By Richard Labonte
“The Assassination of George W. Bush: A Love Story,” by Krandall Kraus. Lulu Press, 332 pages, $17.95 paper.
The title is certainly incendiary, and George W. Bush does die, but this fierce political thriller doubles nicely as a love story. The fictional (and platonic) romance is between conservative Secret Service agent Jack Adams and Laura Bush, a rebellious lefty when they meet during Texas high school days; still smitten decades later, he’d do anything for her – even die. Or kill. Their paths intersect after George W. makes it to the White House, where the agent is now charged with shadowing the president. Adams leans rigidly right through the time of Reagan and the first Bush, but mellows politically as he comes to admire Bill Clinton’s compassion – a shift to the political center accelerated, after he learns his beloved son is gay, by the hypocrisy of the second Bush’s antigay rhetoric. Kraus, with long-ago White House experience on his resume, fictionalizes the world of the West Wing with a quasi-insider’s perception, mixing inescapable reality – the misguided invasion of Iraq, the soulless machinations of Karl Rove – with fascinating what-ifs: Laura Bush as best buddies with the late progressive columnist Molly Ivins, for example.
“This Is What Happened in Our Other Life,” by Achy Obejas. A Midsummer Night’s Press, 32 pages, $6.95 paper.
The passion of lesbian sex, the ghostliness of living with a sense of exile, and reflections on what her Cuban-born mother might have thought about having a queer daughter: these are among the notions, memories, and emotions packed into the 15 powerful poems in this palm-sized chapbook. “The first time I was inside a woman/I was confused,” Obejas – author of the novel “Memory Mambo” and editor of the mystery anthology, “Havana Noir” – writes in “Legacies,” the opening poem. By “Dancing in Paradise,” she is “willing, drunk, unbuttoned.” And, in “Sleeping Apart,” she “can’t will away this heartache.” That kind of candor, focusing as much on the pain of love as on its sweet moments, invests these short, intense verses with a bracing honesty, embracing both the thrill of sexual connection and the heartache of romantic failings.
“Eyes of Desire 2: A Deaf GLBT Reader,” edited by Raymond Luczak. Handtype Press, 400 pages, $20 paper.
This collection of more than 80 personal essays from deaf queers (and a scattering of hearing friends) is a marvelously proud – and loud – book. Luczak, who edited the first “Eyes of Desire” in 1993, nimbly divides contributions – all but a handful of them original – into the categories of coming out, family and friends, self-identity, love and desire, and community. Literary quality varies widely, but that’s not important when it comes to the impact, or the import, of the writing. In this often viscerally emotional anthology about personal experience, each piece contributes in its own way to a colorful, instructive mosaic – by turns joyous, tearful, raunchy, or defiant – of deaf GLBT life. Standouts include poetry by Steven Reigns, Shane Gilchrist, and Luczak; a travel memoir about being gay in Iran, by Thierry H.; and Jane van Ingen’s account of a woman’s experience receiving a cochlear ear implant – something of a controversy in the deaf community, an issue often addressed in this ambitious, accomplished, and handsomely designed anthology.
“Hard Boys,” by Harry Bush, edited by Robert Mainardi. Green Candy Press, 196 pages, $50 hardcover.
In his private life, according to Mainardi’s revealing biographical introduction, Harry Bush – not a “nom de porn” – was a cantankerous recluse with nothing much good to say about gay life. But the decades he spent drawing queer erotic art before his 1994 death are a grand gift to a specific gay interest: images of muscled young men. And for a curmudgeon, he was remarkably playful: a lot of Bush’s brawny, well-endowed fellows are smiling – unusual in the stern world of gay erotica, and surely part of the charm of his “oeuvre.” In a foreword, gay art scholar Thomas Waugh celebrates the “lusty richness” of the work; in an afterword, Jim French, founder of Colt Studios, praises Bush’s “prodigious” raw talent. The artist got his start in the classic “Physique Pictorial” beefcake magazines published in the ’50s by Bob Mizer of the Athletic Model Guild, and some of that work is reprinted. But many of the drawings, left to Mainardi by Bush before he died, appear for the first time in this collection of heady history and hot art.
I had wonderful experiences exploring a variety of fetishes, but I really like hearing aids. I will always wear something in my ears when I masturbate and fantasize about men wearing hearing aids with me, or even forcing a hearing man to wear hearing aids with me. I find big ears cute and hot, but the ear size does not matter as long as he wears things in ears with me. I like pretending that the other guy is deaf while I get the feeling of stimulation from wearing things in my ears. This turns me on. The first hearing aid sex I had was with a guy who was deaf but he never wore hearing aids. He wore earplugs for me. The sex was awesome! Rubbing ears with each other was a great pleasure.
-from “Hearings Aids Turn Me On,” by Ned Quinton, in “Eyes of Desire 2”
SMALL SCREEN SLEUTHS: Russell Quant, the gay Saskatoon private eye featured in five novels – including the 2004 Lambda Literary Award-winner, “Flight of Aquavit” – by Canadian mystery writer Anthony Bidulka may be coming to TV. CTV, one of Canada’s major networks, is mulling over filming 13 hour-long episodes based on the Quant character, a former cop turned queer PI who sometimes tracks down missing people in his small Prairie town, and sometimes heads off on international adventures – to South Africa and Botswana in the most recent book, “Sundowner Ubuntu,” released in November in Canada and scheduled for American bookstores in the spring. “My understanding is that the next step, over the next several months, will be in the hands of CTV-approved writers developing a script for how the show might look,” says Bidulka, who is excited – even though the project could still fall through… ON ANOTHER GAY DETECTIVE front, Chad Allen is expected to star in a third in the Donald Strachey mysteries for Here! TV; the first two TV movies, filmed in Vancouver, Canada, were based on “Third Man Out” and “Shock to the System” and aired in 2005 and 2006. The ninth in Richard Stevenson’s durable series, “Death Vows,” will be published by MLR press in mid-2008; the first book, “Death Trick,” came out in 1981.