Monthly Archives: December 2011

“Best Lesbian Erotica 2012” edited by Kathleen Warnock— The Annual Offering

Warnock, Kathleen (editor). “Best Lesbian Erotica 2012”, Cleis Press, 2012.

The Annual Offering

Amos Lassen

If we should ever forget that the year is coming to an end, Cleis Press reminds us when they issue their year’s best books and we are so lucky to have them. I always looking forward to see what is new and what is considered the best and Cleis editors are always right on the button.

“Best Lesbian Erotica” is edited this year by Kathleen Warnock and I don’t recall her ever having done this before but no matter—she has made some very fine choices here. This year’s anthology includes writing by Lea DeLaria, D.L, King (she gets around and we are lucky for that), Amy Butcher, Kiki DeLovely, Kirsty Logan, Treasure Sapphire, Giselle Renarde, Michelle Brennan, Anne Grip, Elena Shearin, Deborah Castellano, Dani M, Evan More, Xan West, Ali Oh, Ily Goyanes, Julie Noel Goodman, Anna Watson, Lulu LaFramboise, Sharon Wachsler, Nancy Irwin and DeJay.

Each story is very erotic and an excellent read. I don’t know how one can pick these stories but it’s a job that has to be done so that we get a cross section of what is out there, Included also is an introduction of Sinclair Sexsmith, sex blogger who also had something to say about the stories included. Get ready to relive some of your wildest fantasies with this collection.

 

Revisiting “ROMEOS”— Love and Gender

Revisiting “Romeos”

Love and Gender

Amos Lassen

Not long ago I wrote a short review of Sabine Bernardi’s “Romeo” and I have been thinking about it a lot lately. I received a screener from Stand Releasing today and anxiously sat down to watch it again. Lukas (Rick Okon) is a twenty year old who is preparing for sexual reassignment surgery. He was born female but has always felt male and now as he goes through puberty, he finds that he gets trapped in uncomfortable situations, He is introduced to the gay scene in Cologne by his best friend, Ine, and he meets and falls for a really hot guy named Fabio (Maximillian Befort) who really does not know about Lukas’s birth gender. Lukas is the process of awakening sexually and what he sees in Fabio is all that is missing in his life especially masculinity and self confidence. Fabio and Lukas develop a relationship and it challenges the boundaries of society and life and love. The film gives us a realistic, honest and humorous look at sex, love and friendship and challenges what we know about transgender issues.

 

Director Bernardi shows us the courage of a young man to live the life he feels is his and that he needs. Lukas wants to be happy and he strives for happiness. Falling in love with Fabio allowed him to find his true identity and in doing so he is able to come to terms with himself and with others. We do not get many movies about transsexuality and to be able to see one that is so honest is a real pleasure. What the movie does is take on a topic that is both daring and problematic and deals with a transgendered person who is attracted to someone of his same gender. We see that the attraction for a female by a male does not guarantee masculinity. It is feeling that really dictates who we are. Most of us hold to the sexual binary and do not want to know about anything else. Here we see the pain and frustration that Lukas feels and we even begin to identify with him a bit.

 

This is a love story but a new kind and it is a movie that must be seen and talked about. It is available from Strand Releasing and will be released on January 17, 2012.

 

 

 

“Benedetto Casanova: The Memoirs” by Marten Weber— Homoeroticism and History

Weber, Marten. “Benedetto Casanova: The Memoirs”, Create Space, 2011.

Homoeroticism and History

Amos Lassen

It has taken me a while to get around to this explosive novel by Marten Weber. I have been hearing a great deal about it and my copy came a few days ago so I am now able to comment. This is one of those books that once you begin you cannot stop reading. I am sure many of us had no awareness that the famously infamous Casanova had a gay brother (and whether he really did or not is not important as this is a novel).

Benedetto was a bit younger that his brother Giacomo and entered a religious order so that he could keep tabs on his big brother. He has previously had romantic dalliances with men and was actually involved with a German soldier. We learn of Benedetto from his memoirs that were published in 1881 when they were discovered in a private Italian library glued inside of another book. Marten Weber has translated them from the original Italian and published them in English and what we get is fascinating—a story of espionage and romance, friendship and love and lots and lots of sex.

Benedetto was a true Renaissance man—he was a traveler, a philosopher, a musician, a linguist, a diplomat and a spy and he was a good looking gay man who knew not to say no and who would not hear no from another.

If you love a good erotic read, this is most definitely a book for you and to make it even better, Weber is a terrific writer. But there is more—this is a wonderfully intelligent book and excellent literature. We get a look at the church and see its influence on the lives of the people and on European politics. Benedetto turned to the church as he felt the need for a higher power, as a place to get direction and guidance yet Weber also shows us the hypocrisy of the institution and how it controlled those who followed it.

Another interesting aspect that we see here concerns the way women were regarded and treated and we see that by being considered chattel they were forced to cede to the demands of men. And that was somewhat true of gay men as well. The story is absolutely fascinating but even more fascinating is the author’s writing. He is witty and his command of English prose is incredible. He has created a wonderful literary character with Benedetto who aside from being exceptionally handsome (and accommodating) is also a kind benevolent person who is in love with his boyfriend but cannot help himself to partake of gay sex when the opportunity arises (and it arises over and over again).

We are given a historical look at the time and we really get a feel for 18th century Europe. Weber’s descriptions are beautiful, whether he writes about private homes or public institutions.

The book is filled with sex and Weber uses diversity here as well. There is romance and wild animalistic couplings as well as clinical descriptions. Weber treats society similarly and gives us discussions of politics, religion and philosophy. Overall, this is a love story with lots of romance and like this brother, Benedetto pursued love and this is depicted realistically—so much so that I had to remind myself that I was reading fiction. I totally and whole heartedly recommend this amazing book and once you read it you will see why.

 

“The Christmas Whore” by Mykola Dementiuk— A Twisted Christmas

Dementiuk, Mykola. “The Christmas Whore”, Synergy, 2011.

A Twisted Christmas

Amos Lassen

I am a bit late with this review but Christmas this year brought me so many books that I am finally catching up. Mykola Dementiuk never fails to entertain and provide a good read and with “The Christmas Whore” gives us an O. Henry type story about the holiday of giving. After fighting with his girlfriend, a guy finds himself out on the street on the day most people spend with their families. Lost and lonely, he enters a coffee shop where he meets Sunny and they share a quick love making experience in a cheap hotel. He takes her home to his girlfriend’s apartment and when she comes home she finds the two of them together and… Now you did not think I would tell you what happened, did you?

Dementiuk really knows how to tell a story and here he combines the season with the plot and comes up with a stunner. It is short and sweet and so much fun that you just do not want it to end but end it does and you will find yourself with a smile on your face.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Men of Grand Street” by Mykola Dementiuk— Loving and Learning

Dementiuk, Mykola. “The Men of Grand Street”, Noble Publishing, 2011.

Loving and Learning

Amos Lassen

So many of us have had crushes on our teachers and vice versa and I must admit that in my own academic life I have had students come on to me. We must learn to draw the line and sublimate how we feel so as not to cause an unnecessary situation. Students need us and we represent knowledge to them. We are also responsible for molding lives so we must be very careful in the way we relate to our young charges. One of the beautiful things that I have discovered as a teacher and educator is that we also learn from our students and this is just what Dementiuk’s story is about. I can’t say much about the plot without writing spoilers so just let me say that this is a terrific read and should not be missed. I have always admired how Dementiuk develops characters and he does so yet again in “The Men of Grand Street”.

“Best Gay Romance 2012” edited by Richard LaBonte— Man/Man Love

Labonte, Richard (editor). “Best Gay Romance 2012”, Cleis Press, 2012.

Man/Man Love

Amos Lassen

Whenever you Richard Labonte’s name on a book as editor, you already know you are in for a good read. Romance is fun to read about and LaBonte knows how to pick the stories. This anthology contains stories by Steve Berman, Jamie Freeman, Ron Radle, Anthony McDonald, C.C. Williams, Steve Isaak, Fyn Alexander, Rob Rosen, Hakan Lindquist, Martin Delacroix, Simon Sheppard, Gregory Norris and Aaron Chan.

The collection is diverse and covers the spectrum of romance—young love, love that is unexpected, lost love, intergenerational love and so on. The physical aspects of love are here but the stories go beyond that.  The book is a celebration of love with its passion and everything else that goes into making love real. The stories include those about falling in love, about being in love and about leaving love. There is something for everyone here.

“Son of a Ditch” by William Neale— Going Home

Neale, William. “Son of a Ditch”, MLR Press, 2011.

Going Home

Amos Lassen

I always feel good when I find an author that speaks to me (and to everyone else). My latest discovery is William Neale whose book “A New Normal” won me over on the first page. I had to see if my feelings were right so I read another book by him today. “Son a Ditch” ( certainly not the most literary of titles) is about going back to the South after having been away in the Air Force for eight years. Colby Dawson goes home nursing the scars of a relationship that did not work. He is not interested in pursuing love—in fact; it is the farthest thing from his mind. However, he also did not plan on seeing Kyle McCoy, who had been his friend since childhood. Kyle is now deputy sheriff of Moorestown, Tennessee. The two pick up their friendship as if they had never been apart and everything was progressing beautifully until the crooked governor of Tennessee wants to build a state prison next to Colby’s family home. Colby comes from a well respected family but he decides that he is going to be who he is without concern for or thought about his family. As soon as he is back he decides to be Kyle’s roommate. Kyle has been in the closet for a while and in a secret relationship that he ends when he realizes that he has feelings for his old friend.

The chemistry between Kyle and Colby is electric and we get to know them through the way Neale writes of the two. Neale has a gift for building memorable characters and this time we also get Ruth Dawson, Colby’s mother, who plays an important part in the book and we get a wonderful look at the mother and son relationship.

I have read that some think of Neale as writing escapist fiction and that fantasy plays a large part in his writing. I question that a bit because I believe that there are people like the ones Neale writes about—it’s just that we do not always get the opportunity to know them. (And if we cannot know them then we can read about them).

Neale weaves politics and racism into the story and we get to see things through the eyes of Kyle and Colby and we feel their emotions as they are forced to deal with life in small town south. Colby discovers that he has the support of his family even with his sexuality out in the open. To me this is important as we so often tend to be judged just by our sexuality and not by other aspects of our lives. Kyle soon learned that his father would accept him as well as that he was welcomed in Colby’s family.

Let me close by saying that this is another good book by William Neale and I am sure that there are going to be many more good books from him.

“Shayno” by Marten Weber— A New Powerful Voice

Weber, Marten. “Shayno”, CreateSpace, 2010.

A New Powerful Voice

Amos Lassen

Mark my words—Marten Weber is a writer to watch. I just finished reading “Shayno” and sit here mouth agape at the powerful writing it contains. The subject matter is also a bit different and when you put a good story together with a good writer, you quite naturally get a GOOD book. However, good is a bit too mild of a word to describe “Shayno”.

We meet a gay man at mid-life and living in the Silicon Valley. He is jaded, disillusioned, unhappy and suffers from ennui. His job bores him, he has few friends and he has given up on love. But don’t you know, just as he is ready to give everything up Shayne enters his life. Shayne is all any man could hope for—handsome, built. Intelligent, witty, polite. However, Shayne is straight. A friendship grows between the two men as they share common interests—health and fitness, philosophy, reading but with that friendship is sexual tension. Shayne has a strange control over his friend and actually makes him watch as he has sex with women and this is just the beginning.

I cannot praise Weber’s writing highly enough and he is indeed a fresh voice. He uses new techniques that take some getting used to and he is heavy handed with dashes (like me). Sometimes we just don’t know if something has actually been uttered or just heard in the speaker’s mind. The reader is immediately pulled into the story and Weber not only gives us the narrative of what is going on, he peppers it with a bit of social commentary. We read about an obsession and how blindly it happened and we sit with an uneasy feeling as the two men share intelligent conversations which are often sexually stimulating.

We follow the lives of the two men—Shayne and the unnamed gay Englishman living in the United States. There is a third character, Kevin, an Australian who has come to America after his father beat him brutally when he announced he was gay. Kevin is looking for the man he met in Australia.  The relationship between Shayne and the Englishman takes a turn and appears to be going into a dangerous area.

Weber writes about abuse and submission, violence and humiliation. What is interesting is that there are times these are asked for and not pushed off on a character. Weber has done quite a job with his characters because we actually feel for them and our feelings change. It is really a good feeling to get away from werewolves, vampires and shape shifters for a change and enjoy a book that is actually intelligent throughout. We watch as a relationship develops and it is painful but we also get to see the motivations of the characters.

 It was a clever touch not to name the narrator since most of the novel takes place in his mind and he shares only what he wants to share. Both Kevin and the Englishman are looking for something and Shayne is the common interest or so it seems. We learn that Kevin was not exactly in command of his coming out adventure in Australia and he is looking for the man who turned him on to gay sex. What we don’t know for sure is if he is seeking love or vengeance. He is lost and totally innocent. His family has turned him out and Kevin believes that the only person who cares for him is Shayne, even though he raped him. Our Englishman is fed up with the life he has led and even though he knows that Shayne is not the right man for him, he does not stop the relationship once it begins. He is so jaded that he can expect no more from life. Kevin and the Englishman don’t meet until the end of the story bur we are aware of how much their lives are enmeshed. We want them to find each other and hope that they do and are curious to know what will happen when they do.

 I love that I had questions like this as I read. They were catalysts to make me keep on going although the prose was enough to do that. If this is what we can expect from Marten Weber, then we have a powerful new literary voice and I have a very strong feeling that we shall be hearing a great deal more both from and about him.

“One Night Only: Erotic Encounters” edited by Violet Blue— Once and Only Once

Blue, Violet (editor). “One Night Only: Erotic Encounters”, Cleis Press, 2012.

Once and Only Once

Amos Lassen

I am sure that each of us can remember that time we had the best sex ever but it only happened once and was never repeated not will it be. It might have been a chance encounter or a fantasy or even something planned but….It was and will not be again. Violet Blue has edited an anthology of such adventures. May Deva’s “Subway Subterfuge” is one such story and it is a very hot read. Imagine a queer tryst on a subway in a crowded car. How wonderfully decadent!!!

We have had experiences where we have seen someone and lusted, got it on and it was over. The act was exciting as is the memory of it that remains. I have always thought that stories about one night stands were hot and Violet Blue gives us some of the best of them. The writers included ere are Alison Tyler, Kev Henley, Emerald, May Deva, Cynthia Hamilton, Chrissie Bentley, Donna George Story, Jan Darby, Heidi Champa, Daniel Burnell, D.L. King (love her), Kristina Wright, Thomas S. Roche, Austin Stevens, Lily K. Cho, N.T. Morley, J.G. Frederick, Abby Abbot and, of course, Rachel Kramer Bussel.

If you have no fantasies before you read this, you will by the time you are finished. Taking a chance on sex can really turn the world around and Blue sure knows to pick the stories.

 

“At Second Glance” edited by Eric Andrew-Katz— Looking at Things from a Different Perspective

Andrews-Katz, Eric (editor). “At Second Glance: Gay City: Volume 4”, Gay City Health Project, 2011.

Looking at Things from a Different Perspective

Amos Lassen

I had never heard of Gay City Anthologies and probably would still not know of them had I not met the editor, Eric Andrews-Katz in May at Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. The anthologies (and this is number four) support the King County, Washington gay health project so right away we know that by buying a copy, we are making a contribution to help  the reduction of HIV infection. If the book is good reading—and this one is—you get a double treat.

As members of the LGBT community, we tend to look at the world differently and usually from the margins. We discover that we belong to different categories and, because of that, our perceptions are different. We soon learn to interpret what we see, hear and read in terms of our own separate but striving to be equal community and if you look at the last ten years, you see that the separateness is narrowing. Literarily we also read differently as the editor explains to us in his well-written introduction. What the book does is take familiar stories and scenarios and present them from the queer perspective. What a novel idea!! There is diversity in the stories featured just as there is diversity in the writers. We have contributions by Ryan Crawford, Steve Dunham, Gregory L Norris, Ted Cornwell, Felice Picano, Eric Andrews-Katz, Ryan Keawkane, Casondra Brewster, Charles Green, Byron Darden, Craig Martin, Steven Goupil, Evan J Peterson and Louis Flint Ceci.

What I really like about this book aside from its purpose is that it provides new food for thought. I found that as I read, I contemplated my place in the larger communities-both the societal status quo and my LGBT community. By taking us to new territory and to already visited places, we get a chance to think about who we and what our purpose is. Additionally, the idea of re-imagining and reinterpreting is always fun. As the characters in the stories have gone through changes, so have we. And as we change, our way of thinking changes with us. The LGBT community is now not only finding its voice but also how to use it. I maintain that the more we read, the more powerful we become as reading breeds thought and thought usually breeds action. “Second Glances” is a great place to either start or continue that action.

Vincent Kovar is the overall editor of the Gay City series and I am sure that he is very proud of what it has become. How I wish every city had something like this but since we don’t we can learn from Seattle.