Monthly Archives: December 2022

Out in Print’s Favorite Books of 2022

Every year brings new reading adventures, and even after thirteen years of reading and writing for this blog–with the help of my current crop of guest reviewers: Andrew J. Peters, Keith John Glaeske, and Tom Cardamone–I’m always discovering new authors, new books, and new imaginations to marvel at. And 2022 was no different. So, without any more boring introduction from me, here are my favorite books of 2022 (in chronological order):

The Rebellious Tide – Eddy Boudel Tan (Dundurn Press)

This story of Sebastian Goh’s search for his father is interesting on a variety of levels: family history, Goh’s progression from stalker to sympathizer, and his politicization in the face of authoritarian rule among the crew of a cruise ship–where he finds his father. Like Tan’s first novel, After Elias, this has masterful plotting that defies expectations. You never know where it’s going, and that’s a wonderful gift.

Ghost Light Burn – Stephen Graham King (Renaissance Press)

The fourth book of the Maverick Heart Cycle is just as thrilling a ride as the other three. King’s sentient spaceship, the Maverick Heart, takes his all-too-human crew on yet another adventure, investigating grift and corruption on a mining planet. Great characters, exciting action scenes, and clever banter should put this at the top of your spec-fic want list. I hope the series never ends.

That Boy Of Yours Wants Looking At – Simon Smalley (Butterworth Books)

Although Simon Smalley’s childhood and adolescence are far more positive than those of many gay men, his memoir is a fascinating look at being gay in a rough part of Nottingham at a time when gender-bending wasn’t nearly as common as today. Tightly constructed and well-written, Smalley’s story is both engaging and inspirational.

Dear Miss Cushman – Paula Martinac (Bywater Books)

Seemingly effortless historical fiction from one of our finest writers puts us in 1850s Manhattan as we follow Georgiana Cartwright, an aspiring actress who wants to play men’s roles (“breeches parts”) like her heroine Charlotte Cushman. Totally immersive and wickedly funny in spots, this mid-nineteenth century love letter to actors and the art of the stage is sure to keep you turning pages.

The Grand Sex Tour Murders – Daniel M. Jaffe (Rattling Good Yarns Press)

Daniel M. Jaffe has written extensively about the Jewish diaspora, but here he changes tacks to bring us an erotic thriller about a serial killer following a bunch of hot studs on a bathhouse tour of Europe as they compete to win a reality show for horny gamblers. Funny, insightful, and totally outrageous, this is (yet another) tour de force from Jaffe.

Dead Letters from Paradise – Ann McMan (Bywater Books)

Books about old discarded letters have always intrigued me, and leave it to the author of Beowulf for Cretins to spin this involving yarn about mysterious missives, an herb garden, racial bigotry, and coming out. McMan drives her vibrant characters through a plot that runs as smooth as well-oiled clockwork.

I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing – Marshall Moore (Rebel Satori Press)

Basically the polar opposite of the aforementioned Simon Smalley memoir, Marshall Moore takes a tortured childhood and displays all of its anger, futility, horror, and despair, but he does so with enough aplomb and detachment to bring out the universal aspects to which so many gay men can relate. Harrowing at times, but brilliant.

The Feast of Panthers – Sean Eads (Queer Space/Rebel Satori Press)

Who else but Sean Eads could recast Oscar Wilde and his wife, Constance, as well as his beloved Bosie (and Bosie’s father, the Marquis of Queensberry) from historical figures to time and dream travelers charged with defeating the Egyptian queen Bast from taking over London? Inventive and twisted, this historically inaccurate but deliciously wicked book will leave you salivating for more.

Desire Lines – Cary Alan Johnson (Querelle Press)

Cary Alan Johnson’s debut novel is an interesting, gritty look at New York City in the 80s as seen through the eyes of a young Black man. As the epidemic seizes the city and the nation, the narrator escapes to Africa, but one of his biggest lessons is that you can’t outrun yourself.

Invisible History – Philip Clark & Michael Bronski, eds. (The Library of Homosexual Congress/Rebel Satori Press)

This wonderful collection (whose title I had to shorten to fit) is the inaugural release by a terrific new imprint dedicated to resurrecting classic gay literature. And what a way to start! Borawski’s work is seminal, influencing many of today’s gay poets, so having it in one volume is a feast indeed.

And there we have it – the best of 2022 (as seen by me, anyway). Any or all of them would make great stocking stuffers, so click on the links provided and shop to your seasonal heart’s content. Out in Print will be going on hiatus for the rest of the year–I’m reading for the Ferro Grumley Award as well as doing a revamp of my personal website, so I won’t be far. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, I’ll see you in 2023.


© 2022 Jerry L. Wheeler

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Invisible History: The Collected Poems of Walta Borawski – Philip Clark & Michael Bronski, eds. (The Library of Homosexual Congress/Rebel Satori Press)

Nothing beats finding new gay poets except resurrecting old ones, especially those taken too soon by the epidemic. Those voices are fascinating because they are, for the most part, art in embryo. Not only do they reflect the times in which they lived and died, but they leave clues as to how those voices might have changed had they been allowed to finish their songs. Such is the case with Boston poet Walta Borawski, who certainly would have had something unique to say about aging and how devastating the loss of nearly an entire generation of artists has been.

Borawski’s renaissance is due to the efforts of author Tom Cardamone and author/publisher Sven Davisson’s collaboration on a new imprint–The Library of Homosexual Congress–dedicated to the rediscovery of classic gay literature. Invisible History is their inaugural release, curating both of Borawski’s collections, Sexually Dangerous Poet (1984) and Lingering in a Silk Shirt (1994) as well as his uncollected work for many now-defunct journals and periodicals.

And what work it is, swinging with abandon from sex in theory and practice to glimpses of Harvard to family history, commentary on pop culture or classic literature, and odes about love. Many pieces are viscerally lyric and in some cases, as Philip Clark’s introduction suggests, are best read aloud rather than with an internal voice. Although there’s no substitute for auditory evidence from the poet himself, when that’s impossible, one has to rely on one’s own sensibilities for cadence and intonation. I’m no slam poet, trust me, but my rendition of several selections from Sexually Dangerous Poet at least kept the attention of my golden Lab/Great Dane, Riley, long enough to stop chewing his Nylabone. No mean feat, that.

This living room performance art is perfect for pieces like “The Autobiography of Utensils,” which starts almost like bad disco lyrics (When it comes to loving I am/a colander. You/can pour your water/all over me, you’ll/drain my noodles but/your love will/disappear.) but changes on a phrase to a comparison that throws the previous stanzas into a different light, showing their cleverness. Other pieces, such as “Indexing Judy Garland’s Life: A Found Poem, from Gerald Frank’s Bio.” work better when the voice is internal. This one is particularly interesting because no line is over five words, yet when put together, they summarize Judy Garland’s life brilliantly. And still in the poetry-about-words category, “Cornwall’s Servant” is a noteworthy piece about a minor, unnamed character in King Lear. In the same vein, we have “Art & Remembrance,” which begins: “They traumatized a Yugoslavian orphan/to make a U.S. tv miniseries. A/formidable actor held the 3-yr.-old/upside down off & on for several/hours while a woman playing/his or her mother screamed,” yet “Finally someone in the silent mass of crew/people complains and the child is/released. An American actor child/is brought in, does the scene, and/gets to be in the final version,” a perfect encapsulation of the idea that those who actually make art aren’t always recognized for it.

As with many if not most gay male poets, sex is always a part of the equation (“Surprising Kisses,” “Hunger,” “Sociologically Challenged”) but Borawski asks the larger questions as well, as in “Against Sex” where he opines: “If it’s followed by depression,/a sense of something missing,/& depression leads to premature/
departure, why do it?/If it’s going to disco/bars to be lulled to be/deafened to be dulled, do/regimented, fascist steps &/call it dancing why do it?” But his question is rhetorical, as he’s already answered it in “Power of One”: “I am the sole homosexual/in Wilton, New Hampshire, & I/was imported only this afternoon”… “Hurricane David yanks branches/from fruit trees, Japanese/beetles make lettuce artless lace,/porcupines pierce the tongues/of hunters’ dogs—all because/there’s a faggot in New Hampshire.” Borawski knows we can change a landscape merely by existing, never mind having sex.

I had never read Walta (name changed from Walter to reflect Striesand’s spelling of Barbara) Borawski prior to this collection, and I was mightily impressed by both his subject matter and his treatment of it. He’s a perfect author with which to start an imprint devoted to works which beg for reprint. Kudos to Cardamone, Davisson, and editors Philip Clark and Michael Bronski. This is a winner.


© 2022 Jerry L. Wheeler

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized