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Book Marks

By |2009-04-24T09:00:00-04:00April 24th, 2009|Uncategorized|

By Richard Labonte

“The Stone Gods,” by Jeanette Winterson. Harcourt, 224 pages, $24 hardcover.

Not too many fictional years from now, the planet Orbus has been devastated by a global war and is on the edge of environmental meltdown. The hope for humanity is just-discovered Planet Blue, where – if the dinosaurs could only be wiped out – humankind might resettle. That’s the core of Winterson’s post-apocalyptic romp, sometimes seriously polemical (even downright didactic) as it condemns out-of-control consumer consumption and accelerating climate change, and sometimes deliciously satirical. Consider the dinosaur-friendly “Lesbian Vegans” who – in one of the busy novel’s three central sections (set in Earth’s “Post-3 War” era) – plan a pilgrimage to the site of the asteroid impact that supposedly wiped out Earth’s saurian species. What ties this loopy novel together as it hops back in time and skips among worlds is the relationship between rebellious heroine Billie Crusoe and Spike, a sexy, feminine Robo sapiens. Their evolving emotional bond and unusual physical relationship – in one section, Spike is a head that Billie carries around in a sling – is the one constant in a kaleidoscopic tour de force.

“Blind Fall,” by Christopher Rice. Scribner, 296 pages, $26 hardcover.

There’s a lot of plot crammed into Rice’s fourth novel, a thriller about the gruesome murder of a gay Marine. Too much plot, perhaps; leaner might have been meaner. Central to the story is former Marine John Houck, a straight (and straitlaced) man tormented by the belief that his younger brother committed suicide after being molested by a man. He’s further anguished when he learns that the fellow Marine who saved his life in Iraq, Mike Bowers, was a closeted queer – only after he discovers Bowers’ body, and teams up with Bowers’ boyfriend to find the killer. The story of a straight Marine’s reverence for the military prowess of a gay brother-in-arms, and his squeamish acceptance of the dead man’s lover, is a stylish and emotionally complex take on the mystery genre. While the secondary plot about Houck’s shame at not protecting his brother from a presumed sexual predator adds texture to his fear of queers, it does slow the pace of Rice’s otherwise action-packed, roller-coaster story.

“Flights of Angels: My Life with the Angels of Light,” by Adrian Brooks. Arsenal Pulp Press, 272 pages, $27.95 hardcover.

Communal households, free theater, easy sex, easier drugs: those were the days. We’re talking San Francisco in the ’70s, a time Brooks remembers with a mature sense of wonderment, bewilderment, and measured nostalgia. His cheerfully dishy (and, a couple of times, just plain bitchy) memoir is centered on the near-decade he spent with the Angels of Light, a fantastical troupe whose almost-anything-goes performances – like those of the also-legendary Cockettes – often transcended trashy and achieved the sublime. But Brooks’ account of his life before the Angels is equally compelling. He was a wild young one, eventually disinherited by his wealthy Philadelphia parents; he was a Quaker antiwar activist; he worked for Martin Luther King Jr.; he chatted for hours – about socks! – with Andy Warhol; and he was a dashing figure in the poetry scene, reading with Paul Mariah, Judy Grahn, Pat Parker, and Harold Norse. More than 50 gorgeous color photos (and dozens of black-and-whites) by photographer Dan Nicoletta capture Angels performances and performers, adding zip to the story; a coda of autobiographical poems by Brooks written over the past 30 years adds extra heart.

“Dragonfly Stories: Celebrating the LGBTQ Community,” ed. by J. Cascio, Catherine Brown, and Beatrice Gordon. Rainbow Legends, 416 pages, $18.66 paper.

The 23 short, first-person essays about queer lives in this collection are powerful in their simplicity. Lee and Merlin recount their 38-year love affair; Eveline tells about loving the woman in her life after that woman becomes a man; Judy describes her life with John – and with “Veronica,” his cross-dressing persona; Harvey Stern writes about working with a LGBTQ senior center. Everyday stories written by everyday people, these essays about the queer moments central to our lives – coming out, falling in love, parenting, activism, finding faith, living with HIV, aging – are, cumulatively, an unaffected but memorably affecting oral history of the rainbow tribe, the personal made warmly universal. They are wonderfully complemented by a longer memoir that concludes the book, “Our Forever Love,” in which one of the editing triumvirate (Joyce Cascio) and her lover Amanda Cascio tell the story of how they became partners, leaving their respective relationships and moving into each others’ lives. This is the first of an ambitious plan to publish two volumes a year. Why not? There are untold stories…

Featured Excerpt

There’s a robot with them – well, a Robo sapiens, incredibly sexy, with that look of regret they all have before they are dismantled. It’s policy; all information-sensitive robots are dismantled after mission, so that their data cannot be accessed by hostile forces. She’s been across the universe, and now she’s going to the recycling unit… It’s a kind of suicide, a kind of bleeding to death, but they show no emotion because emotions are not part of their programming. Amazing to look so convincing and be nothing but silicon and a circuit board. She glances over to the Support Stand and catches my eye. I can’t help blushing. I think she has read my mind. They can do that.

-from “The Stone Gods,” by Jeanette Winterson

Footnotes

Novelist and editor Katherine V. Forrest, recipient of the Publishing Triangle’s annual Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award for 2008, will be honored at the organization’s 20th annual ceremony, April 28 in New York. The award, named for a pioneering gay editor, goes alternately to lesbians and gay men; last year’s recipient was Andrew Holleran. Finalists for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction are James Canon, for “Tales from the Town of Widows”;
Myriam Gurba, for “Dahlia Season”; and Bob Smith, for “Selfish and Perverse.” Seven writers are in the running for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction: Andre Aciman, for “Call Me by Your Name”;
Peter Cameron, for “Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You”;
Felicia Luna Lemus, for “Like Son”;
Ali Liebegott, for “The IHOP Papers”;
Brian Malloy, for “Brendan Wolf”;
Armistead Maupin, for “Michael Tolliver Lives”; and
Sarah Schulman, for “The Child.” Winners for lesbian and gay poetry and lesbian and gay nonfiction will also be announced. For information: http://www.publishingtriangle.org.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.