By Richard Labonte
101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men
By Alonso Duralde, Advocate Books, 268 pages, $14.95 paper
How to find a boyfriend. How to be a couple. How to be a married couple. How to have children. How to have anal sex. Now add to the smorgasbord of gay self-help books this swishy, dishy collection of savvy cinematic synopses – movies that Duralde, “a lifelong film nerd,” thinks any self-respecting queer ought to see. He gives classics from “Auntie Mame” to “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (but not, mercifully, “The Wizard of Oz”) their due; praises post-Stonewall Hollywood nonblockbusters like “Making Love” and “Parting Glances” for their relative daring; highlights the gay subtext of several distinctly disparate films, from “Casablanca” to “Jackass: The Movie”; and touts a couple of dozen queer filmmakers, from Derek Jarman, Marlon Riggs, and John Waters to Gregg Araki, Bruce LaBruce, and John Greyson. Each film’s entry includes a short cast list, a snappy plot outline, an insightful critical assessment, and a mind-numbing assortment of 19 symbols that – way too cutely – pigeonhole each film: a swan for “divas on a rampage,” a teardrop for “get out your handkerchiefs.”
Lord, how gay can these boys get? Director John Waters has discussed his adoration for the “sexual anarchy” of “Jackass,” and this movie shows the cast’s naughty fervor over and over again. There’s something to be said for a new generation of dudes who romp around naked with each other without feeling the need to constantly proclaim their heterosexuality. The “Jackass” guys are clearly comfortable with their sexuality, and they invite audiences of all stripes to enjoy their thong-clad silliness.
-from “101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men,” by Alonso Duralde
Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho, and Art – The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks
By Diana Souhami. St. Martin’s Press, 240 pages, $29.95 hardcover
Many books have been written about the Sapphic circle that blossomed in Paris between world wars. Souhami – who has herself written doorstop tomes about Radclyffe Hall, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and Louise Gluck – now adds an impressively impressionistic and succinct biography of painter Brooks and poet Barney and their eccentric 50-year love affair. Two sections, “Before Romaine” and “Before Natalie,” chronicle the grandly lesbian ladies’ sexual liaisons and artistic lives before they met in 1915, when Romaine was 41 and Natalie was 39. But “Wild Girls” takes on a more poignant tone in the third section, “Natalie and Romaine,” when it assesses the decades of their restless romance. Natalie’s adoration of her lover was unflagging, even as she reveled in an exuberant, libertine promiscuity; Romaine, over the years, became increasingly gloomy about and aloof from life, and in her final years often shunned Natalie’s affection. This seductive, sensual biography – drawn from hundreds of letters between the lovers, as well as from Brooks’ never-published memoir – vividly recounts a remarkable love story.
By Rafaelito V. Sy, Palari Publishing, 272 pages, $14.95 paper
Surface humor masks serious depth in this winsome coming-of-age novel about Philippines-born Juancho Chu’s decade-long search for sex and – better yet – love in 1990s San Francisco. He has a small circle of close friends. He has sex, occasionally with those same friends, often with white men – “Rice Queens” turned on for a night or a week by his well-toned, swimmer’s-build Asian body. But the romantic and ever-optimistic outsider depicted in Sy’s debut book never does find true love, a twist that’s uncommonly honest in the almost-hackneyed genre of coming-out fiction. “Potato Queen” has a great deal to say, in a smart and entertaining way, about the tensions around ethnicity and sexuality in contemporary queer America. It’s a heartwarming tale about a young man who is yearning to be loved – with a heartbreaking last chapter in which Juancho, visiting his family in Manila for the first time in years, concludes that “I would rather be alone in America than be a freak in my own country.”
By Patrick Fillion. Bruno Gmunder, 64 pages, $22.95 hardcover
They dangle thickly down to knees and arc jauntily up to nipples: Erotic comic artist Fillion’s super-muscled superheroes are, to a man, supremely well-endowed. There’s no real storyline in this cartoonish parade of hot, hypermasculine hunks, though every well-drawn picture is certainly worth a thousand loin-stirring words. “Heroes” is, rather, a tasty portfolio of the Canadian illustrator’s outrageously sexy and irresistibly adorable “Boytoons” – a feast of bodaciously broad chests, rippling abs, massive arms, thick thighs…and those always-impressive mantools. There’s futuristic Camili-Cat, with sexy hair and a sexier tail; dark and brooding Deimos, with devilish horns and form-fitting leather; bold Naked Justice, red-haired, red-masked, and pink-nippled; and goofy Stephane, sporting a grinning clown mask and a jaunty bowtie, clutching a cuddly teddy bear, his left pec and his right testicle adorned with heart tattoos. These hyperbolic heroes are direct descendants of Tom of Finland’s exaggerated sexual iconography – in fact, several pages depicting men in cop uniforms are a direct homage. But Fillion’s artistic spin on rough, tough eroticism has its own distinct puckish, playful charm.
POET EDWARD FIELD has been awarded the Sheep Meadow W. H. Auden Prize of $10,000, given for a lifetime devoted to poetry. His first collection, “Stand Up Friend With Me,” won the prestigious Lamont Award when it was published in 1963; “Counting Myself Lucky: Selected Poems 1963-1992” won a Lambda Literary Award earlier this year; and Field is a recent winner of the Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award, given by the Publishing Triangle. He lives in Greenwich Village with his partner, Neil Derrick, who collaborated with him on the historical novel “The Villagers: A Novel of Greenwich Village” – it sold more than 200,000 copies in an Avon mass market edition – that traces the development of the bohemian Manhattan neighborhood over two centuries and four generations. His literary memoir, “The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag : And Other Intimate Literary Portraits of the Bohemian Era (Wisc Living Out),” is to be published in January by the University of Wisconsin Press… BOOKS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Self-published (“The Tragedy of Miss Geneva Flowers”) Lambda Literary Award winner Joe Babcock’s second novel, “The Boys and the Bees,” is coming from Carroll & Graf in February; it’s about a triumvirate of sixth-grade Catholic students – James, who loves Andy, who loves Mark, who thinks he’s in love with a girl.