Monthly Archives: July 2013

“SOLO”— When Secrets Threaten Love

solo

“Solo”

When Secrets Threaten Love

Amos Lassen

Two Argentine men meet and fall in love in Buenos Aires but their erotic and intimate relationship is threatened by the secrets of each. Manuel (Patrico Ramos) is a good-looking man who suffers from the pain his previous relationship has left him with but he is bored sitting at home and dwelling on it. He meets Julio (Mario Veron), an unemployed, lonely guy, in an online chat room. When the two actually meet face-to-face, both men feel a spark and they begin to enjoy an erotic and sensual sexual relationship but because each has problems with intimacy, trust and fear of being hurt, both men have difficulty with commitment. As they continue to meet, secrets from their pasts are exposed but neither man (as well as the audience) knows whether what they feel and remember is real, imaginary or just lies. It is difficult for them and for us to determine who is real and if they feel sincere love.

Marcelo Brien Stamm directed this story of love and lies that is chilling and leads to an unexpected ending. The men are hot and sexy; the plot is compelling and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

“Oy Vey! I’m Glad I’m Gay: A Memoir” by Barry Losinsky— Looking Within Himself

oy vey

Losinsky, Barry. “Oy Vey! I’m Glad I’m Gay: A Memoir”, Intracoastal Media, 2013.

Looking Within Himself

Amos Lassen

Here is the book I always wanted to write and I am not saying that I won’t but for the time being, Barry Losinsky has beaten me to it. His is a wonderful witty memoir about coming of age as a gay Jew against the background of the war in Vietnam, race riots and the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, a time that was very difficult in this country. Losinsky and I also share careers—he is a longtime school psychologist, I began as a high school teacher. We both had to find a way to accept ourselves and to have others accept us. Losinsky was able to come to terms with himself (which is not so easy in a Jewish family), falls in love and uses what he has learned in his own life to help others. He writes with warmth and honesty and he takes us with him as he explores gay life and has something to say about the power of acceptance.

Losinsky grew up poor and he was overweight. If that was not enough, he had a Jewish mother and yes, in many cases as here, the stereotype holds true. She was involved in every aspect of her son’s life because she intruded into it. His father had little to say and was not always around. Losinsky knew he was different and it was painful for him and he began a period of self-loathing. Yet he managed to overcome and eventually accept himself and gain acceptance from others. He succeeded as a school counselor and because of his own background; he was able to reach out to others. It was not an easy journey and many of us have had similar experiences. We experience, once again, the angst, alienation, self-discovery and transformation we all went through in accepting our sexuality and we all know that it was not easy. As we read Losinsky’s story it as, as if, we are right there with him sharing his secrets and his joys and sorrows. We are with him in an ethnically and religiously diverse section of Baltimore which is in effect a microcosm of American life. My New Orleans years were very much the same. It was rough being a Jewish adolescent but even rougher when we add that little three letter “gay” word to it. Back then there was no support—no PFlag or other organizations and we heard our parents regard a single man as a “feigele” which really means little bird but was used to describe what they called a “fairy”.

As Losinsky continued his journey of self-discovery and acceptance, he moved from being a “fearful virgin” to coming to terms with his homosexuality. He was been in a committed relationship for years but he went through periods of drag and self-hatred, promiscuity and wanton sex and in his profession to deal with abused teens and special teachers. This is a rewarding story that is not always pretty because it is also painful. Finding out who you are can cause pain as we are all aware.

“This is a book of personal suffering (most of it unnecessary), fear, confusion and even at times, self-loathing. But it is also a book of self-sacrifice, survival, experimentation, growth, transformation and most of all, endless love and kindness”.

Regardless of one’s sexuality, religion, gender there are experiences here that we have all dealt with and we are so lucky to have this writer present these to us with wit and style.

Today Losinsky is retired but remains one of the unsung heroes of the gay movement. He is from a generation where coming-out was not a safe activity—it was not an activity; it was almost heretical. Like myself, neither of us ever thought that gay marriage would become a national issue and a reality. He shares his Jewish roots with us and shows how they play an important part in his life and here I totally identified. In fact, I consider myself Jewish before I think of myself as a gay man. Being Jewish both of us were taught not just tolerance (a word I despise) but acceptance of others. Both of us were not aware of any other gay Jews as we grew up and it was not until we left the nest that we became aware of others. I feel he mirrored myself in this sentence from an interview he did with “The Forward” and where I first heard of this book:
“I wanted to show the indelible influence that my Jewishness and my on-going addiction to food has played throughout my life. And my title, I hope, encapsulates the theme of “all’s well that ends well.”” He further states and I totally agree. “As concerns gay Jews, we’ve come a long way since my adolescence and young adult life. My message would be “it gets better.””

The Martini Chronicles (a collection of drinks and drama)” by Gregory Gerard— In Three Parts

Martini Chronicles CoverShot

Gerard, Gregory. “The Martini Chronicles (a collection of drinks and drama)”, Amazon Digital Services, 2013.

In Three Parts

Amos Lassen

I have been reviewing books and movies for some years now and I rarely come across something that I do not know how to approach or am not sure how to review. However, “The Martini Chronicles” while being great fun is somewhat “unreviewable”. I saw a post about the book and wrote to the author with the desire to review it because the idea of combining drinks, drama and literature sounds like a great idea…and it is. However, any review that I might write could ruin a wonderful read for someone.

What makes this so clever is that in each chapter there is a recipe for a martini and a themed conversation between the characters. For example we meet Chuck, a gay man who really wants to be involved in a meaningful relationship. We also meet Patty, a straight woman who wants the closeness and friendship that he husband is unable, for whatever reason, to give her. Chuck and Patty have a standing Thursday night date where they share experiences and friendship.

The chapters are divided by the kind of martini and the kind of conversation. It just so happens that Chuck and Patty have Thursday night as the time they can share their loneliness and their friendship while drinking a martini unique to them.

We all know that good drinks foster good conversation and good conversation can solve problems and situations. I can only say that I whole-heartedly recommend all three volumes of “The Martini Chronicles”—you might just find the perfect drink as well as a way to deal with something that is bothering you.

 

“WELCOME TO THE MACHINE”— The 12 Commandments of the Music Industry

“WELCOME TO THE MACHINE”

The 12 Commandments of the Music Industry

Amos Lassen

welcome to the machine

Welcome to the Machine” is a documentary analysis of the functionality in music business. This automatically makes the film a 100% documentary with comedy and drama, as well as 100% semi-investigative. In 12 chapters we see a day in the life of a music star. The film looks at the core of the music business machine without looking at genre or categories. There are thousands of different music worlds but only one business. The Austrian micro cosmos is being explored, as well as the global music scene in New York or London, Helsinki or Tel Aviv. Not always serious but self-critical and above all ruthless – after all it is only about one thing: music.
It examines what is to be considered when starting a band? What does a manager actually do? How do music media, band contests and other promotion strategies work? Is there a formula for success? The film gives a clear answer to that, although that is to say that there are as many formulas for success as there are artists/bands. This is clearly shown in all the interviews, which have been taken with national and international stars during the production of “Welcome to the Machine”. From star soprano Natalia Ushakova to former Modern Talking singer Thomas Anders, from Cypress Hill and One Republic & MTV legend Ray Cokes to the rockers from Nazareth, more than 100 artists allow us be a part of their experiences which are not always good. In a pointed and amusing way they talk about their own mistakes that got them noticed in the music business. Out of their own experiences they explain why it worked out or why it can also not work out. Not just the artists get a say in “Welcome to the Machine”, but also music journalists, label operators, promoters, concert hosts and many more, all of these are active parts of that “machine”.

The young and ambitious band “The New Vitamin” tried putting all of these “tips & tricks” from the above stars into practice. The young Viennese electro rockers test the professionals experience for its compliancy of becoming a star. Doing that they’re filmed in the recording studio, while arguing during rehearsals and band contests.

The different chapters form an independent unity. The various topics are processed informative and humorously by using different methods. A diverse panorama of an omnipresent but mostly hidden working industry is the result. Diverting and understandably narrated.
Also because of that “Welcome to the Machine” definitely isn’t just a film for experts, but mainly great entertainment for everyone who is mad about music. Most of all though “Welcome to the Machine” is a must for prospective musicians, no matter what genre they intend to work in.

The questions considered include: Is there a secret recipe for success? How did the established bands make it to where they are, and how on earth does one get a record deal? There are a limited number of steps a young band will have to take in order to even get noticed.

 

The globally focused but truly Austrian documentation was conceived and produced by Andreas Steinkogler, who has worked for the music channel GOTV and is now working as a director and cinematographer for various production companies. Moreover he’s band manager and also DJ. He was supported by Hannes Höttl (music journalist, musician, author, former label manager, former A&R)

 

The interviews include: Adam Green (US), A.F.I. (US), The Album Leaf (US), Amorphis (FL), Asaf Avidan & The Mojos (IL), Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (US), Bloodhound Gang (US), Blood Red Shoes (UK), Blumentopf (DE), Buckcherry (US), Bullet For My Valentine (UK), Bunny Lake (AT), Chilly Gonzalez (CA), Coldcut (UK), Combichrist (NO), Gabriella Cilmi (AU), Cypress Hill (US), Dälek (US), Danko Jones (CA), Disturbed (US), Donots (DE), Eight Legs (UK), Fatboy Slim (UK), Fehlfarben (DE), Fettes Brot (DE), Gentleman (DE), Die Goldenen Zitronen (DE), Halestorm (US), The Heavy (UK), Helloween (DE), The Hidden Cameras (CA), HIM (FL), Infected Mushrooms (IL), Jan Vogler (DE), Japanese Popstars (IE), Kim Wilde (UK), Kool And The Gang (US), Lacuna Coil (IT), Lordi (FI), Lydia Lunch (US), Marina and the Diamonds (UK), Maximilian Hecker (DE), Megadeth (US), Melissa auf der Maur (CA), Morcheeba (UK), Nada Surf (US), Natalia Ushakova (AT), Nazareth (UK), New Model Army (UK), New Young Pony Club (UK), One Republic (US), Oomph! (DE), Papa Roach (US), Paradise Lost (UK), The Parlotones (ZA), Peaches (CA), Helen Feng (CN), Das Pop (BE), Otis Taylor (US), Shantel (DE), Die Sterne (DE), Steve Aoki (US), Sunrise Avenue (FI), Suzie Quatro (US), Texas Terri Bomb (US), Thomas Anders (DE), Timid Tiger (DE), The Reverend Peyton´s´ Big Damn Band (US), TV Buddhas (IL), Uriah Heep (UK), You Love Her Coz She´s Dead (UK), Xiu Xiu (US), Yaron Herman (IL), The New Vitamin (AT) and others.
 

There are also interviews with music business professionals: Anton Corbijn (Director), Ray Cokes (MTV Legend), Marie Clausen (Senior Product Manager K7 Records NY), Rupert Hine (Producer), Thorsten Schliesche (Napster Vice President Sales & Marketing Europe), Jim Mahoney (Vice President American Association of Independent Music), Prof. Felix Oberholzer-Gee (Harvard Business School), Hannes Eder (General Manager Universal Music Austria), Joachim Hentschel (Rolling Stone), Mag. Thomas Böhm (Amadeus Awards), Prof. Stan J. Liebowitz (School of Management University of Texas), Georg Spatt (Head Of Radio Station Ö3), Jörg Timp (Manager Starkult Promotion Berlin), Sasha Saedi (Senior A&R Manager, Universal), Klaus Totzler (Musicjournalist, ORF), Thomas Rabitsch (Produzent), Walter Gröbchen (Monkey Music), Josef Schartner (PR), Anna Katzdobler (PR), Michael Gaissmeier (PR). 

“ODD PEOPLE OUT”— The Gay Community in Cuba

OddPeopleOut

“Odd People Out”

The Gay Community in Cuba

Amos Lassen

 We know so little about Cuba and the gay community there but then we have this documentary about the marginalization, repression and denial of gays and lesbians during the first twenty years of the Cuban Revolution as seen through the eyes and heard through voice of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas. What we have here is the testimony about a unique time in history by a unique writer. The film shows both archival footage as well as contemporary.

Arenas is the main character in this account by other writers and artists who were part of his life, and who were also punished and persecuted by the Cuban regime.  The film shows us a lot about Reinaldo’s life, about the Cuban gay community that surrounded him before the revolution, and about the hardships he endured after it.  Directed by Manuel Zayas this is an important view of our neighbor to the south.

“The film is a serious allegation against the lack of freedom of intellectuals and artists on the island, against repression of homosexuals and displayed a forgotten image of Fidel Castro haranguing contain expansion and manifestation of homosexuals in Havana of the sixties. Zayas concludes his adventure: “The producer seeking funding prior to filming visited a Spanish TV channel and there told him, ‘Who would be interested in stories of queer?”.
We are very interested in Cuba just as we are interested in the treatment of members of our community in every part of the world. The title is taken from the way Fidel Castro spoke down to the gays he saw out. Essentially the film is a re-visitation of the life of Arenas– his impoverished childhood, youthful revolutionary exuberance, precocious literary renown, censorship by the state, incarceration, flight in the 1980 Mariel exodus, decline from AIDS, and eventual suicide. We see Arenas as a human and with approachably human dimensions. Remarkably, it does so with a mere handful of images of the writer, instead relying on his voiceover narration, smartly edited from archival sources, to span a series of successively more revelatory interviews with his literary peers and family.

Cuba was not aware that the film was being made—it was financed by Spain. It opens with Arenas’ uncle Carlos in the boondocks of rustic Oriente province, pointing out the verses that little Reinaldo would carve into the trunks of palm trees. Zayas managed to draft the uncle into searching for Arenas’ long-vanished biological father, José Antonio, providing a loose pursuit structure that alternates with copious archival footage and interviews with other gay Cuban authors suppressed to varying degrees by Castro’s regime.

The dramatist Antón Arrufat makes a study in contrasts with the poet Delfín Prats, once Arenas’ cruising buddy but today a fretful pauper living in a near poverty. Then there are the encounters with the writer’s next of kin. Impish and droll, the actress Ingrid González recalls their marriage of convenience; Uncle Carlos actually does track down the biological father, now a diminished vagrant. Reinaldo’s enfeebled mother, Oneida, drops the biggest emotional bombshell, reminiscing over her “clever” boy but steadfast in her homophobic rejection of the man.

With masterful restraint, the live-action footage of Arenas is saved for the final minutes, and after hearing his voice throughout the film it comes as a shock to see him in a silent, melancholy reverie. A closing title noting his 1990 suicide serves to remind us of how profoundly the island has changed since that moment, when the ruinous consequences of the Soviet Union’s disintegration were not yet fully apparent.

Two decades on, it is harder for us to appreciate the firestorm that once raged over this film which featured Arenas among several other prominent exiles denouncing Castro’s appalling UMAP camps where homosexuals and other “antisocial” elements, were imprisoned from 1965 to 1967. Castro’s Cuba has been, and remains, an inhospitable terrain for gay and lesbian Cubans. Yet the enduring fixation on the UMAP infamy obscures the complicated ways that homosexuals’ fortunes have evolved over the revolution’s 46-year history. “Through its nuanced portraits of contemporary gay authors and indeed by its very existence”, the film is a testament to a more perplexing 21st-century Cuban reality.

 

“Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” by Reza Aslan— Two Thousand Years Ago….

zealot

Aslan, Reza. “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth”, Random House, 2013.

Two Thousand Years Ago….

Amos Lassen

Some two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and so-called miracle worker roamed the hills of the Galilee. As he did, he gathered followers so that he could bring into being his so-called “Kingdom of God”. This new organization represented a threat to the established order and the status quo and he was captures, tortured and done away with  because he was an enemy of the state. Yet shortly after his death, his followers called him God.

Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of “Zealot” is that the author states that Jesus was not strictly a zealot even though this is the word that Aslan uses as the title of his book. The serious zealots, Aslan tells us, were those with a capital “Z”, a revolutionary party that came into being in Jerusalem at the time of the uprising against Rome in 66 B.C.E., years after Jesus dies. Zeal, as an idea, is derived from the Hebrew word “kina” and had already had a long and active history among the Jews and goes as far back as the time of the Exodus before the children of Israel entered the land. Perhaps it might be easier to understand when we look at the word  “kina” which is also the root for the word “jealousy” and is even more fascinating when we look at the English relationship between the words “jealous” and “zealous” and realize that while one can exist without the other, when they do exist together, situations are greatly heightened. In fact, analyzing the Hebrew word “kina” can lead one to an entire new level of understanding.

Pinchas, Aaron’s grandson, was the first zealot and we reminded that in the book of Numbers, he murdered another Israelite by impaling him and his pagan lover with a javelin like pole. Pinchas actually found favor with God because of this murder and God says “[Pinchas] has turned my wrath away from the children of Israel because he was zealous for my sake”.  We can then understand the word “zeal” to mean a jealous passion for the sanctity of God and an overwhelming desire to avenge God’s enemies. In Judea, at the time of Jesus, zeal was not only religious passion but political passion as well. God has promised the land of Israel as a “yerusha”, an inheritance to the children of Israel forever but the land was being ruled by the Romans whose troops were guarding the temple and tax collectors were taking money from the poor and feeding themselves with it. There was, indeed, a desire for national independence that was coupled with the desire to restore the sovereignty of God and these two aspects came together in the idea of a Messiah, a figure who was supposed to be a divine redeemer and a king on earth. Because of this union of worldly and other worldly grievances that caused Judea to become the difficult place that it was especially in terms of the Romans being able to govern the area.

The Jews were offended on God’s behalf every time a Roman legionary misbehaved and there were so many instances of this that if we read Josephus we assume that the rebellion in 66 B.C.E. actually came too late. Christianity had ignored this concept for thousands of years. With St. Paul, Christian doctrine emphasized Christ as a cosmic principle which ignored his humanity. It was not until the 18th century that Christians acknowledged Jesus’ Judaism and that his ideas about God and redemption came into being as a result of the common culture of his time. Aslan maintains that in order to understand Jesus it is also necessary to understand the culture and the zeal that was at its core. What Aslan gives us is a portrait of Jesus as a Jewish nationalist, a zealous revolutionary who like other Jews of the time was swept up in the political and religious turmoil of Palestine in the first century.

The real Jesus is nowhere like the image of the gentle shepherd pictured previously. He was not known through objective documentation and the earliest non-religious reference to Jesus was not written until he had been dead some 60 years. The scriptures are products of an internal Christian struggle on how he was to be remembered. What they wanted had little to do with history but everything to do with spirituality. Regarding Jesus, the writers of the Gospels felt that they needed their story to fit in with the pre-existing Jewish expectations about the Messiah. When we understand this, we can better comprehend the conflicts and the contradictions in the four gospels. For example—where did Jesus come from? Christmas carols say he is a child of Bethlehem but he is also known as Jesus of Nazareth which is a town in the Galilee quite removed from Bethlehem. The gospel of Luke tries to explain this by inventing a story about the Roman census and that Joseph and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Jerusalem to comply with the census and Bethlehem while not far from Jerusalem is still not the set destination. Here nothing makes any sense but it makes no difference as everything is beside the point whatever that point might be. We then realize that Jesus had to be from the same place as King David because the Messiah is to come from the House of David. However, to further confound the issue, Jerusalem is the city of David and not Bethlehem and at this point I am totally confused. What is clear is that those who penned the holy writings wrote what they wanted. What we also see is that while solving one discrepancy, another comes to the fore.

What we get is a paradox—we are only able to form some idea of him from what is written but we are only able to evaluate the scriptures if we have some idea of what Jesus had been like. Aslan maintains that the “real” Jesus was, above all else, a Jewish zealot. He was a figure who played on the familiar tropes of Jewish grievance to ignite a mass movement. He envisioned, according to Aslan, a new world order that was radical, dangerous and revolutionary. The only response that Rome could possibly give was to arrest and execute his followers whom they considered to be guilty of sedition. Jesus sounded like such a zealot in demanding that the land and people of Israel, God’s property, be returned to God and freed from Roman control. He was labeled as a “bandit”, a term which was used for all kinds of revolutionaries in Judea. Bandits did not then mean thieves like it does today—it was used as a term that was meant to insult. He was crucified because, like the other two men killed with him, because he dared to rebel by agitating for Jewish independence. Aslan goes one step further—he says that

Jesus of the Gospels was much more than a Jewish nationalist. If he were simply a zealot, he would not be remembered today. “When Jesus spoke about God as his Father, or called himself the Son of Man, or said that the Kingdom of Heaven was coming, his words did have a political bearing, as Aslan shows; but they also had a much broader and more mysterious application”. Jesus radicalized the language of Jewish concept of the Messiah in such a way that it could be turned against Judaism itself. This was more than zeal; it was an act of religious creativity that turned a minor Jewish preacher and miracle-worker into the Christian son of God.

“Zealot” is a new and fresh look at one of the greatest stories ever told. This book affirms the radical and transformative nature of Jesus of Nazareth’s life and mission. The result is a thought-provoking, elegantly written biography that reads like a novel and presents us with not just a portrait of a man but also of a time, and the birth of a religion.

TRIANGLES – Living Survivors of the Holocaust

gayholocausta

Historians note that, between 1933 and 1945, Germany’s National Socialist (Nazi) government under Adolf Hitler attempted to rid German territory of people who did not fit its vision of a “master Aryan race,” foremost were the Jews, but often lost in the world’s consciousness of the Holocaust were their efforts to exterminate homosexuals.

The Nazi campaign against homosexuality targeted a “degeneracy” that threatened the “disciplined masculinity” of Germany. Denounced as “antisocial parasites” and as “enemies of the state,” more than 100,000 men were arrested under a broadly interpreted law against homosexuality.

Gay Holocaust prisoners were forced to wear a pink triangle to denote their “special status.” Courtesy the Holocaust Museum.

Approximately 50,000 men served prison terms as convicted homosexuals, while an unknown number were institutionalized in mental hospitals. Others—perhaps hundreds—were castrated under court order or coercion.

Analyses of fragmentary records suggest that between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexual men were imprisoned in concentration camps, where many died from starvation, disease, exhaustion, beatings, and murder.

Now comes an attempt, at the end of the Holocaust survivors’ lives, to document their experiences so that it can be said about homosexuals and it is by the Jews – “Never Again.”

TRIANGLES is a compelling, heartfelt documentary film that helps give an intimate face and voice to Living Survivors of the Holocaust in their own words.

– See more at: http://wehonews.com/z/wehonews/archive/page.php?articleID=8103#sthash.D5OYUuKZ.dpuf

TRIANGLES, a film by Swordfish Productions’  Ann P Meredith, focuses on a series of intimate story tellings by a man Josef Aleksander 89, born in Warsaw, Poland a survivor of an unprecedented six (6) camps: four(4) concentration camps and two (2)extermination camps; a woman Paula Lebovics 79 born September 1933 in Austrovietz, Poland a Survivor of Auschwitz; a ‘Hidden Child’ Gabriella Yvonne Karin 82, born in 1930 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.

Gay Holocaust prisoners were forced to wear a pink triangle to denote their “special status.” Courtesy the Holocaust Museum.

Iin addition to those tales, the film contains archival footage of Rudolf Brazda, aged 98; a concentration camp survivor and gay male ‘Pink Triangle’ who died in August 2011 in Paris; Anne Berkovitz 87 born in Berlin in 1926 survivor of The Kinder Transport Refugee Children Movement Rescue Mission; John Honigsfeld 70, born in Guryev; Kazakstan the former Soviet Union March 1942 Eva Nathansonborn January 1941 in Budapest, Hungary and a survivor of the Underground Railroad.

In addition to those memoirs, Rochelle Saidel, founder of Remember the Women Institute put in, ‘Stephan K’ aka Teo, a Polish gay male homosexual survivor of work camps who passed for straight, Regina Hirsh age 84 born in Ludge, Poland in 1939 and a survivor of Auschwitz, and many more.

Ms. Meredith seeks additional interviews with Jewish or gay Holocaust survivors in order to finish the project. Additionally, Swordfish Productions hopes you will assist in bringing this film to life by donating to the non-profit production.

– See more at: http://wehonews.com/z/wehonews/archive/page.php?articleID=8103#sthash.IO2wclRS.dpuf

“Sensual Travels: Gay Erotic Stories” by Michael Luongo— “The Best of Gay Travel Erotica”

sensual travels

Luongo, Michael. “Sensual Travels: Gay Erotic Stories”, Bruno Gmunder, 2013.

“The Best of Gay Travel Erotica”

Amos Lassen

Almost everyone I know loves to travel and they all have stories. There is something stories of other places that is enticing and when you get a book that is full of stories that are erotic and gay, then you know you are going to have a good read. However, if you want to assure yourself that you are going to get maximum enjoyment from a book, look for the name Michael Luongo as the author or editor.

I first read Luongo when he published “Gay Travels in the Muslim World” and it was especially meaningful to me because at the time I was living in Israel, on the edge of the Muslim world. Now is new book is not quite so specific. The world becomes much larger than just Muslim countries and this is a collection of stories from all over the world—Spain, Brazil, Japan, Lebanon, Thailand, Ecuador, France, Russia, Croatia and others. Several of the contributors—Felice Picano, Jeff Mann, Jesse Archer, Lawrence Schimel, Simon Sheppard and Trebor Healy are immediately recognizable and there are several writers that I read for the first time (which does not necessarily mean that they are new writers—just that I have never read them before).

This is quite an anthology about sexual encounters that span six continents. The settings range from the sands of the desert to the trees of forests to big foreign cities. As the stories are told, the reader senses the author’s delight having been able to put down in print what he experienced. If you are one of my regular readers, you probably know how I feel about erotica and know that the only time I really ever read it is when I am asked to do so for review purposes. You probably also are aware that I have something to say about what I call literary erotica—the kind of story that has literary as well as erotic properties. Let’s face—erotica itself is a snap to write; writing about sexual practices does not require a great deal of thought but combining erotica and literature is something else altogether. I am happy to say that each and every selection is both erotic and literary. Do I have favorites? I don’t think so. Something I learned a few years ago is that it is dangerous for a reviewer to have favorites and mention them—it means that others will think that those not mentioned are not as good which is usually not the case. There are writers in this anthology that I do read regularly but that does not mean, for example, that Trebor Healy’s story is any better than a story by Alec Hahn. Here they are all good but I am not going to review each one—I’ll leave that to other readers. I will just say that each story is a gem unto itself but I recommend getting the complete necklace by reading each and every gem that flashes so brightly. You will not be disappointed.

“The Gallery of Vanished Husbands” by Natasha Solomons— London in the 60s

the gallery of vanished husbands

Solomons, Natasha. “The Gallery of Vanished Husbands”, Plume, 2013.

London in the 60s

Amos Lassen

George Montague disappeared some seven years before this novel begins. His wife, Juliet, really feels the repercussions of this because she is unable to get a divorce. According to the Jewish religion, she is not able to divorce as long as there is no proof that her husband is dead and she becomes an “aguna” or a living widow. When Juliet meets young Charlie Fussell, things begin to change for her. Charlie is a young, wealthy street artist who wants to paint her and Juliet finds this intriguing. This awakens in her the desire to be seen by others and she soon finds herself pulled into the art world of London in the 1960s. Before she realizes it, she has become a muse. However, she cannot be free until her husband’s disappearance is solved. Meanwhile Juliet enjoys fame, wealth and love while being trapped by the ancient laws of her religion. Even though she manages, she knows she can never be really free until her husband’s disappearance is solved.

When I lived in Israel, the situation of the “agunot” women was acute. This was due to two reasons—many men were killed while the country was at war and bodies were not found so, according to Jewish law, if there is no body, there is a possibility that the husband could be alive. The other aspect occurs when a married couple heads for divorce. The husband is required by Judaism to give his wife a “get” which frees her from the marriage and allows her to remarry. If he does not do so, the woman is never allowed to marry again. The word “aguna” means “crooked” or “bent” and the woman is doomed to live a life alone.

Solomons’ book is based on real events and the character of Juliet is based upon the writer’s husband’s grandmother who had been abandoned with two children in 1948 in Scotland. She managed to start her own business but remained an “aguna” until her husband died. The novel focuses on a woman who is trapped by circumstances beyond her control by tradition. The new time of change in society is in total conflict with religious principles while at the same time she tries to find some kind of redemption.

Solomons’ prose is gorgeous and her descriptions are so real that the reader feels he/she is actually witnessing what is read. Her understanding of the situation of a woman who is held captive by religious law is amazing and what I really love about his book is that it is so relevant and real.

 

“Stranded” by Andrew Grey— Art Imitating Life

stranded

Grey, Andrew. “Stranded”, Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

Art Imitating Life

Amos Lassen

When Kendall Monroe is handcuffed to a car in the desert, the only thing he can think about is that very day he had he had filmed a scene just like what he was experienced.  He is afraid but he manages to think about when things were better between him and Johnny, his longtime lover. He has been alone lately while Johnny is finishing his novel. While his present situation is a nightmare, Kendall manages to survive and wonder who did this to him.

Kendall has had quite a life as an actor but when his last Broadway show closed, he begins to think about what his next move will be. Being stuck in the desert was certainly not on his bucket list. One thing that he wants to do is spend more time with Johnny who seems to be a bit lackadaisical about their relationship.

When he lands a major film role, he goes to Hollywood but Johnny doesn’t go with him and, in fact, refuses to join him. Suddenly Kendall is surprised by the attention he receives from a secret admirer who, at first, sends him flowers and eventually stalks him. At this point Kendall feels that he is danger.

Andrew Grey never fails to surprise and this time he blends three subplots together to bring us a thriller. The story of Kendall and his first film comes together with the subplot of the two men’s relationship and the story of the stalker and by doing this. Therefore Grey is able to give us something of a love story that is both entertaining and heartbreaking and a thriller that keeps us on the edge of our seats. He even manages to provide bits of psychological studies of Kendall and Johnny.

Kendall and Johnny were together for ten years when Kendall began to sense that they were drifting apart. On Johnny’s part, it seems that he is going through a phase of just not really being involved. Kendall thinks that he might be having an affair but he is also aware that the film offer he has been offered is just what he needs to get that aspect of his career on track. He would have liked Johnny to go with him to Hollywood. Johnny, however, does not go and even refuses Kendall’s invitations to come visit.

Then Kendall begins to receive flowers—someone is leaving two roses for him at places where no one except the film company or Kendall has access. Then this secret romance escalates, Kendall turns to studio security and when he tells Johnny about it, he seems disinterested which really concerns Kendall.

When he is handcuffed in the desert, he thinks that perhaps it is Johnny who is behind it. To find out what happens, you will just have to read the book. I am letting you know that make sure when you begin to read that you have cleared your day because I doubt you will be able to close it once you begin to read. I found myself jumping to conclusions that just did not hold true but for me it was a way to relieve the tension I experienced as I read.