Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Richard Labonte
“Belmondo Style,” by Adam Berlin. St. Martin’s Press, 275 pages, $23.95 hardcover.
Most caper novels are lighthearted romps with happy endings. “Belmondo Style” ends sadly, though not badly. Most novels about straight fathers and gay sons dwell on their sometimes twisted, sometimes angry, sometimes uneasy relationships. This one is about a remarkably well-adjusted, athletic, and intelligently introverted 16-year-old, and his close and loving relationship with a dashing, lady-loving dad – who happens to make his living as a skilled pickpocket. Father Jared’s libertine life changes course when he meets Anna, a photographer who specializes in images of the dead; son Ben’s placidly contented life shifts rapturously when he’s cruised by a hunky, passionate teen while jogging late one night. But when Ben is brutally gay-bashed soon after, their happy lives are irrevocably shattered. Jared wreaks wicked vengeance on the basher, then father, son, and lady love flee Manhattan for Miami to escape the consequences of Jared’s impulsive fury. Berlin’s blend of an unusual family’s gentle affection with the dark and simmering violence that enmeshes them is dazzling, unsettling, and blessedly original.
“Gulf Breeze,” by Gerri Hill. Bella Books, 276 pages, $12.95 paper.
Carly is a cantankerous loner, damaged by a disastrous relationship, whose life revolves around restoring a patch of polluted Florida wetlands to its natural state. Pat is a successful, single wildlife photographer who, oddly, doesn’t know a long-billed curlew from a greater yellowlegs. Pat is coerced by an eccentric and environmentally concerned aunt into volunteering to produce a fundraising brochure for Carly’s project. They meet: Carly bristles, Pat fumes. They meet again: Carly insults Pat’s birding ignorance, Pat mutters about Carly’s arrogance and insolence. And they meet again: Carly admires Pat’s lithe legs and strong arms, Pat is stirred by Carly’s passion for nature and her infrequent smiles. Soon, Carly and Pat look forward to meeting. Bickering turns into bantering. Disdain evolves into desire. And when a horrendous hurricane hits, and Pat risks her life to save a pair of baby egrets, the women unite in fighting nature instead of each other. Vanilla sex and happy-ever-after love ensue. “Gulf Breeze” is an utterly predictable romance, but Hill’s engagingly punchy prose propels it beyond chirpy banality into the realm of guilty pleasure.
“The Boy Who Cried Fabulous,” by Leslea Newman, illustrations by Peter Ferguson. Tricycle Press, 32 pages, $15.95 hardcover.
Everything is “fabulous” in apple-cheeked Roger’s world: a fabulous tie, or perhaps a cravat, a fabulous suit made of fabulous blue, a fabulous boy, a fabulous park, a fabulous sky so fabulously dark. But when young Roger is late for school one time too many, his parents ban his favorite word. The lad is crushed. How can he express himself? And while neither Newman’s sprightly text nor Ferguson’s delicious illustrations ever state that cute Roger is queer, there’s no doubt he’s destined to grow up that way – who else but a nascent homo would, with intuitive creativity, find another way “to shout out what he had to say.” To placate his parents, Roger exclaims about a luscious smell, a brilliant clown, a stunning day, a magical song – and both “a marvelous brunch” and “a marvelous drink, does it need a lime?” How queer is that? “The Boy Who Cried Fabulous,” written for ages 5-7, works on several levels – it teaches tolerance, endorses exuberance, and introduces youngsters, painlessly, to the concept of synonyms. In a word – fab!
“Why You Should Give a Damn About Gay Marriage,” by Davina Kotulski. Alyson Books, 202 pages, $12.95 paper.
Who knew, back in the era of take-it-to-the-streets gay liberation or ACT UP rage around AIDS, that there would one day be an activist primer on.marriage? Kotulski’s commonsense overview of the wedding wars doesn’t concern itself with writing vows, wording the invites, or queering the wedding cake. “Why You Should Give a Damn” instead focuses on current laws in Vermont, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Canada; engages religious zealots on their absurdist arguments against marriage equality; dismisses civil unions and domestic partnership as “marriage lite”; considers the impact of marriage rights on parenting, immigration, taxes, death, and even divorce; and confronts resistance to marriage from within the lesbian and gay community. One philosophical chapter discusses, quite emotionally, the power of ritual; another – one of the wisest – considers monogamy and partnership. And though facts piled on facts are the essence of this serious, energetic handbook, its functional information is leavened by the author’s quick wit – consider the chapter, “Rights Your Average Incarcerated Heterosexual Serial Killer Has Access To (That You Don’t).”
BOOKS TO WATCH OUT FOR: On the wedding front, look this month for the photo-laden “instant gift” book, “We Do: Portraits of Gay Marriage,” from San Francisco-based Chronicle Books, drawing on dozens of the several thousand queer weddings performed earlier this year in San Francisco. Meanwhile, historian George Chauncey has set aside work on his sequel to “Gay New York” to rush-write “Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today’s Debate Over Gay Equality,” due by early August from Basic Books. Coming next year from Miramax: “Another World Is Possible,” a political memoir by Green Party Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, N.Y., who flirted with jail time for performing a number of same-sex marriages this spring. And for wedding belles and beaus with an urge for information – and who aren’t planning their ceremony before early 2005 – “The Survival Guide to Gay Weddings” is coming from St. Martin’s Press. It’s being assembled by the gay brother/lesbian sister team of K.C. David and Dawn Kohn, as a spinoff of www.gayweddings.com, the website they set up to facilitate Vermont civil unions… FANS OF THE BESTSELLING SIX-VOLUME “Tales of the City” series have long lusted for a sequel. In 2006, they’ll get one – sort of – in “Michael Tolliver Lives.” Armistead Maupin’s agent, Steven Barclay, says the novel is “independent of “Tales”” – though it will follow one day in the life of the now 52-year-old fictional gay gardener whose hunky good looks, affable good cheer, and inspirational resilience were the core of the series. It’s coming from HarperCollins, Maupin’s longtime publisher.