Category Archives: GLBT short stories

“A Rainbow Thread: Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969” by Noam Sienna— An Infinite Rainbow

Sienna, Noam. “A Rainbow Thread: Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969”, Print-O-Craft, 2019.

An Infinite Rainbow

Amos Lassen

I first heard of “A Rainbow Thread” via a friend who told me he had just ordered a copy and while my friend gave me no details aside from this book Jewish and gay, I went ahead and wrote to the publisher to get a review copy. When the book arrived I was first astounded by the 425 page length and then by the tremendous amount of research that it must have taken to compile such a book. Writer Noam Sienna tells us that the book maintains a balancing act between “LGBTQ Jewish history as an infinite rainbow, with no beginning or end, and with no clear boundaries between its different facets” (great analogy and the fact that there is “a thread: a continuity that links our lives, our joys, and our struggles today to an ancestral heritage in the past and to our inheritors in the future.” Sienna does not see history as a march toward a universal goal. Rather he sees it as processes that are made up of  connections, interruptions, and innovations. While we cannot push who we are on those who came before us but we also cannot ignore their history that has become some of our behaviors and shared practices; traditions  that take stories to other places and times, and that are often relevant in our lives today.

I can imagine Sienna going through the history of the Jews looking for examples to back his thesis and to find so much (that many of us never thought about— my adult life has been consumed by my wanting to find a way to preserve the LGBT Jewish literary canon so that the wealth of information it holds can be shared by everyone. Yet with all the work that I have done in the past, I did not come across many of the selections in this anthology.

Sienna explains how to encounter primary historical documents as a way of imagining new futures. He uses classical midrashim as two texts and lets us reread them through queer eyes thus expanding our ideas on what Jewishness is today. We see that Jewish sexuality and gender in practice was not as restricted by boundaries of gender, sex, nationality, or religion as we might have thought. Sienna is not pushing any kind of gay agenda but rather pointing out that we must rethink Judaism. In doing so, we question assumptions about how Jews have understood sexuality and gender throughout our long history as a people during which Jewish identity is often imagined as existing in spite of, or in opposition to,—the world of Jewish tradition. We are encouraged to read and reread, reimagine and revise what today’s Judaism can mean. process of constantly rereading, reimagining, and revising our understanding of what Judaism has meant, and what it can mean for us today.

What is contained in the book spans two millennia, five continents and translations from fifteen different languages. “A Rainbow Thread” is, in effect, queer Jewish history that includes poetry, drama, commentary, law and memoir. Like so many others, I have doubted that there is a place for me in Judaism and I thought I was forging a new path when I remain determined to be an active practicing Jew. I have since learned differently and now have a way to prove it— with this book. I am overwhelmed by the amount of information in “A Rainbow Thread” and I find myself lingering over each text included here and wondering why I had never read it before. We are done sitting on Judaism’s margins and we can now pitch our tents where we want. It may not be easy to do so but remember that it was once impossible to do so. I am in awe of what I see here and can’t wait to use it as a teaching tool.

“Lot: Stories” by Bryan Washington— A Collection of Houston Stories

Washington, Bryan. “Lot: Stories”, Riverhead Books, 2019.

A Collection of Houston Stories

Amos Lassen

I am really not much of a short story reader and the only ones that I read are those I teach and those I review. Yet I must admit that I was completely taken in by this collection by Bryan Washington. He knows his Houston and he shares it with us and we see it in all of its glory and all of its underbelly. In fact, the Houston we have here is a microcosm of America. We have stories about the coming of age of a biracial son who is discovering his sexuality, a young woman having an affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing and a reluctant legendary creature. The stories are witty and well-written and they show what makes a community, a family, and a life. Actually these stories explore trust and love in ways we have not seen before. The characters are very real (or as real as we want to make them) and  they give us a look at the working class of Houston. Even more important is that we develop empath with the characters as we read.

The book grabs us and does not let go and even when we have read the last story, it all stays with us for quite a while. We need to think a bit more about what we read and I am still thinking about it some two weeks after I finished reading it.

Bryan Washington writes about the many experiences of families and friends in the margins of Houston-area society An unnamed narrator takes us through a collection of stories that are interconnected.  Our narrator is the biracial guy I mentioned earlier and he is still getting through adolescence and dealing with his sexuality. We also meet unfaithful spouses, scorned lovers, drug dealers, sex workers and we see the effects of gentrification on the working class who do not have the finances or the means to challenge what is happening. This group is what is known as the invisible population. There is a rawness, a vividness and an intensity to the stories but there is also a poignancy in writer Washington’s style.

The characters are people that we know and people we come into contact on a daily business. Their names and locations might be different but we know them and we watch them tell the truth about how they feel and what keeps them going. Washington has no agenda in these stories other than to give us a good read and we gain something by reading about his character and their sexual awakening and identification, gentrification and its victims, and the power of family to both keep us and lose us.

“A Creature of Transformation” by James Hodgson— Evolution and Mutation

Hodgson, James. “A Creature of Transformation”, Superbia, 2019.

Evolution and Mutation

Amos Lassen

The first thing I love about reviewing is discovering new talent and lately it seems to be everywhere. I received a note from a guy asking me if I would like to review his new book and as I usually do, I told him to go ahead and send me a copy. It seemed to take forever to get here and I learned that was because it was coming from England and when it finally came, I saw that it 32 pages long and designated as a chap book. I knew that there poetry chap books but I was totally unaware of fiction chap books.  This one has four stories and while it did not take me long to read (which I did a couple of days ago), I cannot get the stories out of my head. The four tales share a theme— mutation and evolution and show us that it is not always easy to just be. Each story also contains some major change and that change is both “Bottom of Forma metaphysical consequence of being but also as a literary act of defiance and self-determination.” That in itself is not so strange since all of us experience changes and transformations. Now the results of those changes might be different from each other but then each man is different from every other man. Like the characters in Hodgson’s characters, the results of change can be very powerful. All of us have  gone through transformations as we look for meaning in our lives. These stories all share a theme of queer desire.

I am having a bit of a problem in reviewing the stories because to say something about what they have to say could ruin the read for some of you. What I can say is that the character development is unique especially in stories that are this short. But then developing the characters also depends on the reader and how he sees them. In “Fallout” we meet Paul and Simon who find transformation as they are on a journey of discovery. In “The Malignant Symptom”, I felt I was overhearing a conversation that was not for me and that I was eavesdropping on a very personal conversation. On the other hand, I felt that  this was a conversation  that I was meant to hear and heed.

“Rubies in Your Legs” is a delight. Composed of nine paragraphs, we get a look at man/man sex by a prince and his reaction to it. I dare you not to find yourself in one of the paragraphs.

“Metaformosis” (it is not misspelled—well, it is misspelled but this is writer James Hodgson’s choice) is, I believe, about the meaninglessness of sex or perhaps it is about the meaningfulness—it is up to the reader to decide how to understand the story and how to understand his own reaction to it.

What I am writing here is strictly my opinion and these stories can affect other readers in totally different ways; literature does that. And this is literature, the author writes beautiful prose that pulls you in and I say that as someone who does not enjoy short stories. These stories are studies in contrast between the real and surreal, the political and the apolitical with sex above our heads as we read. I love this little book and I believe that we have a new voice who has much to add to our cannon. I do not want any of you to read this as philosophically as it sounds. I am a philosopher and so I write like one but I can also totally enjoy the mundane and the degenerate not that Hodgson is either of those. From what I can tell he sounds like a very real and fascinating person who you can get to know now through his writing.

 

 

“LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia” edited by Jeff Mann and Julia Watts— A Nice Surprise

Mann, Jeff and Julia Watts, editors. “LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia”, West Virginia University Press, 2019.

A Nice Surprise

Amos Lassen

Those of us who live in urban centers really are not aware of the LGBTQ population in non-urban areas and here specifically, I mean Appalachia. Jeff Mann and Julia Watts have done a wonderful job collecting and editing this collection, the first of its kind of fiction and poetry from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer authors from Appalachia. From what I understand, literature from Appalachia Like much Appalachian literature, is often filled with an attachment to family and the mountain landscape while balancing queer and Appalachian, a complicated undertaking and filled with conflict. The pieces we read here face these problems head on and deal with the intersections of place, family, sexuality, gender, and religion with which LGBTQ Appalachians often struggle.

Included are works by established writers whose names may surprise you— Dorothy Allison, Silas House, Ann Pancake, Fenton Johnson, and Nickole Brown and emerging writers like Savannah Sipple, Rahul Mehta, Mesha Maren, and Jonathan Corcoran. Some of what we have here is previously published while the rest is original and appearing in print for the first time. This collection is a celebration of a literary canon made up of writers who give voice to what it means to be Appalachian and LGBTQ.

The book also contains a wonderful selected bibliography of same-sex desire in Appalachian literature and this alone makes the book worthwhile but there is so much more. We have the wonderful diversity of multigenerational voices, styles, and attitudes along with the theme of loyalty to place alongside of queer identity as represented in poetry and fiction. Here is the queer ecology of Appalachia and the voices that exist in relation to the landscape and the cultural imagination of the place. We see the paradox of both belonging (being from and of a place) and nearly total alienation.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Contents

Introduction   

Editor’s Notes

Dorothy Allison          

            Roberts Gas & Dairy   

            Careful

            Butter 

            Domestic Life 

Lisa Alther      

            Swan Song     

Maggie Anderson       

            Anything You Want, You Got It         

            Biography       

            Cleaning the Guns     

            In Real Life     

            My Father and Ezra Pound     

Nickole Brown

            My Book, in Birds      

            To My Grandmother’s Ghost,

            An Invitation for My Grandmother   

            Ten Questions You’re Afraid to Ask, Answered        

Jonathan Corcoran     

            The Rope Swing         

doris diosa davenport           

            verb my noun: a poem cycle 

            After the Villagers Go Home: An Allegory     

            Halloween 2011         

            Halloween 2017         

            for Cheryl D my first lover, 41 years later     

            Three days after the 2017 Solar Eclipse        

            Sept. 1  Invocation     

            a conversation with an old friend     

            Upon realizing

            “The Black Atlantic”   

Victor Depta   

            The Desmodontidae  

Silas House    

            How To Be Beautiful  

Fenton Johnson          

            Bad Habits     

Charles Lloyd  

            Wonders        

Jeff Mann       

            Not for Long   

            Training the Enemy    

            Yellow-eye Beans      

            The Gay Redneck Devours Draper Mercantile          

            Three Crosses

            Homecoming 

Mesha Maren

            Among

Kelly McQuain

            Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers 

            Brave  

            Vampirella     

            Monkey Orchid          

            Alien Boy        

            Mercy 

            Ritual 

Rahul Mehta  

            A Better Life               

Ann Pancake  

            Ricochet         

Carter Sickels 

            Saving

Savannah Sipple        

            WWJD / about love    

            WWJD / about letting go       

            Jesus and I Went to the Wal-Mart    

            Catfisting       

            Pork Belly       

            A List of Times I Thought I Was Gay  

            Jesus Signs Me Up For a Dating App  

Anita Skeen    

            Double Valentine       

            How Bodies Fit           

            Need  

            Something You Should Know

            The Clover Tree         

            The Quilt: 25 April 1993         

            While You Sleep         

Aaron Smith   

            Blanket           

            There’s still one story

            Twice 

Julia Watts     

            Handling Dynamite    

“Lot: Stories” by Bryan Washington— A Collection of Houston Stories

Washington, Bryan. “Lot: Stories”, Riverhead Books, 2019.

A Collection of Houston Stories

Amos Lassen

I am really not much of a short story reader and the only ones that I read are those I teach and those I review. Yet I must admit that I was completely taken in by this collection by Bryan Washington. He knows his Houston and he shares it with us and we see it in all of its glory and all of its underbelly. In fact, the Houston we have here is a microcosm of America. We have stories about the coming of age of a biracial son who is discovering his sexuality, a young woman having an affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing and a reluctant legendary creature. The stories are witty and well-written and they  show what makes a community, a family, and a life. Actually these stories explore trust and love in ways we have not seen before. The characters are very real (or as real as we want to make them).

This is quite a sensitive look at Houston’s struggling working class and Washington is exact and empathetic. The book grabs us and does not let go and even when we have read the last story, it all stays with us for quite a while. We need to think a bit more about what we read and I am still thinking about it some two weeks after I finished reading it.

Washington and his stories explore the many experiences of families and friends in the margins of the Houston-area. An unnamed narrator is our guide and he navigates an adolescence of poverty while confronting his own identity as a gay man. Meanwhile, in the periphery, we encounter unfaithful spouses, lovers who have been scorned, drug dealers, sex workers and we see the indelible effects of gentrification on those at the bottom of society.  

What is really amazing is that this is Washington’s first book.  Washington writes with poignant style that cuts through layers to reveal a tenderness of the characters. None of the characters that we meet in Lot are strangers. They are our mothers, sisters, neighbors, coworkers, service men/women, friends and Washington succeeds in bringing them together pulls them all together through short stories, taking us in-between the cracks and showing how these characters feel and what drives them (or doesn’t, as is sometimes the case when writing so real). This is a series of stories that are told with no agenda yet we read of “homosexuality and identification,  gentrification and its victims, and the power of family to both save us and fail us.” 

“Stella Maris: And Other Key West Stories” by Michael Carroll— In the Conch Republic

Carroll. Michael. “Stella Maris: And Other Key West Stories”, Turtle Point Press, 2019.

In the Conch Republic

Amos Lassen

I love Michael Carroll’s new story collection but I have been hesitant to post my review since it will be out until April. This means that it cannot be read and enjoyed just yet. Nonetheless,  something whispered in my ear today to go ahead and write the review and post it to perhaps build up some enthusiasm for the collection of stories. I have a tendency to gush over books that I really like but I am going to restrain myself this time and be a bit conservative even though I want to yell out that I LOVE THIS BOOK.

I also love Key West but it has been many many years since I have been there and I doubt I will get there again anytime soon. Carroll did make me want to reconsider that thought and who knows what may come my way. I would never have dreamt that I would leave the intoxication and magic of New Orleans to live in staid and intellectual Boston but here I am.

What surprised me the most about “Stella Maris” is that I traditionally do not read or like short stories; I just do not enjoy them and I found myself deeply involved in each of Carroll’s eight stories. We enter a different world in Key West and even today it reminds us of how it was when who-was-who mixed with who-was-there and social class and fame held no importance. Key West has always had that mysterious quality of drawing people to her and not letting them go even when they physically depart. And those who depart do so with some Key West within. It has become of “the” places to go to and has been a beacon that brings people in to its bohemian world that still manages to exist. It is a mecca for the LGBT community and it certainly provided Michael Carroll with a home from where to spin these stories. If you know Key West, you can place the stories in their venue without much thought and if you don’t know Key West you can make up venues—it really doesn’t matter. What you do need is grit to go along with the grittiness of what you read here. I had forgotten (just go along with this lousy sentence structure— I am very aware of it) just how important where you went to college was and what fraternity you were a member of in the lives of Southerners but Carroll quickly reminded me rekindling my memories about the genteelness and class consciousness of Southern queens— especially those from Charleston and Savannah. “My wife was a goddamn alligator. And the weather sucked. I like cute Southern boys, the ones that went to their moron dads’ frats. Kappa Sig and ATO. Hot sexy dopes”.

We have a story about a memorial for a drag queen, Harlan Douglas aka Cherry de Vine (I hadn’t heard the name Harlan since I left college but one of my best friends and fraternity brothers [not Kappa Sig or ATO] was named Harlan). “Key West Funeral” had me flipping pages very quickly. We have a story about two Southern sisters on a cruise ship holiday who have to deal with alcoholism, estrangement, and horrible weather. Then we have a look at two newly divorced gay men who pick themselves up and become part of the evenings at the end of the world. Another story is set at an all-male, clothing-optional resort where guys of all ages literally fall into one another’s paths, enjoy themselves as they please, and  also regale one another on their views and preconceptions. 

Michael Carroll also does not allow us to forget that there was a time that our lives revolved around illness and death. The past may leave us but its mark remains and that mark is often those graves that were left by those who died from AIDS. We became very aware of “our own mortality and the unpredictable nature of life and of survival. It’s about new beginnings and final recognitions.” As you can probably imagine, Carroll is outspoken yet tender, lustful and often enraged, sad and fun at the same time. His writing sparkles and shines as he embraces  the lives of his characters and I am quite sure that he based them on people he knows or had seen in Key West giving these stories a relevance since we all know people like the ones we read about here.

I was not expecting to be emotionally touched by these stories but I am glad I was because it gives me one more thing to give Carroll credit for. The stories are microcosms of our lives and who we are with comedy and tragedy combined. I only met Michael once and that was over a coffee a few years ago and I realized that whatever we talked about that day came back in these stories. They are about our lives and how we see them and it takes a certain kind of writer to be able to relate this—- Michael Carroll surpassed any expectations that I had. He is bold and original and he writes what he wants to write about. Using death as his unifier of his stories, it is our last party on the circuit. I daresay that the sadness we feel in reading some of these stories is replaced by a jubilance  of being alive.

“The Looking Glass: Tales of Light and Dark” by H. L. Sudler— Looking Within

Sudler, H.L. “The Looking Glass: Tales of Light and Dark”, Archer Publishing, 2018. Looking Within Amos Lassen I feel I must begin this review with an explanation. “The Looking Glass” is not a new book for me; I have had a copy for months now and I actually read it when I first received it. I sat down at least five times to write my review and nothing came out of me. Regarding this book, I had complete writer’s block and I could not understand why. I finally realized that this was because this book spoke to me on such a deep and personal level that I did not want to share my feelings but that was not fair to writer H.L. Sudler who was waiting to hear how I felt about his work.  Had reviewed him in the past several ties and my thoughts were always positive but I had reached a point where I had nothing to say and if any of you know me, you know that has to be a special time. To make thigs even more interesting is that I had just posted my “Best List” and this book was not on it. I thought to myself that if it had affected me so much why was I not  sharing that? I decided the time had come to make myself write this review so here goes….. something. One of the blurbs on the book reads, “Are you prepared to look in the mirror? Are you ready to look deep inside yourself”? We know the answer to that. Most of us who read do so for enjoyment and not for self-inspection, etc. We know ourselves, don’t we? I think we can all be surprised at how little we know about ourselves and here is where the personal aspect of Sudler’s book takes us. There are eleven diverse stories here and they take us on self-journeys without our realizing it. We go inside ourselves to places we do not usually go, if ever. Let me just quote Sudler’s thoughts about the stories:
“In GOODMAN, the Devil takes on an unexpected form to torture his prey…in SKEEVE!, a thousand inhuman heartbeats seize the night…in BLOOD MOON, a fraternity hazing takes a monstrous turn…in WRAITH, frightful apparitions deliver a ghastly truth…in NIGHT AS WE KNOW IT, lies and deception underscore a reunion between two old friends…in WAKE THE DEAD, grave robbers discover that evil never really dies…in MIDNIGHT, a handsome playboy has the worst birthday ever…in YOU WON’T FORGET ME, a serial killer plans an elaborate trap for his unsuspecting third victim, his wife…in DAYTRIPPERS, teens take a field trip they’ll never forget…in THE FURY, a devastating betrayal sends a marriage spinning irreversibly out of control, and in THE LOOKING GLASS, flirtation takes an unusual route to love.” While the themes may at first seem quite distanced from our daily lives, I have the feeling that once you read them, you will understand why I say this is such a personal read.  But wait a second— these thought provoking and disturbingstories deal with horror, something that we believe to be far away from us.What we might not realize that each of us has horror buried deep within himselfand like there is love and innocence that is part of our psyche other is alsohorror, fear and even bigotry. This is what I did not want to commit to paperbecause as long as it is in my thoughts no one has to now. The moment it iswritten, it is up for grabs and I do not like allowing myself to be so vulnerable.It usually takes being vulnerable to know who we really are. I did not thinkthat Sudler know me well enough to write about me but then we was not writing aboutme, he wrote about us. I am probably making very little sense but I am completelyin command when I tell you that you must read this book and for the very simplereason that the more we get to know ourselves, the better friends we can be.This review is disjointed and does not make much sense to me andprobably not to you. What I am trying to say is that this little book will helpyou know yourself and all you have to do is to allow yourself to be pulled in.


“Are you ready to gaze into The Looking Glass?”

“Trans Teen Survival Guide” by Fox Fisher and Owl Fence— All you Need to Know To Know

Fisher, Fox and Owl Fox. “Trans Teen Survival Guide”, Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2018.

All You Need to Know

Amos Lassen

Frank, friendly and funny, The “Trans Teen Survival Guide” is “frank, friendly and funny”. But more than that, it is filled with valuable information for transgender and non-binary teens. It is a book that keeps them informed, empowered and armed with all the hints and tips, confidence and practical advice that are needed to navigate life as a trans teen. Fox and Owl Fisher try to answer every question that has to do with trans life. There are chapters on coming out, on proper pronoun usage, how to put on a packer and how to get through cross-hormonal therapy to name just a few.

Fox and Owl are Trans youth activists Fox and Owl put the focus on self-care, expression and pride your unique identity. Because they themselves are trans Fox and Owl are able to tell what it is like to be trans teen and help save some with potentially life-saving advice on dealing with dysphoria or depression. Here is a look the major issue of gender identity and we see that gender is a complicated social construct and is a difficult concept to define.

Being trans means being different and I believe that no harder one tries, the definition becomes more and more difficult. Here is where this book really helps. It is such an important addition to our literature.

 

“Of Kings and Things: Strange Tales and Decadent Poems by Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock” by Eric Stanislaus Stenbock— A Decadent Writer

Stenbock, Eric Stanislaus. “Of Kings and Things: Strange Tales and Decadent Poems by Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock”, MIT Press, 2018.

A Decadent Writer

Amos Lassen

“Of Kings and Things” is an introduction to the decadent writer Stanislaus Eric Stenbock for the general reader. It is made up of morbid stories, suicidal poems, and an autobiographical essay. W. B. Yeats, the poet, called Stencock a “scholar, connoisseur, drunkard, poet, pervert, most charming of men,” Count Stanislaus Eric Stenbock (1860–1895) is the greatest exemplar of the Decadent movement of the late nineteenth century.

He was a friend of Aubrey Beardsley, patron of the extraordinary pre-Raphaelite artist Simeon Solomon, and contemporary of Oscar Wilde. Stenbock died at the age of thirty-six as a result of his addiction to opium and his alcoholism, having only published three slim volumes of suicidal poetry and one collection of morbid short stories. He was a gay man and a convert to Roman Catholicism who owned a serpent, a toad, and a dachshund called Trixie. It was said that toward the end of his life he was accompanied everywhere by a life-size wooden doll that he believed to be his son. His poems and stories are filled with queer, supernatural, mystical, and Satanic themes and original editions of his books are highly sought by collectors.

“Of Kings and Things” is actually the first introduction to Stenbock’s writing for the general reader, offering fifteen stories, eight poems and one autobiographical essay.

Lilith’s Legacy: Prose Poems and Short Stories” by Renee Vivien— First English Translations

Vivien, Renee. “Lilith’s Legacy: Prose Poems and Short Stories”, Snuggly Books, 2018.

First English Translations

Amos Lassen

“Lilith’s Legacy” is made up of four entire collections of the prose poems and short stories of the lesbian Symbolist “Renée Vivien” that have never before appeared in English. These are “Fjord Mists”, “From Green to Violet”, “The She-Wolf Lady”, and “Christ, Aphrodite and Monsieur Pépin”.

This is the first of a projected three volumes of Vivien’s work in translation., collects all the short work published under that name. Vivien is the pen name of Pauline Mary Tarn (1877–1909), a London-born woman who settled in Paris in the late 1890s and became part of the famous lesbian literary and social circle surrounding Natalie Barney; all of her published work was written in French. Her poetry and prose unite symbolist and decadent language and influences with the realities of her life as a lesbian. Some of the work collected here is minor, such as the early snippets and prose poems that begin the book. Vivien’s reworkings of folk tales and Bible stories (such as “The Veil of Vashti,” in which Vashti refuses her husband’s summons to emulate Lilith are original and beautiful). Her series of horror stories in which male narrators fail to understand or work well with the competent and spectacular women around them reflect society of the time and are quite dark. Some of Vivien’s writing has been translated before, but these new translations are comprehensive and readable and give the English speaking world a chance to read her.

Embracing her sexuality as a lesbian in Paris in and her introduction to Natalie Clifford Barney, an American lesbian heiress in Paris greatly influence her work. Vivien’s poetry was influenced by Keats, Swinburne, Baudlaire and Hellenic culture. After bouts of sexual indulgence, drugs and anorexia, Renee died from pneumonia in 1909.

During her lifetime, she published fourteen books of poetry, two novels and three books of short stories. she is credited with bringing Sappho’s sexuality out of the shadows and spent time translating the known works of Sappho into French, illuminating the Greek poetess’ lesboerotic passions. It is through Renee’s works that Sappho has attained the level of muse, goddess of lesbian passion and love.

 Vivien was a woman ahead of her times. She wrote stories and poetry on strong-willed heroic women facing seemingly insurmountable problems in a time when women were encouraged to embrace the domesticity of a drab housewife. Although Renee was a very prolific writer, it is her relationship with Natalie Clifford Barney that interests readers the most.