A collection of straight-ahead poems is a good thing, but equally good and also refreshing is a poetry collection diverse as a sound financial portfolio, with poems, prose, prose poems, epistles, and postcards revealing versatility and offering preventative action against dread humdrum. (more…)
“[...] it’s a good time to sign a lease, because I’ve got a full-time day job right now, and so my income looks real. Book royalties never look real, even when they are. My goal is to die in this apartment, which I know might sound depressing if you live somewhere else, but in New York this is an expression of hope.”
“The Banal and the Profane” is a monthly Lambda Literary column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life and the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.
Demons come in varying forms and perhaps not all demons are equally evil. In The Pyramid Waltz, the kingdom of Farraday holds secrets traditionally known only to the royal family. Every five years, the king holds a ball, during which the royals engage in a dance called the pyramid waltz. If only the subjects of the kingdom knew how dangerous and life-altering the ritual was, they might be more considerate toward their rulers instead of being as demanding and self-centered as they are. (more…)
Lethe Press continues to produce quality LGBT literature, especially as a leader in speculative fiction. This latest collection of short stories adds nicely to Lethe’s offerings. Christopher Barzak offers up a mysterious and captivating collection of 17 essays that grab your attention and haunt you even after you finish them. (more…)
The month of June is not only Gay Pride Month, but also summer, which, for many New Yorkers, means it’s time to get some sun at one of several islands located nearby. During the 1970s and 1980s, artist, writer and photographer Tom Bianchi divided his time between Manhattan and Fire Island, located about 60 miles east of the city. For decades, Fire Island has been a vacation spot for the gays, even more so during Tom Bianchi’s days, when homosexuality was still completely illegal throughout the America. Bianchi began photographing the romance and friendship he witnessed and experienced during his era on Fire Island, cut short by the outbreak of AIDS. His photographs sparked the creation of a new book, Fire Island Pines: Polaroids 1975-1983. In an interview with The Fader, Bianchi talks about the inherent contrast between beauty and sadness looming over the book. (more…)
The natural world looms large in Jean Ryan’s meditative short-story collection, Survival Skills (Ashland Creek Press). These thirteen stories inhabit the myriad spaces where wild brushes up against domestic—animals and weather take their place in these stories as easily as the characters do. From the dogs in “Greyhound” and “What Gretel Knows” to the octopuses in “A Sea Change” to the brutally wise parrot in “Paradise,” these stories explore interconnectedness, in sometimes surprising ways. (more…)
Best Lesbian Romance 2013 (Cleis Press) is edited by Radclyffe—renowned author and founder/publisher of Bold Strokes Books. In her introduction, Radclyffe discusses how often the words “love” and “romance” are used as though there is no difference in meaning between the two words. She then goes on to discuss and show examples of each of the words. At the end of the introduction, Radclyffe gives her opinion: “Love and romance may defy simple definition, but every story in this collection speaks to the universal thread that binds lovers everywhere—possibility.” What follows are seventeen stories about love and romance. The first story in the collection is set in a small, dusty Spanish village. Ana has returned home to help her mother, who is suffering from old age dementia. Vika, who met and became lovers with Ana in America, has followed her to Ana’s village in Spain. What follows is the delicate rebuilding of their relationship and the rekindling of love. The next selection takes readers to Reno, Nevada. When Sandra and her husband separate, she leaves the small desert town where they lived and moves to Reno.There, Sandra has her first sexual encounter with a woman and discovers passion. The story “Sgt. Rae” explores the possibility of love and romance with two veterans, one disabled. The tenderness and caring in this story shows how love can flourish in very difficult circumstances. “The Loneliest Road” takes the reader back to a famous empty highway in Nevada, and the meeting of two very different women.
Last year the world was captivated by the brazen acts of the Russian group Pussy Riot, whose “Punk Prayer” landed them in jail and at the center of a political firestorm. But Pussy Riot’s actions, while a deliberately outrageous reaction to the misogynist strictures of Putin’s Russia, are not unique. Indeed, as Sara Warner explains in Acts of Gaiety: LGBT Performance and the Politics of Pleasure, there is a genealogy of riotous performance history that illuminates and contextualizes this recent, international act of subversion, allowing for a richer understanding of both the act and its significance in terms of feminism, heteronormativity and heteronationalism, and performance. (more…)
Memorial Day always makes me sad. So many losses to remember. (more…)
The nine connected stories of Damn Love (Ig Publishing) go down as smoothly as the first slaking pull on a mixed drink; it’s only upon reflection that the regional and cultural disparities pulling these characters apart and driving them together reveal the extent of their depth and complexity. Put another way, you can read the book in an afternoon, but you’ll by no means be done with it so quickly.
“Stayin’ Alive” opens the book and introduces us to a nameless narrator, a young doctor at UCSF who has just been dumped by her girlfriend. This new, lonely normal is interwoven with her busy work life treating drug addicts, and a story from her childhood that partially illuminates why she gravitated to that particular specialty. Before Emily, the girlfriend, bails out, we see the narrator studying and working to distraction and neglecting her relationship. We’re inclined to take her side, though, since she’s put us so squarely in her head. Then a comment she makes about her parents’ past relationship– “For years, those fights presented like the symptoms of a looming divorce”—bears out Emily’s view of a woman too single-minded to live in the present. Even her memories are diagnostic! In a later story we see the narrator, Alex, through someone else’s recollection, and that second opinion also tends to confirm Emily’s view.
The stories are set in San Francisco and North Carolina, which allows for cultural contrast on multiple levels. Ruth is ill but hasn’t told her son Peter, with whom she has secretly reconnected via email after he was exiled from the family home for being gay; she keeps the correspondence from her husband, and justifies it with the support of her church. In an early story she’s tempted to fly west for his wedding, but circumstances intervene. They’re reunited in a later story, this one told from Peter’s point of view, and a painful glimpse of familial love perched on highly unstable ground.
Earthquakes are a trope in this collection—some of the East Coast transplants run for shelter in doorways at the merest hint of a 3.0 tremor while Californians avert their eyes and try not to laugh. When a larger event happens, it serves to unite the collection even as its characters are caught unawares and far from home. Think of the Raymond Carver stories pulled together into Robert Altman’s ‘Short Cuts’; having seen these people wear various faces to suit their locale and company, we now find them refreshingly unmasked. In “Hit Me,” relapsed addict Weasel, who is attracted to his Case Manager to the point of reveries about her private life, finds himself in her office when the crisis hits. “He thinks to himself, this is even better than the Saturday-morning Ruthie. This is the Emergency Ruthie.” By this time we know and care for these people, and the story’s two last lines edge concern with bitter resignation: “Cities shake and the Pacific quivers and there is nothing to do but wait. They all know better than to fight it.”
That last line could be an epigraph for ‘Damn Love’. No matter where your home is, life will conspire to shake your foundation from time to time. The characters here range from personal success to perennial striver and several variations thereof, and they each look for love with a mix of patience and determination, waiting to see if it comes through in the end.
By Jasmine Beach-Ferrara
Paperback, $15.95, 192 pages
Paperback, 9781935439783, 192 pp.