By Richard Labonte
“Candy Everybody Wants,” by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Harper Perennial, 288 pages, $13 paper.
Jayson Blocher – the “y” added for style – yearns for celebrity. The small-town Wisconsin teen’s first stab at ’80s fame is his gay coming-of-age drama, “Dallasty!,” a queer-eyed synthesis of the era’s gaudiest TV soaps, filmed with his gay-shy best friend Trey – from whom he hopes to steal a scripted kiss. Jayson’s starstruck horizons broaden dramatically when his financially troubled mother packs him off to New York to live with the father he never knew – an aging movie star running a stable of chorus-boy prostitutes. In short order, Jayson falls in love with a young TV actor, finds mini-celebrityhood in a commercial for mints, is forced onto the streets when the brothel is busted, and moves with his beau into an abandoned SoHo squat occupied by his now-lesbian mother’s lover’s drug-addicted brother. Got it? There are so many other zippy plot twists – including Jayson’s return home to rescue Trey – that this rollicking novel speed-reads itself. But underlying the near-slapstick, pell-mell plot is a perceptive take on the banality of pop culture.
“Hungry for It,” by Fiona Zedde. Kensington Books, 304 pages, $15 paper.
Anyone who has read one of Zedde’s previous three sizzlers knows that the “it” Miami Beach club-owner Remi Bouchard hungers for is sex. Of any sort. Almost anywhere. Every five or so pages. And “it” is easy to come by for the 20-something, dildo-swinging, motorcycle-riding gal about town – until she falls in love with Claudia, the white-haired cancer survivor mother of her since-puberty best friend. There are subplots: Remi is haunted by the homophobia of her now-dead, then-abusive father; she’s estranged from her mother back in Maine, who failed to stand up to the father’s anger; and another South Beach club-owner has scared away Remi’s invaluable manager while his ruffians are releasing rats into the popular hotspot’s kitchen hours before a health inspection. These woes are eventually resolved with adequate if somewhat rushed logic. What propels the story – plentiful sex scenes aside – is how well Zedde handles the dynamic of the age differential between elderly Claudia and youthful Remi, nicely balancing unbridled sexual romps with passages of introspective sensitivity.
“Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir,” by Scott Pomfret. Arcade Books, 288 pages, $26 hardcover.
Pomfret is a conflicted but assured man of faith. He’s a devout lay minister in the Catholic Church, though his boyfriend is an impassioned – and sometimes antagonistic – atheist. One day he’s rallying in support of Massachusetts gay marriage, the next he’s rebelling against doctrinal diatribes about queer immorality – while simultaneously rationalizing them. He’s out and loud and proud, but interacts regularly with deeply closeted gay priests uneasy about his wide-open closet door. Such prickly contradictions – and a holy host of others – are at the heart of this devilish memoir. Along the way, Pomfret discusses his fractious family, his rambunctious romance with partner Scott Whittier (with whom he writes Romentics, a spicy gay-romance series), and his day job as a Securities and Exchange Commission trial attorney. The author, decidedly a multi-faceted fellow, is the farthest thing there is from a recovering Catholic. He’s determined, instead, to cure the church of the homophobia that ails it – and this rational, heartfelt, and often darkly hilarious book is chewy chicken soup for the hypocritical papist soul.
“The Evolution of a Sigh,” by R. Zamora Linmark. Hanging Loose Press, 88 pages, $16 paper.
Sly cultural commentary, exuberant linguistic wordplay, potent racial commentary, even a few anti-romantic love poems – this is a tinderbox of inventive intensity. Linmark delights in turning poetic forms like the haiku and the pantoum on their heads, reinterpreting traditional forms with the giddy panache of a wordsmith who uses the basics as a springboard for his assorted states of mind. Sometimes he’s moodily introspective: “Forty as of yesterday/ I don’t know where I’m going.” Sometimes he’s cheerfully playful: “Didn’t I put the ‘X’ back in your sex life/ Widen the ‘O’s’ in your moans, revive the Grr in your groin/ Lengthen the ‘I’s’ when you sighed?” Often, he’s serious: “Sometimes I want to scream/ a scream until another one of me/ breaks out and pulls the string/ holding the brightest ever star.” At heart, he’s a trickster: one poem consists of quirky Filipino signs, among them, “Please urine only; no shitting; toilet not in order” and “Wanted: Boy Waitress.” And, always, Linmark engages the reader by infusing his poesy with the limber interplay of his several languages.
“Do we have to kiss all the way?” Trey asked Jayson, dangling his legs in the unseasonably cool lake while reading over Jayson’s script. The float diving dock bobbed lazily with each kick of Trey’s legs. Jayson pulled at the top half of his mother’s Pucci knockoff bathing suit. Up until an hour ago it’d been a one-piece, but he’d had to cut it into two pieces in order to transform it into the “revealing string bikini” called for in the script that he wrote earlier that afternoon. His left water balloon tit had sprung a slow leak. There was no time to waste on script revisions. They needed to begin shooting the scene now. The sun was going down and his boob was deflating at an alarming pace.
-from “Candy Everybody Wants,” by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
IT’S STILL A COUPLE of years away, but “Tales of the City”‘s Armistead Maupin is working on a second non-sequel to his bestselling series, after 2007’s “Michael Tolliver Lives “; “Mary Ann in Autumn,” like last year’s novel, will focus on how a beloved “Tales” character copes with the passage of years… TWO MALE AUTHORS, M. Christian and John Morgan Wilson, have joined Bold Strokes Books’ roster of almost 50 women writers (and almost 150 novels since 2003) as part of a new Liberty Editions imprint, focusing on titles with primary gay, bisexual, or transgender content. Christian’s novel “Dog Eat Dog” is forthcoming from Bold Strokes in 2009; the first four novels in Wilson’s Lambda and Edgar Award-winning “Benjamin Justice” mystery series are scheduled for 2008, starting in August with “Simple Justice,” followed in September by “Revision of Justice,” in October by “Justice at Risk,” and in November by “The Limits of Justice.” The eighth Justice novel, “Spider Season,” is coming from St. Martin’s Minotaur in December… MEANWHILE, MLR PRESS is planning to release all eight of Richard Stevenson’s “Donald Strachey” backlist, a series launched in 1981 by St. Martin’s Press and published or reprinted over the years by St. Martin’s, Alyson Books, Penguin Books, and most recently the out-of-business Southern Tier Editions imprint of Harrington Park Press. The ninth novel in the series, “Death Vows,” is an August release from MLR.