Monthly Archives: July 2012

In Exile: The History and Lore Surrounding New Orleans Gay Culture and it’s Oldest Gay Bar – Frank Perez and Jeffrey Palmquist (LL Publications)

Buy it direct from LL Publications

What can one say about their first love.  It lingers with you long after you say
good-bye. This is how I feel about The French Quarter
and the city of New Orleans.  There is
something magical about that place, she seduces you and never lets you go.

For me, it’s the smell of Bourbon Street in the heat of the day, the
hustle and bustle of the crowds at night, and the peaceful calm of the quarter
the morning after. It’s not just the French Quarter, however everywhere you
turn the mysteries of the city tugs at you, the culture, the food, the music,
and the people. There is no other place like it.

This past May while visiting New Orleans for the annual
Saints and Sinners Literary Festival I picked up Frank and Jeffrey’s new book
appropriately entitled, In Exile and fell in love all over again with not only
my favorite city, but my favorite gay bar, Café Lafitte’s in Exile. As one
person describes it…

“This bar is different … No one feels the need to pretend to
be someone they’re not.  Lafitte’s is

 my
gay Cheers. Lafitte’s helped me decide who I didn’t want to be and molded who I
became. 

Lafitte’s is like New Orleans
itself-always a character around, someone to talk to, always

 something to
learn.”

People read about all the gay history and early activism in
places like San Francisco and New York but rarely do you hear about the gay
history of New Orleans. It’s not always a happy story, but its one that
desperately needed to be told.  Frank and
Jeffrey have given the world, especially the gay world a small piece of our
history back, one that we should have known and one we should always keep with
us. 

I’ve read reviews about this book in which the reviewers
state that the book jumps around too much, that it’s not linear enough for
them, personally I think they just didn’t care enough about the story that was
being told. The history of New Orleans, much like the city is today is not
linear (not much in life is). This book was so intriguing that I had finished
it by the time I landed in Boston coming back from Saints and Sinners, and
anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fast reader, but I literally could
not put this book down.

Jeffrey and Frank deserve a huge round of applause for their
tireless efforts in tracking down this mostly forgotten history in a city that
deserves not to be ignored.

If you love New Orleans, and love what the city means to
you, then you’ll love this book. It’s a must for anyone who has ever stepped
foot onto the sacred, tantalizing streets of this historical city.

Reviewed by William Holden

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The Touch of the Sea – Steve Berman, ed. (Lethe Press)

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I’ve always been landlocked, never living in a place near the ocean. During a vacation to St. Maarten, however, I fell in love with the sea—its mysteries, its vastness, its beauty and legends—and will contrive to retire there by hook or crook. And reading this anthology only reinforced that notion.

The eleven stories that comprise The Touch of the Sea take full advantage of not only locations but the ocean’s mysterious elements as well. Sea creatures abound, interacting with both humans and themselves, present and the past. A wonderful example of this is the leadoff story, ‘Nathan Burgoine’s excellent “Time and Tide,” a beautifully crafted tale of re-kindled love between the descendent of a river god and his old boyfriend, a naiad. Burgoine has a gift for bittersweet romance, and this is a lovely illustration.

Matthew A. Merendo’s “The Calm Tonight” is a perfect follow-up, depicting the relationship between a merman who comes ashore to find a mate and the man he falls in love with. He knows women can be taken beneath the sea to mate, but doesn’t even know if it’s possible for two men. Fulfillment or loss? Choices must be made. Jonathan Harper’s “The Bloated Woman” provides an interesting change-up as a woman’s drowned body becomes an intriguing metaphor for a relationship between a writer and his married closet-case trick.

One of my favorite writers, Jeff Mann, turns in a fine performance with “The Stone of Sacrifice,” a deeply engaging tale about writer Ewan McDonald, researching a book in the Outer Hebrides as he falls in love with a mysterious man sacrificed to the sea gods in an ancient ritual. Mann’s gifts are in rare form here.

Damon Shaw and Joel Lane rock a pair of very poetic stories in “Air Tears” and “The Grief of Seagulls,” respectively, but no one does poetic fantasy better than Alex Jeffers, who hits one out of the park with “Ban’s Dream of the Sea,” a lyrical yet accessible story about an ancient city and a lover beneath the sea. Jeffers’ writing in so sharp and sensual you can almost smell the brine.

The only possible way to follow Jeffers is to go the opposite direction, and Brandon Cracraft’s hilariously pointed monster movie mashup “Night of the Sea Beast” is more than up to the task. Think Ed Wood directing Creature of the Black Lagoon and you’re almost there. Vincent Kovar takes us to what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world populated by thuggish quasi-pirate boys in “Wave Boys” and John Howard speaks for all who seek a different way of life in “Out to Sea.” It’s Chaz Brenchley who has the last word, however, with a story of pirates and living islands in “Keep the Aspidochelone Floating.”

The Touch of the Sea is a perfect anthology—not a dud here—full of the mystery and vastness that only the ocean can conjure. May we have a sequel, Mr. Berman?

© 2012, Jerry L. Wheeler

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