Some Dance to Remember: A Memoir-Novel of San Francisco 1970-1982 – Jack Fritscher (Palm Drive Publishing)

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Buy it through Palm Drive Publishing

Some Dance to Remember
is a really interesting book — an irritating, poetic, poignant story,
ostensibly about Ryan O’Hara and his bodybuilder lover Kick Sorensen.
Occasionally the story is narrated by Magnus Bishop, a heterosexual pop-culture
academic, but Bishop is more a participant than a narrator, gradually sucked
into the events he’s observing as the story progresses.

It’s an unusual skeleton for a
book, independent of chronology, written in lofty omniscient third person, the
only perspective able to provide unity to the deliberate fragmentation of story
and to support the unapologetic abstractions of the rhetoric.

The book’s core strength is as
a cultural polemic and transpersonal manifesto of what being a gay man might
mean during those years, a kaleidoscopic account of post-Stonewall birth
contractions pushing an unprecedented gay culture out into the open, evolving
faster than any single person–observer or participant–could possibly
comprehend.

In rhythms echoing Ferlinghetti the roiling adventure of
experimentation, freedom, self-indulgence, and self-definition of gay culture
in San Francisco in this time come to life. The same period is documented in
more academically stable books, but this account carries the immediacy and heat
of a bomb blast. It may not be tidy or perfectly designed, but it certainly
carries the message.

Ryan O’Hara, who left Roman
Catholic seminary a year before his ordination, is drawn from Chicago to San
Francisco. In California, where he is repeatedly warned to be careful of what
he wishes for, he plunges into an emerging society that springs up with such
speed it cannot be directed–even though that is precisely what O’Hara seeks to
do with the “Masculinist Manifesto” he publishes in his magazine
“Maneuvers”.

In it he declares that a
quasi-mystical “homomasculinist” man, a bulked-up American clone of
Quentin Crisp’s Great, Dark Man, is the purest form of manhood for men who love
men. Sometimes the repetition of O’Hara’s ideological tenets (and their
rejection by others) becomes intellectually tiresome, but still they hold the
sustained fervor of political slogans repeated like mantras in a guerilla cell
late at night while men make bombs.

The Manifesto, its impact on
culture in Castro and SOMA, and the ferment it creates in O’Hara’s personal
circle is a heady concoction of his RC religiosity (which he never escapes)
mixed with his adoration of and obsession with Kick Sorensen (which nearly
destroys him), pushing him toward a painful new acceptance of his own humanity.

O’Hara’s circle — which
Fritscher carefully prevents Kick Sorensen from entering — includes his broken
Viet-Nam veteran brother, his dagger-sharp sister who entertains under the name
Kweenasheba, Solly Bluestein who makes porn videos featuring straight thug boys
masturbating for a gay audience, and Magnus Bishop, hypnotized by the frenetic
show.

All but Solly (and especially
O’Hara himself) are essentially evasive if not outright dishonest about
personal responsibility and entitlement, as if more careful self-examination
might break the magic spell of unfolding events. In contrast, Solly knows his
truth, even his destiny, and never wavers from the knowledge that it is his
responsibility entirely.

But even evasive dishonesty, if
it ricochets off the unyielding surfaces of life events long enough, will
eventually strike an inner truth. That is the introspective gift of this book,
beyond the gripping account of historical context and the social commentary.
Fritscher makes inescapably clear that ultimately we are dragged kicking and
squealing to our humanity not by our obsessions, but by friends who stick with
us while we pursue them until we crack.

If you haven’t already, please read this book. It’s a part
of our story.

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©, 2013, Lloyd A. Meeker

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