Ceci, Louis Flint. “Not Just Another Pretty Face”, (with photography by Dot), Beautiful Dreamer Press, 2016.
Stories, Poems and Essays
Several years ago, I met Louis Ceci at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. He was something of a new author having just published his first book, “Comfort Me”, and I was lucky enough to be asked to review it. I still remember what an interesting and well-written read it was. Five or six years passed and I forgot about that book until recently when I received a copy of “Not Just Another Pretty Face” that Ceci has edited. And just be reading his introduction (or “Frontpiece”) as it is called here, I was taken momentarily back to that first book and I was surely glad that Ceci is still writing.
“Not Just Another Pretty Face” is a collection of stories, poems, and essays that have a single common element that unites them— all of the writing is the result of looking at photographs of go-go boys that were taken by photographer named Dot. Looking at the table of contents I feel that I am going to reunite with some old friends and make some new ones and the twenty-five entries are evenly divided between authors that I am familiar with— Lewis de Simone, Salome Wilde, Trebor Healy, Rob Rosen, Raymond Luczak, Jim Provenzano, David Platt, Stephen Mead, Jeff Mann, “Nathan Burgoine, Vinton Rafe McCabe, Daniel Allen Cox and Michael Carroll and some that I either I do not remember reading before or whom I have never read before— Richard Michaels, Elizabeth J. Colen and Carol Guess, Gregory L. Norris, Mark Ward, Mike McClelland, Miodrag Kojadinovic, Alan Martinez, Eric Schuckers, Miles Griffs, Jim Metzger, Jonathan Lay and Richard Wilde Lopez.
I often have problems reviewing anthologies and that is because I am torn between reviewing each selection as a separate piece and yet part of a whole or simply reviewing the entire book as a single unit. I am still not sure what I will do here….I am going to let my thoughts direct me. Of this I am sure—the entire book gets five stars not just because of the idea that propelled it but because there are so many good pieces of writing in it. (It would be so easy to stop writing right here and tell you to go out and get a copy but that is not fair).
Twenty-three photos of male go-go dancers are the basis for stories, poems, essays, and drama by twenty-seven authors and we get revealing unexpected mysteries, romance, fantasy, and humor.
Let’s face it—there is something very erotic about a go go boy yet there is also something very sad about him. On one had, he exhibits a sense of cockiness and self assurance as if to say, “I know who I am and I know am hunky and good-looking. All you have to do is adore and worship me for what I represent. On the other hand, if the go go boy is so hot and so good looking, what is he doing hustling for cash in a gay bar. While he represents erotic near-perfection, we sometimes see him as lost or broken and in our fantasies, we can save him while we think he is sexually interested in us. We want to be the focus of his sexual desire even though we know that is probably an impossibility. What we read in these selections show us the go go boy as not only and not always a object to be adored but also as fun, sarcastic, ironic, full of play, ominous and fearful. They are not the paragons that they make us think that they are and they have stories waiting to be told by the authors in this anthology. After all, in imagination, everything is possible. We see that what is projected is not always what is. Just as they project on us, we also project on them. Using the reader as the concept of everyman, these selections look at what we assume, what we feel, what are our fantasies and what can we see about ourselves as we see a go go boy gyrate. We go best the stereotype and the archetype to learn about ourselves as we learn about go go boys. I learned reading Ceci’s first novel that there are philosophies grounded in his writing and he has passed that on to his contributors and we see that each entry has something to say. Each writer responds to a photograph of a go go boy. Because they are near nude when we see them, we understand that go go boys have nothing to hide. This is where the stories pick up— if by any reason whatsoever, we could become part of the dancer’s world, would we find more than what we see on the stage?
The photographs that the entries are based upon take the boy out of the go go and then invite us to explore what we see and I am sure that there are those who know or, at least, can guess what they will find. But that is not what you will find here. Because we have such a wide diversity of writers here, so shall we have a wide diversity of what they find as they explore the guy in the photo. The only thing that were told to do was to follow where the photo tasks them. As a result we are told about things we could not have possibly expected and I found this to be true of writers I had read before. It is the diversity and variety of the stories that keeps us reading and looking for the story that is the most relevant to what the reader is looking for. We got beyond go go bars and go go boys and the entire experience is rewarding.
Eventually I will write about each selection but for now I am only giving an overview—when I am ready to do some more investigations, I want other readers to challenge what I have written.