Talent, R. (editor). “Pay For Play”, Bold Strokes Books, 2012.
Sex and the Skin Trade
There are still those who like to pay for sex as is seen in this new anthology edited by R. Talent. Containing twenty stories by known and new writers, the book gives us a new look at the skin trade. For many, paying for sex is a fantasy for both the buyer and the seller but there is something to it as we see here. You pay for what you get and this is usually discussed ahead of time but man, having a mind, is likely to change it once in a while. Since some do fantasize about it, the story can be made up as it goes along.
In R. Talent’s introduction, he relates his own fantasy of being able to attain the man of his dreams. Herein is the advantage in that one can pick and choose and know exactly what and who he is getting. Anyone who has been gay knows that there is a hustler market out there even though it is illegal to pay for sex—but there is paying and there is paying. I remember meeting a real hot good-looking guy when I was in Egypt and I knew he was way out of my league. When he came onto me I was astounded, especially when he did not ask for anything. It was only later that he wanted me to take him shopping and buy him “a gift” which I learned meant an expensive piece of clothing. Let’s face it—as Talent says, there will always be someone to make us reach for cash even when our pride denies that. Buying a drink for someone in a bar can even be regarded as a form of prostitution.
Most of us are too vain and too cheap to pay for sex yet the entire idea fascinates us and so since we won’t do, we have this book that tells us all about it. The stories here are diverse and erotic and therefore not for everyone. Reading them should give you the rush that comes with paying for sex.
There are stories by such authors as Rob Rosen (“All Cleaned up”), Mykola Dementiuk (“Bathroom Graffiti”), Bearmuffin (“The Beach Hustler”), Logan Zachary (“Windfall Fun’) and sixteen others. I do not read a lot of erotica and I review what I like so this should tell you about the quality of writing in this collection. We see also that the feeling that paying for sex is seedy is dispelled here.
“Sexual Freedom: Sex Stories 3”
Director Ovidie brings her third volume of sex stories to the screen and while this film contains no gay contact, it does have lots of naked men having sex (with women). Preceded by “Sex Stories” and “Bad Link”, this is the final film in the trilogy. This is, to a degree, porn but what it has that most porn does not is beautiful photography. The film is told from the female perspective and we plunge into a world of se where anything goes.
The story is simple—Leonie Marie plays a journalist for a reality television show that is about strange romances of those who are on the margins of society. Marie is sent on an assignment to the country to interview swingers at a commune. She is skeptical at first but as she learns about free love from the men and women she meet, she questions her own semi-traditional beliefs about sex and love and she sees that she has learned something from the people she has interviewed. Incidentally, I looked for information about Marie and discovered a list of films she has appeared in the past with very provocative titles.
Nothing in the film is simulated—it is all sex and we get quite an eyeful.
“Post Tenebras Lux”
“After the Dark, Light”
Carlos Reygada’s new film seems, at first, to be about family although we are never quite sure because the film is so obscure. Juan and his family live on the Mexican countryside and they are at the center of the film. On the surface, they seem to have everything—a nice house; Juan’s wife is beautiful and they have two good children. We then see that not all is good and learn that Juan struggles with addiction to pornography and his sex life is not as it should be. He is also into abusing dogs.
We also meet a handyman, who because of his problems with drink, has lost his family. More than that about him would cause me to write a spoiler so understand that something is going to happen here.
The film is one of the most obscure movies I have ever seen—the chronology is not chronological, scenes have nothing to do with each other, the cinematography is blurred and the soundtrack is at times quite beautiful and at other times quite disturbing. There is no narrative—or if there is, I missed it. I kept waiting for something to hold me to the film. We really never know why the devil carrying a toolbox appears and the film is as difficult to follow as it is to read this review.
There’s also a very strange sex club in Belgium that Juan and his wife visit and I am guessing that this took place sometime after the time we see in the film and while this scene is interesting, it has no reference to anything else that we see. At the opening, we are seduced by a child running around a wet field with cows, horses, and dogs. Then right before dusk, a violent storm begins and we see vivid flashes of lightning.
This is a film built entirely on effect and characters and emotions are not considered. I also believe that the film strives toward an intellectual explanation of something of which I have no idea. The rooms in the sex-club are named “Hegel” and “Duchamp” and we get to hear a short conversation at a family party about Russian literature but I am not sure how either of these fit into the larger scale. Then we are taken to a dressing room at an English boys’ school and I assume that this is where the son is studying but we have no idea which boy is the son. The film ends with a similar scene on the rugby field at half-time and we hear the closing line that “the other team is made of individuals, but we are a team”. I believe that the movie revolves around Juan and his family and this could have a beautiful look at their lives but the juxtapositions of innocence/experience, reality/fantasy and past/future obscure what we see.
I cannot help but wonder if the film is simply the director’s hallucination and that he uses this to both intrigue and confuse the viewer. It is a simple tale that becomes complex. Juan (Adolfo Jimenez) and Natalia (Natalia Acevedo) have left the city to live in the Mexican hills and they are helped by locals to become adjusted to the new area. I understand that the film might just be autobiographical—the editor is the director/writer/producer’s wife; the two children are their own children and the house in the film is their house. Reygada studied at an English school where he also was a member of the rugby team.
Nature is everywhere in the film but there is a bit too much of it even if it serves as a metaphor. We know nothing of the life Juan and Natalia lived in the city and we see that they have issues—Juan’s porn addiction is one; Natalia has a vaginal infection and this is probably what drove Juan to internet porn. Additionally Juan has problems with anger management and says he hurts those he loves the most. Nature is presented as impersonal—trees fall down by themselves but good and evil are the qualities of men (and women) and are projected by humans. We see that darkness comes before the light—an obvious reference to the Book of Job and that one depends upon the other. I wonder if this is not an example of a Dadaist film mixed with surrealism which the viewer will either love completely or abhor totally.
Bossa, Mel. “In His Secret Life”, Bold Strokes Books, 2013.
I have been looking forward to something new by Mel Bossa and not only do I get that here but I also get a great deal to think about. What I find so interesting here is that the novel deals with idea of living a secret life at a time when that is no longer necessary yet this is a reminder of how we had to live once (and there are those who still do live this way).
Allan’s boyfriend leaves him for another man and Allan, being a gentleman, lets him go. But then, his sister, Elsie, gets pregnant and dumped so Allan takes on a new job of being the support of his sister and niece. Now is when the story becomes really interesting. Elsie meets and falls in love with Dayton and the two become engaged. Dayton has an older brother, Davinder who is a gifted artist and a married man with two sons. From the moment that Allan and Davinder meet, their lives are changed and remain so for the next forty years as they lead secret lives with each other and are never able to publicly be who they are. Each has obviously found his soul mate and each knows that found the love they feel for each other must be their own secret.
I have followed Bossa’s writing career and I must say that she handles romance between men beautifully and she writes with style and grace. She is able to capture emotions so that we laugh and cry with her characters as we feel what they feel. For anyone who has ever had to live secretly, you will immediately feel how it was all over again. For those who have always been able to be open about who they are, you will see how it was for others. Many men have had their own “Brokeback Mountain(s)” which is separate from the everyday world that they live in. Bossa shows us the pain and the hardships that are suffered in the name of love.
Wynne, John Steward. “The Red Shoes”, Magnus Books, 2013.
A Classic Updated
It is not often that a book will keep me up all night but when one does, you can be sure that it is really going to be something special. John Stewart Wynne’s “The Red Shoes” is that special kind of book and I do not bemoan losing a night of sleep to read it. I also rarely read books online or electronically—I am old-fashioned that way. I believe that a book is meant to be held and cherished because, very simply, it is someone’s baby—it is the thoughts of a person who feels enough about us to make him/her share what they have written.
“The Red Shoes” is a contemporary gay version of the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Here it is set in Manhattan, in Chelsea. John Laith, the narrator and main character lives across the street from the Episcopal Seminary—a place that brings him comfort as he grieves over the death of his partner, Frank. John knows that life goes on and he tries very hard to deal with and recover from the loss of the man he loved. He is a member of a Twelve Step grief recovery group and he has a network of friends who are loving and supportive. However, John feels something is missing—he just cannot seem to push his sorrow to the side and enjoy what life has to offer—the excitement and abandon are just not there for him.
As we all know, sometimes opportunity knocks when it is least expected and for John, opportunity arrived with a gift of red shoes from Jared, an eighteen year old dancer who had moved from the country to New York just nine months earlier. The success he had so hoped for eluded him and the very same shoes he now gave to John did not get him auditions. They actually caused Jared to lose his self-control and led him into casual affairs and anonymous sex which all came to a head when he was the victim of assault on Gay Pride Day. John helped Jared recover and was able to put him on a bus for home. The only thing that Jared had to thank John with was the red shoes.
The very shoes that caused Jared to spin out of control now belong to John (or maybe it is the opposite and John belongs to the shoes). John finds himself moving between elegance and poverty in Manhattan as the world prepares for the new century. John tries to survive characters that have now become not only unpredictable but unforgettable and he explores the dark side of life that he finds fascinating and alluring. What he does not understand is how this has happened—is it the red shoes or is it some kind of desire within himself.
John meets an array of characters and their lives mesh together. Crewe James is a married who lives with his wife and daughter in a Central Park West penthouse and he has a life of secrets and a dark agenda for John. Silvio is a Brooklyn cop who likes his sex rough. Bailey is a bouncer who seems to live on drugs and works at a nightclub that is owned by Maxo, his boss. Maxo tends the front bar and also watches the back room. Maxo’s woman, Patrizia is an absinthe addict and quite beautiful and she tries to be John’s fairy godmother. John began as an innocent in an alien world and even though he succumbs to this new lifestyle, he cannot forget Frank. Even when he is amid these mysterious characters and becomes part of them as he participates in dangerous activities, ideas about safety come into and go out of his mind. He begins using drugs yet he knows he must deal with his own downward trend. Within his mind and body is a battle between the sacred and the profane. Ultimately, he must choose between them.
Hans Christian Andersen’s story has influenced many to use the theme in literature and the arts. In the original, the girl who wore the red shoes could not stop dancing. When John put them on, he was pushed onto a journey of “obsession, danger and decadence”. It takes a revelation that is shocking that pushes him to make his ultimate decision.
There are all kinds of twists and turns in the story and many are caused by the characters he meets. He is aware of a sense of foreboding menace but he is so drive that he cannot stop to assess what is happening. The sense of impending doom hangs over his head and the heads of the readers as well. Yet there is also a sense of good that counterbalances the doom.
Some of you may recognize the influence of James Purdy and William Burroughs on the author as well as the theme of good and evil. While this is not new, the beauty of the book lies in the plot and characterization that Wynne provides for us. I cannot remember being so captivated by a novel before (and I am sure that there have been some). This is more than just a read—it is a total experience that becomes even more powerful with subsequent readings. There are not enough stars available for me to pin a number here on the book and one “Bravo” is not nearly enough. It will be interesting to see if you feel the same.
Alther, Richard. “The Scar Letters”, Centaur Books, 2013.
An Unresolved Hate Crime—18 Years Later
Rudy Dallmann, a 40-something year old gay man was brutally attacked and raped some eighteen years ago. He has lived in a semi-isolated state ever since. His closest friend, Tex, coaxes him to confront what happened and Rudy begins to reconcile his past with the present in his own quiet manner. He is an honest, unassuming person and we see his strength as he goes about finding closure to the incident which has been part of him for almost half of his life.
As the novel progresses, we enter Rudy’s mind and feel what he feels and we are quiet and elevated at the same time. Rudy is careful with his words and never says anything that is unnecessary. We read of not just what Rudy endured but also what the gay community and its individuals have been forced to endure during history. It was a very strange sensation that I had to almost pinch myself as I realized that the past is gone, hopefully forever. Combining history and fiction is certainly nothing new but we must consider all of the progress that has been made, has been done so in the last 50 years.
For those who have not lived during a time when gay bashing seemed to be a way of life and homophobia was the rule, this is an important book. Our heritage has been filled with horrors and we should never be allowed or able to forget that. Here is one way to remember and it is compelling and written in beautiful prose. The very idea that Rudy was able to confront his assailants lets us see, for certain, that we have travelled a long road and have no intention of ever turning back.
“American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics” by Don Savage— The Issues Today
Savage, Dan. “American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics”, Dutton, 2013.
The Issues Today
The name Dan Savage is not new to anyone unless they have been asleep during the last few years. He is a mover and a shaker, an advocate for marriage equality, a sex advice columnist, co-founder of the “It Gets Better” campaign and a best-selling author (Just the kind of guy to bring home to mom).
The essays in this book are some of his most personal on marriage equality and LGBT rights. There are also essays on the banning of assault weapons and why guns should not be allowed in the District of Columbia, the good and the evil of Obamacare, why straight people should go to pride parades, why what feminists say about Halloween is wrong, why the Bible is only as good as the person reading it, why sex education in schools is doing no good and what is the truth about gay marriage. We also get a look at behind-the-scenes marriage debate with Brian Brown, head of the National Association for Marriage.
Using his very sharp wit, we get Savage’s perspective on the issues we are facing now. Personally I loved the chapter on his son coming-out as straight and how he did so first to a friend of the family because he was not sure how his two dads would react. Another wonderful aspect in this book is Savage’s take on the way gay rights have changed and he cleverly shows us by saying that when he came out in 1982 it meant that he would never marry or have children—he, in fact, has done both. Perhaps the most provocative essay in the book is when Savage says that under certain circumstances, it is okay for people, who are married or in a committed relationship, to cheat. Written with humor, these essays are actually quite serious and can be read and reread. To me that alone says something.
“The Life After Death Project”
A “Paranormal” Bio Film
|Death is, without question, our greatest enigma. Filmmaker Paul David brings us four New York Times best-selling authors, three science professors and three respected mediums who take a look at death by investigating evidence of “After Death Communication (ADC) from Forrest J. Ackerman. The film hears from those who are spiritual and from skeptics via chemistry labs and computer software that provides a way to speak to the dead. It all began with a small incident that became a big issue and is the story of the afterlife of Akerman who was one of the founders of movie science-fiction and who refuses to remain quiet, even after death.|
The DVD will be available to all after its TV debut this month on the Sci-Fi channel when it will be release in a two disc set containing both the original and its sequel. Ackerman, himself, was a skeptic about life after death but he told friends that if he was wrong in this, he would let them know by sending them a note from “the other side” and in this documentary, we see what happened. You must see this to believe it.
In the DVD version, we get the sequel to the film entitled “Personal Encounters” which contains “spellbinding accounts of personal encounters with life after death from archaeologists, physicists, a retired colonel, a librarian, clinical psychologist, sales executive, publisher and doctors and nurses who have worked with hundreds of dying patients. They have seen souls leaving the body at death, angelic beings, spirit entities, golden orbs, physical manifestations and more. It includes updates on the continuing saga of the Forrest J Ackerman case”.
Davis, Will. “The Trapeze Artist”, Bloomsbury USA, 2013.
Past, Present, Future
Our unnamed hero’s life can easily be split into three separate but related periods—the past (a child), the present (a boy) and the future (a man). During all three periods, he strove for freedom from his family, his desires and his sadness. He grew up gay in a straight world and could not communicate with the people he loved. He just really wanted to break free and to fly on the trapeze. He was determined not to give in even if it meant pushing himself forward to the point of torture.
His parents thought he was nice and his teachers saw him as a good boy but he hated the world he lived in. When he was fourteen, a young man, Edward, came to his school and he represented all the other wanted to be. Edward listened to Patti Smith, he watched Fassbinder films, he read Gore Vidal and he kissed our hero. But Edward was only temporary and our man, now forty and running from life, discovered the circus. He doesn’t understand why he does so but he follows the circus, determined to find and build a new home.
This is a story of success and failure told with style and grace with fresh prose that touches and haunts the reader. When he realizes, at fourteen, that he is gay and this begins changes in him that really take effect some 26 years later. He was still living with his mother and when his story comes to an end, he is in awe of what he has learned and wants to continue on with it.
The story is not a straight narrative but told in installments. From a dysfunctional family and home life, it moves forward to show maturity and the result of following a dream. It is quite depressing at times and therefore a bit difficult to read but the prose is gorgeous as we look into the mind and heart of the main character.
Duberman, Martin. “The Martin Duberman Reader: The Essential Historical, Biographical, and Autobiographical Writings”, The New Press, 2013.
Our Own Intellectual
Martin Duberman, while not the only one, has long been the intellectual of our community. For over fifty years his writings have made him a public voice in the literary world. He is responsible for the establishment of the first graduate LGBT studies program in this country (at CUNY), he has written the life stories of Paul Robeson, Lincoln Kirstein and Howard Zinn and he has been a symbol of what one man can do especially when he wrote as an openly gay male. Duberman has allowed us to look into his own life with his candid memoirs, “Cures” and “Midlife Queer”. He has given us the most accurate account of the quest for liberation in “Stonewall” and taken on the medical establishment’s attempt to cure homosexuality. His works on the civil rights movement, the fight for a just economy and against racism are filled with merit and he has brought a vision to reclaim the radical gay past as the new gay movement has moved toward assimilation.
“The Martin Duberman Reader” contains some of the author’s most important writings and, in effect, is a look at the way we live today. Additionally it provides those who are yet to come with a valuable look at how we have lived. Duberman has not shied away from who he is and has been part of the major issues of our times. He reports on them with style and eloquence. He is a radical in every sense of the word and a man who questions the status quo so that the world will be better for everyone. In the words of Howard Zinn, “Martin Duberman is known for his unique combination of talents—as a distinguished historian, a talented writer, and an impassioned advocate of gays and other beleaguered members of the human community.”