Everyone who’s been there has a New York City story. It’s a
city of extremes that inspires either love or hate—sometimes both. Neutrality
is not an option, and the twenty-six authors who have contributed to Thomas
Keith’s superb, all-encompassing anthology, Love, Christopher Street are
anything but neutral on the topic.
The queer community has produced some marvelous voices and
many of them are represented here. By turns funny, outrageous, poignant,
bittersweet, uplifting, incendiary, wistful—you name it, it’s here. The scope
is sweeping, but editor Thomas Keith has done a brilliant job of ordering the
pieces so that the emotions are nicely mixed and the commonality is the subject
rather any one type of reminiscence.
But it’s wonderful to see so many great authors doing what
they do best—Fay Jacobs was never funnier than her recollection of NYC Pride
2005 in “As I Stood Frying…,” Mark Ameen is at his most poetic in “Irrespective
of the Storm,” and Felice Picano is a virtual catalog of landmarks and famous
names (not to mention sexual pecadilloes) in “Bad Boy.”
Washing up from foreign shores, we have the marvelous Val
McDermid (“A Bite of the Big Apple”) from Scotland, South African Shaun Levin
(“The Myths of This Place”) and Canadian Shawn Syms (“Borders, Rivers and Time:
Gay Gotham Revisited”). But New York City draws people from domestic locations
as well. Love brought Aaron Hamburger, as he explains in his heartfelt “My Gay
New York: A Symphony in Four Acts,” while sex lured G. Winston James to “The
Place I Parked My Car.” It’s simply not possible to review all twenty-six
essays here, and while all of them engaged or informed me in some way, three
more are worth noting and then I’ll shut up and let you buy your own copy.
Ocean Vuong’s “In the House of Strangers” sees NYC through
the eyes of the derelict and homeless who populate its subway stations after
dark as well as an elderly immigrant woman living (and sharing) her last days,
providing Vuong with a place to live in return for looking after her. Knowing
and poetic, this piece actually brought a tear to my eye.
Christopher Bram’s “Perry Street Redux” takes a different
approach in this essay, in that it focuses on one locale (Bram’s Perry Street
apartment), observing the changes which have taken place around the building as
opposed to how the city has affected those who have hurtled headlong through
it. Its sense of calm stoicism belies the static, frenetic nature of the city,
providing a quiet platform from which to mark the passage of time.
Lastly (and, coincidentally, the last piece in the book) we
have Eddie Sarfaty’s delightful “Next Year at Sonny’s,” which uses Passover at
his mother’s as the means to show how the city has marked not only his
immediate family but also the friends he invites to the Seder. Full of
Sarfaty’s sly wit and warmth, the city becomes a character here, every bit as
irascible and indomitable as his mother. A perfect note on which to end.
No matter what your relationship is with New York City,
you’re bound to find something here to make you smile, laugh or be homesick.
And if you are one of those few people who have no relationship with the Big
Apple, maybe this will spark your desire to establish one.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler