By Brent Dorian Carpenter
When I was just a wee lad, seemingly at the turn of several centuries ago, it was widely known and universally understood that I was going to be a comic book artist. It was my childhood dream, to concoct the grandiose tales of costumed legends and dazzle audiences with their cosmic-yet-humanistic dramas. My flirtation with making truth of this reality came at the “pinnacle” of my career in March 1993, when I succeeded in writing, illustrating and briefly publishing a series of comic books that drew the attention of CNN and Headline News for their originality and international content. My fifteen minutes of fame lasted exactly three weeks. Alas, dreams die hard and for this one, the cause of death was two-fold; a publisher with shallow pockets and a stunning lack of artistic talent on my part. It seems I could write my little black ass off, but executing my grand concepts into comic art illustrations required a hand more deft than mine.
My comic career lasted through twelve issues divided amongst four titles. Afterwards, I turned my focus to novel writing. Most who know me know that I have written and self-published two novels, both of which I am extremely proud. The feedback I receive as I travel through the summer Pride season on book tour has been phenomenal. What a gift to have established such a connection with your audience. It’s a perpetual head rush. What most don’t know is that I started two other book projects in the mid-90s and never completed them. I can say with some level of confidence now, as I complete work on my third book and begin work on the fourth, I will revisit those earlier projects in the not-so-distant future.
Upon the death of my father, this has become my central focus in life; novel writing. It’s what I’m good at. It’s what I was born to do. My father has left us with a financial gift that makes it possible for me to pursue this dream with utter abandon, and so off I go on a mission to storm the publishing capitals of New York and Chicago armed with four books under my, ahem, belt, in hot pursuit of fortune and glory. Thank you, Dad.
I am deeply grateful for the nearly three years of association with Between The Lines and two-and-a-half years at The Michigan Citizen newspapers. Not only did their respective staffs show me much love and reciprocate appreciation for my many endeavors on their behalf, they taught me many priceless skills that have sharpened my literary blade to razor fineness. I honed my craft in the white-hot crucible of journalism, where one must learn how to tell an entire story in 800 words or less, always with a looming deadline that threatens to render your toil obsolete. Much of this work will be on display in my upcoming third book Bald Ambition, a collection of these essay columns (including a few that didn’t escape the censor’s sensibilities so I’m gonna bootleg ’em!), as well as my old seriesÑHistorically Black, Historically GayÑthe short bios and drawings of black gay historical figures I produced for BTL last year, and in addition, some brand new filthy perverse gay erotica as only my deeply disturbed bipolar mind can deliver. And just for those more depraved members of my fan base (you know who you are), I can indeed confirm that, yes, there will be a prison rape sequence to top all prison rape sequences!
Moreover, I revel as I unleash these new literary skills upon my latest work, Thugg the Barbarian King, which is proving, nine chapters in, to be my tightest, funniest and, hopefully, most electrifying work yet written. I will dedicate this novel to my husband Mark, who inspired it in me (and I do mean “in me!”) on the night of my 40th birthday this spring, and upon whom the title character is loosely based. Mark, baby, I loves me some you, you wonderfulbeautifulghettobarbarian motherf***er! Keep blasting me with that Tchaikovsky Effect!
It is a spirit of joy that sweeps through my heart each and every time I sit down at my keyboard to pour my thoughts out into reality. I feel poised to come of age as a writer. I also owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my Adodi brothers, whose annual summer retreat I have now attended for a second year in a row, where I became fully psychologically empowered as a black gay man, and to Lisa Moore and her Fire & Ink crew, whose black gay writers’ festival at University of Chicago in September 2002 baptized me as a fully realized black gay writer in the great tradition of our finest Harlem Renaissance black gay literati. These two events imbued within me two principles: “adodi,” a Yoruba word that means a man who loves men; and “griot,” an African word used to describe the tribesman storyteller entrusted to memorize and propagate the verbal history of the entire tribe.
I have wed these precepts, adodi griot, in my description of my mission as a black gay writer. I have told and will continue to tell the stories no one else has told or will tell. And I will tell them with exquisite style and stinging wit, utilizing breathtaking turns of verbiage, outrageous yet thought-provoking, to tickle the fancy and tantalize the imagination. I will hereat confess a deep, abiding aspiration. I would love to one day hence be regarded as the black, 21st Century Oscar Wilde. Or to put a finer point on it, when one of my male girlfriends inadvertently insulted me when she said, “Brent, you’re going to be the next James Earl Hardy,” not knowing there was bad blood between he and I, I responded, “Fuck you, bitch, I’m going to be the first Brent Dorian Carpenter!”
And so, I said all that to say this: I meet so many aspiring writers who are toiling away to make their dream come true. To those I say, “Find a way.” For me, there is but one exquisite joy parallel to expression through writing, the love of family and the blessing of GodÑbut I promised myself I wasn’t going to talk about sex in this column.