Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Quiet Foghorn: More Notes From A Deaf Gay Life – Raymond Luczak (Galludet University Press)

A Quiet Foghorn:  More Notes from a Deaf Gay Life collects twenty-seven essays written by the prolific Raymond Luczak, who has written numerous novels, plays, poems, and nonfiction. While obviously a continuation of Assembly Required: Notes from a Deaf Gay Life, Luczak’s writings here explore new ground rather than being purely autobiographical. Which is not to say that there isn’t plenty of Luczak in these writings: while he continues to examine life through the prism of being a Deaf Gay man, he ventures deeper into both the deaf and queer communities with thoughts on ageism, disability, and the different strata and intersections of each community.

The collection is divided into two parts of roughly equal length. The thirteen essays of the first section (ironically titled “Of Blood, Born”) are connected by ideas of community and are foreshadowed by the question asked on the back cover: How Does One Find a True Family? Clearly as the only Deaf and Gay member of his birth family (he has eight siblings), he is an outsider twice over among his immediate family; a fact intensified by his living with a foster family two hours away while attending elementary and middle school for nine years. That Luczak found his true family among books (“The World Is Full of Orphans”) both queer and otherwise, will not surprise Gay readers; ditto when he writes about joining the LGBTQ+ community for UP (for Upper Peninsula of Michigan) Pride (“A Sort of Homecoming”).  A similar homecoming occurred when he attended Gallaudet University and met other signers. While he can speak, he emphasizes that ASL is his true language, and how his hands contain “the truest home of my voice” (“My Truest Home”)–as eloquently depicted in his retelling of a date with another ASL signer (“Hands, Romancing”).  Oftentimes the homecoming is a slowly dawning realization, as when he writes, “I had long been a radical faerie before I joined the tribe” (“Chants of Silence”).

The fourteen essays in the second section (“Of Hands, Tendered”) continue to be heavily autobiographical, but examine the audist attitudes of hearing people, especially in media. Several essays are reviews. These essays are among the longest in the book and contain the most valuable insights for a non-Deaf reader. “A is for American:  A Book Review” examines the intersection of language and nationalism in Jill Lepore’s A is for American: Letters and Other Characters in the Newly United States. Lepore examines the lives of seven individuals who attempted to use language to unify the fledgling United States during the nineteenth century, either through standardized spelling (Noah Webster), a “universal alphabet” (William Thornton) or a universal sign language (Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet). Luczak is quick to point out that there is no such thing as a universal sign language, and in fact argues against any universal language (“…we need indigenous tongues–and hands”) in another essay, rightly noting that diversity of languages is essential to our own diversity as a species, and indeed for the diversity of the flora and fauna of our planet (“Against a Universal Language”).

He also reviews two movies that prominently depict Deaf characters  Children of a Lesser God (“Impositions: On Children of a Lesser God“) and The Tribe (“No More Savagery, Please: On The Tribe“). Admittedly I have not seen either movie (I have seen Children of a Lesser God performed on the stage, albeit thirty-five years ago), so most of Luczak’s analysis on specific scenes went over my head, but his larger points about conventions from the hearing world being out of place in media portraying Deaf people remain pertinent. For example, a dimly-lit room signals romance to the hearing, but to the Deaf it inhibits communication; moreover, the Deaf use their faces (indeed, their entire bodies) while signing to convey emotion, just as speakers use vocal inflection to convey additional information while speaking–to the hearing, this is “overacting.”

Overall, many of the writings in this slim volume are short in length, but this is one instance where I urge you not to judge by size alone (I know it’s difficult, especially for Gay men).  All of these essays are packed with astute observation and keen insight, and deserve the widest readership possible.

Reviewed by Keith John Glaeske

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Watch Me – Owen Keehnen (Rattling Good Yarns Press)

Described by the author as a book about the gay men of porn, given the “Jacqueline Susann treatment,” Watch Me is a story with big drama, big glitz, and lots of big you-know-whats. It requires a generous helping of suspension of disbelief, but fans of gay pulp and the aforementioned Susann should be happy to take it for what it is and enjoy the fantasy of gorgeous men in titillating sexcapades, vying for exposure, fortune, and the all-important claim to be the best in the biz.

Vincent is an ambitious stud in his early twenties. His rapid transformation from an aimless Chicago waiter to a porn star poster boy is the story’s central motif. When a photographer friend, and sometimes lover, sends Vincent’s photos to a top-name porn studio, Vincent gets a call to fly out to Los Angeles for an audition. Vincent is in the perfect mindset for the news. He just caught his boyfriend cheating, so he’s happy to take a pause from serious relationships. Vincent also longs for stardom and the intoxicating thrill of being watched and desired. His audition at Xclusiv Studios goes great, and Vincent’s new sex god persona Vinnie Lux is born.

While there are hints that not everything is as perfect as it seems, Vinnie laps up his newfound sex-fueled, partying lifestyle in L.A.. The studio puts him up in a WeHo apartment with four Xclusiv models, and he’s quickly cast in films with his idols from the industry and building a respectable social media following. This is pulp, so everyone is beautiful, spectacularly endowed, and open to screwing on and off the set. The studio execs are hot daddies who ooze power and Alpha Dog energy. Vinnie is particularly drawn to Woody, the sexy, rich president of the company who has a big house in the Hollywood Hills. He’s certain that once he learns how to navigate the personalities of his bosses and his co-stars, he’s going to be the biggest thing to ever hit the adult entertainment world.

One could stop there with the summary as Watch Me is not the sort of novel with things to say about life choices or lessons learned from career disillusionment. Some layers peel away for Vinnie as he gets snubbed at times and witnesses his colleagues self-destruct, but he’s all-in to make a name for himself from start to finish. There’s no sweet revelation that a simple life settling down with a boyfriend in Chicago is what he needed all along (and arguably, from the perspective of innovation, the book is better for it).

What you have instead is a soapish live-fast-die-young fantasy as promised, with foul play mixed in to provide an air of danger for young Vinnie. His roommate A.J. drowns under suspicious circumstances, and the incident may be related to the recent death of another Xclusiv star. Clues suggesting a bad guy inside the studio fall into Vinnie’s lap, and he must figure out what to do with them while protecting his skyrocketing career.

Keehnen paces the mystery subplot nicely and creates an enjoyable cast of characters who are each plausibly underhanded. Woody has a tendency to eat up and spit out young, rising stars and punish anyone who’s disloyal to the studio. Bad boy Reed Connors will do anything for top billing, including ruining the careers of his competitors. Many of the porn studs are doing escort work with A-list closeted celebrities who have a lot to lose if their secrets are revealed. There are excesses galore, from drugs to orgies in Palm Springs, and personal betrayals aplenty. It’s a perfect world for the dark scandal theme.Watch Me may disappoint readers expecting a noirish tale about the realities of the porn industry. It even feels a tad out-of-step with the current state of porn consumption (i.e., when’s the last time you paid for a full-length film versus took a quick perusal of the latest amateur videos on Only Fans and PornHub?). But on the other hand, for readers who have been waiting for a splashy 80s-style melodrama like Dynasty and Scruples with an all gay cast, Keehnen has hit on something brilliant.

Reviewed by Andrew J. Peters

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Confessions – Sean Eads (Hex Publishers)

Buy from:

Hex Publishers

Sean Eads is a terrific writer whose genre chops have been established with such great entries as The Survivors and his most recent, The Feast of Panthers. With Confessions, however, he turns his cybernetic eye on so-called literary fiction with an examination of how three lives in the small Kentucky town of Wentz Hollow intertwine. Predictably, his work in this area of queer literature is just as well-imagined and satisfying as his alien invasions or time traveling in Victorian England.

Nathan Ashcroft, Wentz Hollow’s funeral director, is tasked with the cremation of a stillborn baby, but said infant is the offspring of Ashcroft’s old high school crush, Steve Malone, whom Nathan hasn’t seen in thirty years. The child causes some problems not only between Steve and his wife, Meghan, also a high school friend of Nathan’s, but also for the newly arrived in town dentist, Tim Sawyer, a long-out and proud gay man who has fallen into his first ever heterosexual relationship. The third component of the story is Sarah Lawrence, a retired high school biology teacher who has some history with not only Nathan but Steven and Meghan as well. Her suicide and subsequent arrival at Nathan’s mortuary brings along some unwanted memories.

The most impressive thing about Confessions is the differentiation between the characters’ voices. So many times these days, I read stories told from multiple points of view which all sound the same. It’s not author intrusion, exactly, but you can tell the voices are all coming from the same head because they use the same phrasing, sentence patterns, and crutch words. I sometimes find myself having to go back to the beginning of the chapter to see who’s talking, provided the author has labeled them with character names. Although Eads has posted these signs clearly, they’re unnecessary. Nathan’s voice is careful and cautious, taking the feelings of others into consideration over his own welfare. Tim’s is far looser and given to hyperbole, befitting his actions. And Sarah’s voice carries the stern, matter-of-fact precision you’d expect from a retired biology teacher.

What does Eads do with these people? He puts them through their paces, trying to piece their lives together after they’ve destroyed themselves. Bad decisions equal worse consequences, and all of them are attempting to live with or reconcile themselves to the results of their choices. The result is a twisted mass of small town intrigue that defies description without spoilers. Does it have a happy ending? Well, it has a satisfying ending–which is by no means the same thing.

I’m always surprised by the plot and writing choices Eads makes, and this first foray into something other than genre fiction is no exception. Tightly woven and well told, Confessions is a story that will stick with you whether you like it or not. Highly, highly recommended.

JW

© 2023 Jerry L. Wheeler

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

All I Should Not Tell – Brian Leung (C&R Press)

I have sometimes begged books for explanations. Clues. Just a hint of what’s really going on beneath the surface. Other times, the tension, the frisson of the moment is what lures me in and keeps me turning pages despite not knowing exactly what happened that fateful night. Or afternoon. Or morning. And when the solution provided comes from totally unexpected quarters, it’s an unforseen bonus that gives me a sigh of satisfaction. Such is the case with Brian Leung’s All I Should Not Tell.

Conner Grayson is a fourteen-year-old boy living in rural Kentucky with his mother and his younger brother, Sammy. Their father committed suicide a few years earlier, and their mother remarries a man named Cudge, who sexually abuses Conner and indicates Sammy is next. Conner decides to kill him the weekend his mother is away visiting relatives. He and Sammy are supposed to be at Conner’s best friend (and lover) Mark’s, but he slips out to kill Cudge only to find him already dead in the bathtub. Even stranger, when he returns home, Mom is there but the body is not. He’s simply disappeared. Skip forward twenty years, and Cudge’s disappearance is still unresolved. When Cudge’s father shows up, determined to find out what happened to his son, he stirs up more than just memories.

Leung conjures a compelling voice for Conner, both at fourteen and at thirty-four. Having left for college, he has returned to his small town and is living in the house in which he grew up. Mark is long gone, Mom is dead, and Sammy has gone the route of his father and killed himself, but those losses are offset by Conner’s pregnant wife, Lamb, as well as his boyfriend, James. As the blurb says, “it’s complicated.” But boy or man, his voice remains the same–considering every action from all angles and putting his loved ones above his own feelings. This, however, does not extend to Skee, Cudge’s father, whom he treats with contempt at the best of times as he was so deeply scarred by Cudge.

Lamb and James are not as well-defined as Conner or even Skee, but they are bit players in Conner’s drama and not onstage long enough for this to make a difference. I would liked to have seen more of how those relationships worked, but it’s not their story. That belongs to Conner and Cudge, and Leung takes full advantage of the menace in that relationship in the beginning of the book and the memory of it later. The explanation for Cudge’s disappearance, when it comes, is somewhat abrupt. However, that doesn’t detract from its impact. Besides, giving more clues earlier would have undercut the air of genuine perplexity that pervades the book.

Brian Leung’s All I Should Not Tell is a stylish and unique mystery/coming of age story with plenty of dread, a refreshing, unique voice, and a satisfying ending that was a perfect beginning to my year of reading.

JW

© 2023 Jerry L. Wheeler

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

JW

© 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.

JW

© 2022 Jerry L. Wheeler

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Desire Lines – Cary Alan Johnson (Querelle Press)

Buy from:

Querelle Press

The Vivian Maier photo gracing the cover of Cary Alan Johnson’s Desire Lines pretty much tells you what you need to know. A young Black boy stands on the deck of a ferry with his hands in his back pockets, looking at the 1980s Manhattan skyline as he tries to figure out how. or even if, he figures into that cityscape. As it turns out, part of the answer lies in Africa, part of it waits in the bars, and yet another part balances addiction and redemption in Johnson’s restless and searching debut novel.

An unnamed Black narrator raised in Brooklyn longs for the life on the other side of the river, getting as far as Hell’s Kitchen, where he lives in a five-floor walkup as he and his friends cruise the bars and make connections just as the AIDS crisis comes along. In part to escape the deadly disease, our narrator takes the Peace Corps route to Zaire. In orientation for that trip, he meets a straight, biracial woman named Regina who becomes his best friend both in Africa and when they return to New York City. They continue as roommates, the narrator falling for a man who introduces him to cocaine and, finally, crack before he breaks the downward spiral.

Johnson obviously knows the milieu and the time period in question, as his descriptions of the political and sexual landscape are dead accurate, and I’ll also wager he knows something about substance abuse. He does an excellent job with the gradations of addictive behavior, and the scene where he finally realizes his dealer is entirely in control is both scarifying and heart-rending.

Two of the most important characters here, however, are the places in which the narrator lives. He has NYC–both Brooklyn and Manhattan–down cold. You can feel the grit and decay of the 80s. But the chapters taking place in Africa are noticeably less impressive in terms of local flavor, which initially bothered me. However, as these episodes unfold, it’s easy to see the primary goal here is the introduction of Regina and the formation of their friendship rather than a travelogue.

Desire Lines is a gritty, realistic trip back to some hard times, but its characters and sense of place make it worth your while.

JW

© 2022 Jerry L. Wheeler

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Homo Novus – Gerard Cabrera (Rattling Good Yarns Press)

Set in New England in the 1980s, Cabrera’s debut novel excavates the lives of an older and a younger Catholic priest, both of whom are struggling to reconcile their gayness with their faith and institutional indoctrination. Their stories are steeped in scriptural contemplation, organizational contradictions, and the tension between the Church’s hardline orthodoxy and the changing modern world. Based on the eruption of child abuse scandals in the Church over the past two decades and the subsequent public conversation about systematic cover ups and whether there’s a place for gay men in the priesthood, Homo Novus is a novel that will likely provoke reactions from many readers, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

Fr. Linus Fitzgerald and young seminarian Orlando Rosario enter the story at a time of crisis. Orlando rushes Linus to a Springfield hospital straight off their flight back from a vacation in Puerto Rico. Linus is weak and feverish and wakes up in a spare, segregated unit of the hospital. There’s a spoiler in the book’s back cover blurb: Linus has been diagnosed with AIDS. The narrative proceeds via each man’s recollections of how this tragedy came to be, along with a few key present time interactions.

As Orlando returns home and somewhat aggressively takes up a daily routine, he’s stung by fragmented memories, through which we learn his history and his relationship with Linus. Raised in a devout, working-class Puerto Rican family, Orlando’s entrance to the priesthood was practically preordained. Opportunities for poor, brown-skinned boys were limited, and sending Orlando, at fourteen years old, to a pre-seminary boarding school in Massachusetts offered a symbolic improvement in family status as well as a better education and the promise of a good career.

More personally, becoming a priest provided shy, uncertain Orlando with his first chance to feel purposeful and special. Then he meets Fr. Linus, an unsparing instructor at the boarding school. Linus is brutal in his criticism of Orlando, yet he invites him into a private relationship where they spend time alone and go to dinner together off campus. Orlando is humbled and eager for the attention, and when Linus introduces him to physical intimacy, Orlando feels even more special.

Confined to his bed with a stigmatized and fatal diagnosis, Linus reflects bitterly on the slights and hypocrisies that led to his downfall. Like Orlando, he began seminary training at a young age and committed his life to a higher purpose before he had time to grow up and understand himself. The seminary was a harsh, austere place in the 1950s, and the authoritarian world of the priesthood has fortified him with a sense of self-importance as well as denials and rationalizations for his sexual and emotional exploitation of Orlando (and other teenage seminarians). Still there are cracks in his certainty. How is it that his hand, guided by God, can perform both the holiest of sacraments for his parishioners and the most reviled sins of the flesh? The Church provided little guidance on how to manage his sexuality within the confines of celibacy, even when Linus underwent a mandatory rehabilitation program to discreetly correct sexual transgressions among the clergy.

Cabrera is a stylish writer but not overly so, which makes for enjoyable reading. There are lovely lyrical moments in his prose and unusual structural choices in his narrative (some chapters are written in screenplay form), but they’re not overdone in a way that hurts the storytelling flow.

What one appreciates even more is how well Cabrera gets inside both characters, enabling them to show themselves to the reader and thereby allowing the reader to decide on their own how they should feel about them. Many will come to the conclusion that Linus is a despicable predator, yet his story forces one to grapple with the ways he was harmed and let down by the Church himself. Orlando is a victim, but one sees his contradictory impulses as well, which both surprise and humanize him as a struggling young adult.

Long passages that ruminate on the Church’s teachings on sin and priestly purity will be of greater interest to Catholic readers than non-Catholics, but overall, Homo Novus is an expertly crafted character-driven novel that should have wide appeal.

Reviewed by Andrew J. Peters

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dot & Ralfie – Amy Hoffman (University of Wisconsin Press)

Dorothy “Dot” Greenbaum and Rafaela “Ralfie” Santopietro, the two eponymous characters of Amy Hoffman’s latest novel, are two old-school dykes from Boston, a classic femme-butch pair who have been together for more than thirty years. An elementary school librarian and worker for the Boston Department of Public Works, respectively, they have built a comfortable life together: stable jobs, a condo with a modest mortgage, a small circle of friends and family; a life that comes crashing down around them after Ralfie has a long-delayed knee replacement surgery. Their third-floor walk-up suddenly seems less charming to both Ralfie and Dot, who has a heart attack not long after Ralfie’s surgery. They begin exploring options: Dot’s younger sister Susan tries to convince them to move into, not an “old folks home,” but rather a “condo development” in an outer suburb; the idea appeals to no one but Susan. Dot investigates an antiseptic senior housing development nearby (with an elevator), but they simultaneously earn too much to qualify as low income and too little to afford the place at market share. Even a condo at the high-rise where Viola, a work colleague,and sometime lover of Dot’s, lives is out of the question (Viola acknowledges that even she couldn’t afford to buy her own condo now). Then Ralfie, back at work, falls out of a small tree and is hospitalized again….

The above plot synopsis sounds dire, but it reflects a grim reality that many LGBTQ+ seniors currently or will have to face: how do they remain independent, and “age in place” outside of the usual heteronormative structures? Not that it is necessarily guaranteed to be easier for non-Gay seniors to do the same, but Dot and Ralfie have no adult children to assist them—at least their marriage is recognized as such.  And even having a supportive community of friends and family can quickly look like meddling. I will say that everything eventually works out for everyone involved, although, as in so much of life, the route to that outcome is by no means easy or straightforward.

As serious as the narrative gets, Hoffman injects enough wry humor into the story to keep it from becoming a total downer. For example, the condo development that Susan tries to convince Dot and Ralfie to move to (and which she eventually moves to instead) is named “Maple Grove”–everyone except Susan refers to it as “Maple Grave.” And a comment made by one of the characters about Route 95 disrupting the laws of Einsteinian physics will surely make any native Bostonian readers laugh out loud.

As bad as things get for Dot and Ralfie, things would have been infinitely worse for either of them without the other: for despite the bickering, misunderstandings, even outright infidelity, it is clear to us –and to them—that they love each other and are deeply committed to each other, and will do whatever they can to make their lives work. (Well, except for moving to Maple Grave, of course.) Ostensibly this novel is about overcoming the obstacles facing LGBTQ+ seniors; in truth it is about how much easier it is to be resilient in life with supportive family, friends, and co-workers.

Reviewed by Keith John Glaeske

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Buy from:

Rebel Satori Press

Not long ago, I reviewed Simon Smalley’s memoir That Boy of Yours Wants Looking At, which I enjoyed despite the lack of conflict with his family over coming out. Their enthusiasm was refreshing yet jarring considering the experiences of most gay men I know, whose lives hew closer to that of Marshall Moore as detailed in his new release, I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing. This is a family to which I can relate, however graphically.

Novelist Moore, known for such portrayals of urban life and angst as Inhospitable and Bitter Orange turns a critical lens on his own life, beginning with his childhood in Greenville, North Carolina–not exactly a metropolitan area. Helping him steer blindly through the waters of adolescence are his mother, Laura, who has a penchant for white wine and pills as well as an unhealthy preoccupation with her son’s body, his eternally angry and abusive father, the Marine, and his sister, Janelle, who bumps her way into substance abuse.

Autobiographies are always interesting to me not so much for what they say but how they say it. Everyone has trauma, that being a pretty elastic term. However, not everyone can process and relate it with enough detachment to make it universal to the reader. Moore has enough intellectual and emotional distance to find those commonalities, so his prose is factual and unsentimental. Moore’s very first chapter, “The Trouble With Dick,” is about his penile surgery as a toddler among other things, and the chapters get more intimate from there. But Moore never loses his cool or his standpoint.

As a victim of child abuse myself, although not quite at the level of crazy Moore’s experienced, I know all too well the preternatural sensitivity you have to develop to survive. You have to be able to sense the mood the second you walk in the door, if not on the bus down the block. Dad’s car’s home? Oh, shit. And once you determine the mood, you have to be able to switch in a second if your entrance alters it. Childhood is precarious for us, and Moore portrays that balance of comfort and unease with unerring accuracy.

Moore’s gallows humor is also on display here. His fiction has always worn a dark, mordant grin, and his non-fiction follows through with that–except the grin is a little darker and a bit wider. He’s able to find the humor, often ironic, in the most embarrassing of situations. Yet another survival technique, but it makes for fine reading.

I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing is a compulsively readable account of a somewhat compulsive life. If you’ve enjoyed Moore’s fiction, this should be next on your list.

JW

© 2022 Jerry L. Wheeler

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized