Monthly Archives: May 2015

“PIT STOP” (1969)— A New Kind of Race Car Driving

pit stop

“Pit Stop”

A New Kind of Race Car Driving

Amos Lassen

The Figure Eight is a new kind of racecar driving that is sponsored by Grant Willard (Brian Donleavy). “The Pit Stop” is the rise and fall of one of those drivers. Pitting man against man and flesh against steel in the figure-8 race is the most dangerous game ever invented. Rick Bowman (Richard Davalos) is a street punk who winds up in jail after a street race goes wrong. Grant Williams, a race promoter bailed him and put him in the deadly track where he comes up against Haig’s maniacal winner Hawk Sidney. “Pit Stop” was filmed on a real figure-8 track and the movie captures gripping real-life car wreck scenes.

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Rick is reluctant to get involved until he is challenged by Willard’s current “bad boy of racing”, Hawk Sidney (Sid Haig). Although beaten in his first tries at the track, Rick picks up some pointers from an old-timer racer and humiliates Hawk. The win puts him in the position to supplant Hawk in driving interference for champion racer Ed McLeod (George Washburn) at the nationals against Southern hotshot Sonny Simpson (Ted Duncan). When McLeod is dismissive Rick’s abilities, Rick instead seduces McLeod’s neglected wife Ellen (Ellen Burstyn) and then plots to have Hawk drive interference against Simpson in order to take on McLeod and win the championship himself.

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The new release has many bonus features:

* New High Definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Jack Hill

* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation

* Original Mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)

* New UK exclusive audio commentary with director Jack Hill moderated by his biographer Calum Waddell

* Crash and Burn! – Jack Hill on the making of Pit Stop

* Drive Hard – Actor Sid Haig speaks about his experience of acting in Pit Stop

* Life in the Fast Lane – producer Roger Corman on the genesis of Pit Stop

* Restoring Pit Stop – Restoration demonstration with Technical Supervisor James White

* Original Trailer

* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw

.* Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Glenn Kenny and musicologist and writer Gray Newell on the film’s soundtrack, illustrated with original stills and artwork

“MISS HILL: MAKING DANCE MATTER”— A Life Defined by Dance

miss hill

“Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter”

A Life Defined by Dance

Amos Lassen

Martha Hill lived a life that was defined by dance. She was, by and large, an unknown person but she was also someone very special to the world of dance. While many are unaware of her, she fought to have dance recognized as one of the arts. Here, in this new documentary, we learn about her through archival film footage, interviews with friends and colleagues, we see how she went from a childhood raised in the Bible Belt of Ohio to NYU and Bennington College to Julliard where she occupied the position of founding director of dance from 1952-1985). It is through this documentary that we learn of her story that eventually took her to a campus at Lincoln Center. She had her on motto—“Modern dance is not a system, it is a point of view”.

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Martha Hill was born in 1900 in Ohio and she loved to dance even with the Christian attack that it was sinful. In 1929, se went to New York City and joined Martha Graham’s company. She had the knack of being a modern dance teacher and at this time in her life when programs in the arts were part of physical education programs.

She was hired to teach at NYU and then in 1932 accepted a part-time position at Bennington College in Vermont and there she started a summer school that brought in dancers from all over the country in solidarity with one another and enchanted students.

Then in 1951, Hill was chosen to create the dance department at Julliard where she explored new grounds by putting ballet and modern dance together in the same courses.

Director Greg Vander Veer brings us an engaging documentary about Hill’s little known life (she died in 1995) and career. We see some amazing footage of dance numbers and interviews with friends and colleagues who praise her contributions to American modern dance. Among some of the famous choreographers she worked with are Hanya Holm, Jose Limon, Bessie Schonberg, Charles Weidman, and Merce Cunningham. Yet even with all that she accomplished, Hill struggled when Julliard’s dance department that was threatened with closure during the creation of Lincoln Center. She managed to survive and thrive by her indomitable will.

The film illuminates an important part of dance but dance has rarely mattered more in American history and yet this country has produced some of the greatest modern dancers and choreographers in the world. Today, television shows such shows as “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance”.

The documentary makes a convincing argument that Hill helped make dance to become a legitimate art form in America. Her achievements, however, were overshadowed by others such as George Balanchine. What we see here is convincing argument that Miss Hill mattered in the world of dance.

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In 1948, she formed the Connecticut College School of the Dance and in 1951 she was the first director of dance at Julliard where she remained as director until 1985. She was named Artistic Director Emeritus in 1985, but continued to teach. She died in 1995 at 94. Among her students were Paul Taylor, Muriel Topaz, Pina Bausch, Daniel Lewis, Lar Lubovitch, Dennis Nahat, Linda Kent, Bruce Marks, Mercedes Ellington, H.T. Chen, Martha Clarke, Susan Marshall, Jenny Coogan, Robert Garland, Mark Haim and Henning Rübsam.

Chen, Clarke, Mark Haim and Paul Taylor are interviewed in this film. Taylor is considered one of the foremost choreographers of the 20th Century in America and Martha Graham called him the “naughty boy” of dance because of his use of modern movement in classical music and for his subject matter.

Juilliard, located in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. but was originally founded in 1905 as the Institute of Musical Art. It was renamed after textile merchant Augustus D. Juilliard bequeathed a substantial donation for the advancement of music in the United States with the Juilliard Foundation created in 1920 to manage the funds. The foundation started the Juilliard Graduate School and in 1969 it relocated to Lincoln Center. And this, according to the documentary, put it in competition with George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet for rehearsal space. Hill was a top-level performer, a great administrator and teacher. She made sure that other dancers, male and female, had the opportunity to learn how to dance and helping for form Juilliard into a performing arts school.

Hill climbed the ranks during a time when social injustice dominated. She thrived during the great depression and remained a defining force through the Reagan era. She was a creator, a nurturer, and she give everlasting life to the art of dance.

Her life spanned nine decades of undeterred dedication to move the form forward, and she was the nucleus of the modern dance movement in this country. She can be compared to a whirlwind who knew no bounds and she touched the lives of those with similar desires. Today her legacy is its continuance, the students she mentored and their dance companies.

As Julliard’s first Director of Dance, modern dance and ballet would be taught equally as they must compliment one another. This set the stage for a drama that could be referred to as The Battle of Lincoln Center. Co-founder of the New York City Ballet, George Balanchine, a friend of the Rockefeller family who were creating Lincoln Center as a cultural center. Hill was feisty and relentless and she dared to take on Balanchine and big money with a grassroots campaign.

The documentary chronicles her life by presenting moving and still images that parallel the technical capabilities of the times during her almost century long existence. Black and white film footage, 4×5 photos, snapshots, beautiful large format portraits, and barely surviving video footage, all pay tribute to her and her lasting memory. Everyone interviewed who knew Hill speaks of her with fond memories, amusing anecdotes, and above all – reverence.

Most people do not know Martha Hill but they will know her and be awed by her as a result of this beautiful film that is a tribute to one who did so much. I believe I had a smile on my face as I watched it and that says more than anything else I could say.

 

“BLOOD RAGE”— A Holiday Slasher Film

blood rage

“Blood Rage”

A Holiday Slasher Film

Amos Lassen

Terry (Mark Sofer), one of a pair of twins, murders a man at a drive-in in the 70s in Jacksonville, Florida and then frames his shocked brother, Todd (Sofer again) for the crime.  Years later, the innocent brother escapes from the asylum, and this prompts the guilty brother to go on a killing spree on Thanksgiving.

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As soon as he hears about Todd’s escape, Terry kills his would-be step-dad and two employees at the institution (including Todd’s shrink) who came to deliver the news, leaving pretty much just Mom (Louise Lasser). There are several gory murders but I did not feel the suspense that I believe we were supposed to feel. The premise of the two twins was certainly a good enough idea to keep us on the edge of our seats but it did not happen. We know which brother is doing what and Soper makes then two distinct characters even though he is playing both of them. We are at the Thanksgiving table when Maddy (Lasser) gets the call that Terry has escaped the mental institution and the killings begin. The rest is for you to see for yourself. However, I must add that Todd and Terry seem like sweet kids until one of them takes an axe to someone at the local drive-in. The film is uncut and uncensored.

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Bonus contents include:

* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations

* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

* Brand new extensive making-of documentary featuring interviews with various cast and crew

* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork from Marc Schoenbach, to be revealed

* Fully illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film

and there will be more I am told.

“WILD HORSES’— James Franco Plays Gay Once Again

wild horses poster

“Wild Horses”

James Franco Plays Gay Yet Again

Amos Lassen

James Franco has been exploring gay characters and stories for quite some time now and he has done so both as an actor and as a director. In “Wild Horses”, he plays another gay character and this time he is directed by Robert Duvall.

wild-horses-james-franco

Texas Ranger Samantha Payne (Luciana Duvall) has decided it is time to reopen a 15-year-old missing persons and death case. Clues have been discovered that show there is something to do with a wealthy family man, Scott Briggs (Robert Duvall). Samantha is determined to learn the truth even if she has to put her life on the line to do so. Ben (Franco), the estranged gay son of Briggs returns to town and now Briggs must find a way to either silence the law for good, or come to terms with the hidden relationship between Ben and the boy that he tried to end years ago.

Scott Briggs is now a 70-something year old rancher stuck in his ways. Fifteen years ago he kicked his son Ben off of his property and out of his life for being gay. Now he’s asked him to come back into town so the family can go over his will and try to reconnect. This is complicated by Samantha Payne who has reopened a missing person’s case for a boy who used to work on the Briggs ranch and may have been involved with Ben. As she probes Scott’s history, he has to keep her from uncovering too much of his past and keep his secrets from alienating his sons.

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The idea of a rancher in his final stages of life who tries to reconcile with a son whom he doesn’t understand is a very interesting one and this is added to a wonderful performance by Franco. He exudes a real realism; his interactions with Duvall are dynamite.

“LA GRANDE BOUFFE”— Dinner and an Orgy

la grande bouffe

“La Grande Bouffe”

Dinner and an Orgy

Amos Lassen

 Four successful middle-aged men Marcello, a pilot; Michel, a television executive; Ugo, a chef; and, Philippe, a judge go to Philippe’s villa to eat themselves to death. After the first night, Marcello insists that it would all be so much better if there were women present. They hire some prostitutes of which three make it through one or two days and Andrea, a local schoolteacher, stays to the end. This is story of four friends who meet for a culinary orgy– a weekend where they plan to eat until they quite literally die. Trucks of food are brought in to fill their decadent menu, and the men have come together in secret, revealing neither their true goals nor their destination to anyone. Even though the original plan was to meet alone Marcello feels the need got female companionship and so he hires three prostitutes to get through this marathon weekend with them. Also enlisted is the local schoolteacher (Andréa Ferreol), a voluptuous woman whose appetites prove to shame that of the hosts themselves. Long after the other girls have gone, she stays and has sex with each diner in turn.

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The fact that the men intend to die is only briefly touched on, and there is no philosophical or moral explanation as to their reasoning for such an undertaking. There are social distinctions in each man’s position in society—two are workingmen of different kinds, one is a semi-intellectual entertainer and one is a political figure. They each brag about –their social conventions and violate personal morality with equal abandon. What we never know is why they have decided to die.

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Directed by Italian provocateur Marco Ferreri and the plot shows something of a spiraling downward. The actors all use their real names and they all seem to be game for anything that comes their way. They eat huge servings of pâté, roast duck, chicken, pork, mousse, pastries, oysters, lobsters but we never know why they do so. I suppose it could be that they are acting out gluttony, one of the excessive habits of the world.

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This is an implicit satire but what is missing is content. When the film was originally released, critics condemned it for its perversity, decadence and attack on the bourgeoisie but it went on to win a prize after being screened at the Cannes Film Festival. This new special addition has many bonus features:

* Brand new 2K restoration of the original camera negative

* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation

* Original French audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)

* Newly translated English subtitles

* The Farcical Movie – A French television profile of Marco Ferreri from 1975 in which the director discusses, among other things, the influence of Tex Avery, Luis Buñuel and Tod Browning’s Freaks

* Behind-the-scenes footage of the making of La Grande bouffe, containing interviews with Ferrari and actors Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Ugo Tognazzi and Philippe Noiret

* Extracts from the television series Couleurs autour d’un festival featuring interviews with the cast and crew recorded during the Cannes Film Festival

* A visual essay on the film with by Italian film scholar Pasquale Iannone

* Select scene audio commentary by Iannone

* News report from the Cannes Film Festival where La Grande bouffe caused a controversial stir, including Ferreri at the press conference

* Original Trailer

* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

* Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Johnny Mains, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

“A Traveling Homeland: The Babylonian Talmud as Diaspora” by Daniel Boyarin— Redefining Diaspora

a traveling homeland

Boyarin, Daniel. “A Traveling Homeland: The Babylonian Talmud as Diaspora”, (Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion), University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.

Redefining Diaspora

      Amos Lassen     

As Jews today, the word “Diaspora” remind us of many different things but most agree that the traditional definition is the description of the geographical scattering of people and/or the conditions of alienation abroad and the desire and yearning for the ancestral home. Diaspora often carries with it the idea that its occurrence is the result of the “cataclysmic historical event of displacement”. Daniel Boyarin says that Diaspora may be more constructively construed as a form of cultural hybridity or a mode of analysis. In this, his new book, “A Traveling Homeland”, he says that “the case that a shared homeland or past and traumatic dissociation are not necessary conditions for Diaspora and that Jews carry their homeland with them in Diaspora, in the form of textual, interpretive communities built around Talmudic study.” We may live anywhere and still feel the ties to the Jewish religion in that we study the holy texts.

Boyarin says that the Babylonian Talmud is a “diasporist manifesto, a text that produces and defines the practices that constitute Jewish diasporic identity.” Boyarin examines the ways the Babylonian Talmud sees its own community and sense of homeland which brings him to show us that Talmudic commentaries from the medieval and early modern periods have also produced a doubled cultural identity. While the physical text changed places and times, its study has continued. How it has been studied has been affected by the surrounding cultures and ultimately, according to Boyarin, “Talmudic study is the core and heart of a shared Jewish identity and a distinctive feature of the Jewish Diaspora that defines it as a thing apart from other cultural migrations.”

The idea that the Diaspora was born out of sorrow and despair shows us that regards of where we are, we take our Judaism with us.

“Counternarratives” by John Keene— Looking at History and Literature

counternarratives

Keene, John. “Counternarratives”, New Directions, 2015.

Looking at History and Literature

Amos Lassen

Here is a look at literature that spins history and storytelling. Beginning in the 17th century and coming up to the present, we go all over the world and see novellas and stories that draw upon memoirs, newspaper accounts, detective stories, interrogation transcripts, and speculative fiction to “create new and strange perspectives on our past and present”. In “Rivers,” a free Jim meets up decades later with his former friend Huckleberry Finn; “An Outtake” chronicles an escaped slave’s fate in the American Revolution; “On Brazil, or Dénouement” burrows deep into slavery and sorcery in early colonial South America; and in “Blues” the great poets Langston Hughes and Xavier Villaurrutia meet in Depression-era New York and share more than secrets. Keene gives us new looks at old stories and it is amazing. I suppose you might call this revisionist literature and it is thought provoking and haunting. This is not the kind of writing that us easily explained but once you get into it, you will understand what it is all about.

“Gender Equality and Prayer in Jewish Law” by Rabbi Ethan Tucker and Rabbi Micha’el Rosenberg— A Re-examination

gender equality

Tucker, Rabbi Ethan and Rabbi Micha’el Rosenberg. “Gender Equality and Prayer in Jewish Law”, Urim Books, 2015.

A Re-examination

Amos Lassen

The equality of genders has become an important part of how we live today and as it spreads through society, religions have to re-examine themselves regarding gender. The Jewish religion being patriarchal has begun to look at its own traditions especially in religiously observant sectors. Traditional communities turn to their guiding sources to re-examine old questions (whatever those sources might be). This book looks at the wealth of Jewish legal material surrounding gender and prayer, with a particular focus on who can lead the prayers in a traditional service and who can constitute the communal quorum, the “minyan”, that they require.

I think we might even go a step further and ask some of these religious Jews, why it is necessary to have ten men to pray. The two issues here being the number “ten” and the word “men”. How many people know why there must be the number ten to constitute a minyan and even more important, how many have even thought about it or questioned it? I honestly never thought about it until last year and only because I was in a course where it came up. As for why there must be just men is another issue altogether. This book can be a wonderful resource for dealing with these questions. The authors explore the issue of gender in depth and they show us the Jewish legal tradition that is responsible for its underlying values, “enabling its complex sources to serve as effective guides for contemporary communal decision-making.” While we may not get all of the answers, we are given a lot to think about.

I was reminded of my own experience of growing up as an Orthodox Jew and my synagogue wanted to initiate mixed seating which meant that men and women could sit together in the sanctuary during prayer. It was already a bit more liberal by having the women sit on the sides and raised just six inches above the men. When it came to a vote, there was a deadlock and so those who were against the idea of mixed seating took the issue to the Supreme Court of the State. A ruling was never issued but it made no difference because the faction left and soon afterwards the synagogue fell apart.

“Compulsion” by Meyer Levin— “The Jewish Crime of the Century”

compulsion

Levin, Meyer. “Compulsion”, Fig Tree Books Reprint, 2015.

“The Jewish Crime of the Century”

Amos Lassen

I have heard others say that I am a bit obsessed with the Leopold/Loeb affair and I suppose that there is some truth to that. I have never been able to understand the entire business and whenever I need to think about something, it seems that I return to it; I suppose because I have so many unanswered questions. Quite frankly it bothers me a great deal that two such promising young men should be involved in such sordidness especially when it did not need to happen. It has been 90 years and there is still so much we do not understand about it. Even Meter Levin’s classic “Compulsion” makes me think about it even more and it is 60 years old. Between Leopold, Loeb and the Rosenbergs, I spend a lot of tine just sitting and thinking about the criminal mind and how it comes to be.

I remember that as a kid, I would hear people whispering about it. It seemed that everyone knew something about the murderers and/or were reading “Compulsion” and talking about it. Leopold and Loeb certainly were responsible for some degree of American anti-Semitism. (After all, Jews do not commit such horrific crimes, do they?)

“Compulsion is a fictional account of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb’s horrible and horrifying murder of a 14-year-old boy and while the names are changed to Steiner and Strauss, everyone knew the book was about Leopold and Loeb. The story sticks closely to the actual facts of the 1924 crime.

When the book was published, it became an instant sensation and a bestseller. Murder mysteries were popular in the 50s and 60s and one that was based on a true story, a story as gruesome as anyone imagine was what Americans liked to read. The Leopold/Loeb murder was nothing ordinary—there was no reason for it to happen. The killers’ aim was to commit the perfect crime and the murder of Bobby Franks, then just 14 was the way that they thought they could succeed. It was a gratuitous murder by two young men who looked at what they did as “an intellectual project carried out with the detachment of a scientist.”

Meyer Levin was fascinated by the case and that was probably because he was close to it. He went to the University of Chicago and he was precocious like Leopold and Loeb. As a young Chicago reporter, he helped cover the case for the local paper and he appears in “Compulsion” as the narrator, Sid Silver.

What is interesting about “Compulsion” is that it is long and full of talk and even has a bit of psychological analysis in it. The reading public, writers and film studios were drawn to the book. Leopold and Loeb were curiosities, Jewish boys from good homes and wealthy families. They were young admirers of Dostoevsky because with him crimes could be philosophically justified and they loved Nietzsche for his concept of the superman who was not bound by society or morality. He was above that and they wanted to prove that so were they.

The teenage Leopold and Loeb — prodigies who had graduated from the University of Chicago while still in their teens — were immersed in Dostoevsky (“Crime and Punishment” with its philosophical justification of the crime), Gide, and above all Nietzsche and his notion of the superior man not bound by morality.

“Compulsion” is certainly well written but it is not literary. After all, it is a crime novel much like Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” that came out some 13 years later. What Levin did here was to give the people what they wanted; a crime novel and more than that—a novel about a crime that everyone was aware of. Indeed, it is a crime novel and a thriller but it is also a psychological novel that uses social psychology about issues that the case brought up— what did we know about these rich Chicago Jews and was there anything sexual in this case?

Meyer Levin dared to right about homosexuality when it was still deep in its own closet. He mentions that the Bobby Frank’s body was mutilated in the genital area and he writes about the sexual immaturity of the murderers. We suspect that the two men were in love with each other but we read nothing of them ever being sexual with each other. Could it be that this sexual denial also figures into the case? Then there is the issue of Jewish self-hatred as Freud suggested in the 19th century with the idea that the Jew does not want to pay the toll to be a Jew and that could explain the mutilation of Bobby Frank’s genitals. Levin really captures the wealthy Jewish culture of Chicago at the times and the fact that many Chicago Jews chose not to be especially visible and in fact, at that time, Jewish organizations were quiet and worked quietly. It was not a time for social activism.

Some have remarked that if Leopold and Loeb had to kill someone, it was better for all that they chose a Jewish victim. Had they chosen someone of a different religion, the murder would certainly have been looked at differently as we have seen historically in blood-libel cases. This was not a murder dealing with a ritual; it was a murder for murder’s sake. Here was a crime that was about the anarchy of murder, a crime that resembles in theory the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, what happened in Rwanda and Darfur. Can we assume that this is why we still read “Compulsion”? It seems to me that we now exist in a time when killing and murder are considered horrors of our time. The book might be about a time in history but the crime of Leopold and Loeb is a lasting one; one that will never be forgotten and this is just how it should be.

“Saving Julian” by Mason Stokes— The “Ex-Gay” Ministry— A Comic Look

saving Julian

Stokes, Mason. “Saving Julian”, Wilde City Press, 2014.

The “Ex-Gay” Ministry— A Comic Look

Amos Lassen

By now we have learned that “ex-gay” ministries are dishonest, disreputable and money-grabbing organizations that really do nothing yet somehow they have managed to sit on their laurels for work they have not done. In fact, just last night I watched a movie that had been sent to me to review, “Stained Glass Rainbows” in which the majority of the speakers are “ex-gay” and “ex-lesbians”. Now that we know that this kind of therapy is bogus, why would anyone want a gay person to review his or her work?

“Saving Julian”, on the other hand, is a comic novel with dark humor about Paul Drucker, a 58-year-old psychology professor and part-time preacher (WTF!!!). He authored the very popular “Saving Our Boys from the Gay Menace” and this has caused him to be very much in demand on the lecture circuit in which he gladly shares the heterosexual bible with the masses. He tells his audiences that “there’s no such thing as a gay man.  There are only men with unmet ‘homoemotional’ love needs.  And this can be fixed.” Aha—we have heard this story before many times. We can be cured of homosexual impulse and lead “normal Lives” but we know the truth and it is only a matter of time before Drucker ends up in the bed of a gay male, something he claims to despise and that will send him straight to hell.

Drucker is caught with Julian, a 21-year-old “escort” he found online and he knows his world is about to fall apart just as one-day Cher’s face may fall. Have you noticed that men lead ex-gay ministries are vocally anti-gay? Lately we have seen that those who are so loud are men who are hiding from who they really are. We need only remember Larry Craig, that Ted Haggard guy and McGreevy guy who after living a lie came out and became a friend and supporter of our community. How quickly we have forgotten how he alienated us until then. “Saving Julian” is a look at the men who think that love can be cured yet are themselves hypocrites and liars and practice cruelty in the name of God.

Paul Drucker’s story, like Paul Drucker himself, is irreverent. It is about manipulation, lies, deceit, hypocrisy and cruelty. It explores the world of the ex-gay (a phrase that should be deleted from usage). This is not a condescending look but rather an honest and humorous look at those who believe we can be cured of loving each other.

Just by the nature of its subject, this easily could have been a book that lost its way and instead of being one-sided, it is both sensitive and totally compassionate. Author Mason Stokes looks at both sides of “ex-gay” ministries and as it explores it explains. The characters are also well drawn, believable and they engage the reader. They have to face what they believe and this is done by answering questions that go right to the heart of the issue where they are forced to confront their own beliefs.

Do not be mislead; just because this is a comic novel does not mean we can laugh it away—there is a very strong message here and I love that the book is both entertaining and educational. We enter a world of hustlers and homophobes and we meet some truly disgusting characters. Disgusting, villainous or what have you, the characters are human as well and being human they suffer from or make peace with their own perspectives. There are also those who are perfectly at home with who they are.

While we indeed laugh at ex-gay ministries in real life, we do not often get a novel that allows us to do so and for that we must praise Mason Stokes. His prose is wonderful as are his descriptions but it is his plot that makes this such a good read.