Monday, November 26, 2007

woodworms & tallboys

"Where would you find homosexual woodworms? … In a tallboy." From Anthony Shaffer's play Sleuth (1970). Quoted out of context, but context here doesn't seem to matter. I can think of no explanation that makes this even remotely funny. I think I understand "tallboys" and "woodworms" ... it must be the "homosexual" part — how embarrassing! I don't know whether this quip's in the first (Mankiewicz) movie. The more sittable among you may inform me whether or not it's in the forthcoming Branagh.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Defiant Entreaty

Turn to the list of Edmund White's other books, "BY THE SAME AUTHOR," opposite the title page of My Lives. I defy anyone to make any sense of its ordering ... beziehungsweise, as the Germans might say, I beseech anyone to tell me any sense they can make of it!

The Third Friend?

We didn't discuss (because I hadn't yet read it myself?) the supplemental essay at the end of the paperback edition, "My Lives, 'My Master,' My Reader." White laments the (only) three friends he's lost through his writing. Susan Sontag of course we know about (Caracole). T, it turns out, was lost as well with the publication of My Lives. Who I wonder was the third? Larry Kramer naturally comes to mind, but how much of a loss could he have been!?

(Wikipedia, by the way, is a floodgate to interviews with Edmund White. David Shankbone's, which I referred to last night, is so hot on the pixels that it was "published" this month!)

EVW III's generosity

A question I forgot to ask last night was how reading My Lives changed anyone's understanding or perception of Edmund White, whether there was anything really new and revelatory in it. Given that most of us had read nothing by him before, this was perhaps not such a lost opportunity. For myself, however, the big revelation was that White hadn't been born prattling away en français. He's so smart and sophisticated I assumed without knowing it that he was fluent in French at least by the time he hit The Big Apple. It was touching to learn how late he learned to speak French and with what difficulty. (And nothing roots his upbringing so irremediably in the fifties as his having studied French at Cranbrook without ever having to speak or hear it!) This was a big surprise for me but is a part of a larger value of My Lives, which unfortunately we scarcely touched on last night: to wit, how someone from the well insulated heartland comes gradually over a life time to make contact with a larger world. It's summed up in a way by his comments on page 351: "My true friends share my feeling of being a tourist on earth, a visitor dropping in on life ... [striving] to be wordly without being blasé, to be innocent without being naive—to know everything and to take nothing or granted...." This is the highest and most admirable generosity, feeling generous about life.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Tin Star

Gay romance pulp? J.L. Langley pulls out all stops in her 2006 novel, Tin Star, about a stunning cowboy, a studly rancher, a vengeful father, a faithful dog, and a mystery shooting. I didn't pay a lot for this book, and you shouldn't, either.

While the sex scenes are (at times) homoerotic hardcore, the writing is right in the middle of the romance-mystery-pulp genre. I hadn't a clue, though, who the audience was for this novel. Do women really read homoerotic, hardcore romantic pulp? Or is this novel aimed at young, gay or questioning men? Of course, my big question was how Langley did her research. Perhaps she read Bob Vickery and Dale Chase.

With these questions in mind, I poked around the Internet. Unknown to me, indeed, women are writing homoerotic romantic fiction for other women. Dale Chase writes excellent porn for the guys, but I didn't know she had some sisters doing their bit for straight women. Here's a gay romance fiction blog, Friction Fiction. It's full of rugged cowboys who ride more than their horses, but has its fair share of gay werewolves(!), as well.

Back to The Tin Star, the book has too much a women's touch. The main character's name is Jamie, and his knight in shining armor is Ethan. No self-respecting Texas cowboy would traffic with either name, but I suspect a New Jersey salesgirl might. (You guess who's the top and who's the bottom; Jamie's nickname is Blue-eyes....) If you check out some of the other gay romantic fiction titles, you'll see similar problems. In The Tin Star, Jamie sometimes "peaks" rather than "comes." Now that's a queer verb! I don't think any gay male porn writer would ever peak.

One of the main themes of this novel (other than the cowboy-on-cowboy bareback riding) is the struggle for gay acceptance in a hostile society. Langley treats the issue sympathetically, but both Jamie and Ethan have great difficulty accepting their same-sex attraction. The novel initially treats homosexuality as only being acceptable within the private sphere, but as the novel progresses, Langley expands her characters' awareness and acknowledgement of their sexual lives in the public sphere, too.

I enjoyed the book. Be warned: it requires zero thinking. Its characters are an imagined gay in an imagined Texas that is at once hostile and supportive. It's a story more of events than character. The sex scenes are pretty good, drawn realistically enough so that I could figure out the positions, and hot enough that I could get caught up in my own romantic moment with myself.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Coleman Dowell

Richard Canning has a review of Coleman Dowell's work in the latest Gay and Lesbian Review. Coleman Dowell? I was a little less ignorant from just having read Ed White's short essay about him in his recent collection, Arts and Letters. There are three major novels: Island People (1976), Too Much Flesh and Jabez (1977), and White on Black on White (1983). The first two have been reissued by the estimable Dalkey Archive, the third is putatively still in print in England. I'm keen on reading and discussing one of these but a little unsure which to choose. Anyone read these, have any ideas? I'm inclined toward Island People, since it's the first and supposedly the best but Too Much Flesh and Jabez looks like a lot of fun. I'll put a link up to Canning's review if/when it becomes available.