

Such contradictions are especially odd when you consider that the Surrealist movement was consciously based on an outsider mentality whose ultimate aim was to create a myth around itself. Could any group these days create a myth around itself, or was the Surrealist movement unique in that respect?

“…the surrealists were a particular case in this regard,” Dube contends. “They were openly – and self-consciously –looking for a myth, and would say so in their publications. In the end, I think they created a new myth in quite unintended ways, and through the action of time. In the years since it emerged, Surrealism has become a kind of psychic template of the ‘avant-garde group.’ And it’s a template that has been duplicated,consciously or unconsciously, by many others, including all the passion,in-fighting and schism it involved. Even more importantly, and for both better and worse, in the coinage “surreal” they contributed a new concept and a new word to world culture (however misinterpreted it may often be)… that sudden glimpse of the other possibilities inhabiting the world. Not many groups have done as much. As to present-day groups – other than contemporary surrealism – with both similar ambitions and similar possibilities, it’s quite difficult to say. It’s a tougher job now wha twith all the Post-Modern splintering of culture going on.”

Both Subtle Bodies and Hovering World are relatively short books despite the large concepts they contain. Was this a conscious move or just what the stories called for? “Although it was to a great extent just a question of it being the right length for the stories being told,” says Dube, “in retrospect there were other factors at play too. One of the things I want from the writing I do (and the writing I read, for that matter) is a certain intensity of language. For me, that’s absolutely essential. And for a long time I thought intensity of that sort couldn’t be sustained over a longer piece. More recently, I’ve reconsidered that, and have figured out how to sustain it over greater lengths.I feel like I have it down now, and the novel I just signed for is, in fact,three times as long as my earlier books – with no discernible loss of intensity, I think. Of course, now that it’s done, I am taking a little breakand have gone back to working on shorter pieces for a bit.”

The intensity of Dube’s writing can be easily traced to his influences. “The fact is I read a lot, and all of it is in some way or another grist for the mill. Still, the key historical figures might include (besides the surrealists, obviously) folks like Jean Genet for the glittering prose and deliberateness of his project; William Burroughs for just about everything, the British author Angela Carter also for just about everything(and who knew a thing or two about myths too); Paul Bowles for the precision and the fearlessness. Among more recent authors, I have to acknowledge the ‘New Narrative’ writers(including Robert Glück, Bruce Boone, Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy, among others.) They have been so important to me for their amazing bending of both genre and the author function, their focus on language, the way they use sexuality as material, the sophistication of their response to theory while still holding to the narrative, or story-telling, impulse as community-based and political…and just for being so damn smart. Of course, what’s left out of this list are a number of friends in my immediate circle. I talk to them about writing all the time so their influence is enormous, but impossible to quantify.”

Such a rich and diverse group of influences have given Dube a rich world view he expresses not only in his fiction but in his criticism of art and queer life. His take on gay marriage is particularly interesting, even though he was reluctant to share it at first.

“All right, Jerry,” Dube wrote,“you’re just not gonna let me off the hook are you? You’re determined to get me into trouble. Well fine. Lets take an example that’s been in the news a lot recently: the whole same-sex marriage thing. But first, let me be clear off the top – of course, no group of consenting adults should see their primary relationship denied rights and privileges that are blithely accorded to another such group. That’s discriminatory and therefore unacceptable. Only a fool or a bigot would deny it.”

“That said,” he continues, “if you look for the roots of gay liberation as a movement you’ll find them tangled up in the fertile ground of the counter-culture(s) and the attendant radical questioning of all kinds of political and personal institutions…among them traditional couplehood, and – yes – marriage. Many of the folks that started this movement were ready – and eager – to search out and create different modalities of relationship. It was a vital, innovative movement, one that wanted to challenge or change institutions and see if we couldn’t come up with something better.

“How did we go from there to clamouring to be included in a cookie-cutter, deeply flawed institution like marriage? And lets face it, marriage isn’t all that successful a thing; its historical origins and function are politically suspect and in its contemporary iteration, among other problems, it ends not in a lifetime of happy tax and next of kin benefits, but in divorce half – or slightly more than half,depending on the study you choose – of the time. Would you buy a toaster-oven that only worked fifty percent of the time? Not likely. Then why would one want to anchor the most important relationship(s) in one’s life in something that rickety? Surely we can dream up some kind of improvement? Where is the debate for the enlargement of the range of relationships accorded legal recognition?Or the right to choose and define new kinds? And once again, I am all for leveling the playing field when it comes to the various privileges accorded primary relationships. I just think there are more creative and liberational ways to achieve that end.”

And if there’s one thing Dube is acquainted with, it’s creativity. Having photographed angels in Hovering World and explored the Surrealist movement in Subtle Bodies, what’s next on his agenda?

“Actually, I just signed a contract for a new novel that’s scheduled to appear in Spring 2012. The one-line teaser I’ve been using to describe it is that it’s ‘a literary noire narrative about an unhappy academic, getting high, the collapse (or explosion) of language, and a Symbolist street gang.’ I’m also working on a book-length sequence of prose poems and thinking about pulling together a volume of essays from the art writing I’ve done over the last few years.”

Clearly, Dube is a busy man—but not too busy to leave us with a few parting words about Subtle Bodies. “I’d like for readers to find some pleasure in the text. Pleasure is a vital thing to me in art and the way we approach it and I often find that goes unspoken of in our rush to talk about the ideas,strategies, mechanics, themes and other elements in a book (or a film, or a painting, or a song….). Beyond that, I hope it does prompt questions about the way we shape a life, and about the relationship of lived experience to the stories we tell about it, and storytelling more generally. How—and why—that’s important.”

For more information about Peter Dube and his work, visit his website at

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