Bellow, Greg. “Saul Bellow’s Heart: A Son’s Memoir”, Bloomsbury USA, 2013.
A Son Remembers
Without question, Saul Bellow was one of the giants of 20th century American literature. Bellow also ushered in a new era of American Jewish literature and for me; personally, I find it hard to think of an American without him. He won three National Book Awards, one National Medal of Arts, one Pulitzer Prize and the 1976 Nobel Prize in literature. Yet a man of his literary stature led a very private life of which we know little. His literature was neither controversial nor filled with scandal and Bellow did not look for attention. He lived in Chicago and was not a member of the crowd of New York intellectuals. Now with new memoir by his son, Greg, we learn who Bellow was and there are a few surprises.
Like his father, Greg Bellow gives writing filled with detail and he starts the memoir with the family’s arrival in America in 1912. Life was not easy for the Bellows and Saul Bellow merged incidents from his family with his fiction. He modeled his characters on real people—King Dhafu of “Henderson the Rain King” was based on Isaac Rosenfeld and Von Humboldt Fleisher was based upon Delmore Schwartz. Greg Bellow shows us that being the son of a famous father was filled with difficulty and he shows us that his father was full of contradictions.
His father’s first marriage was ruined by his own cheating on his wife and believed that to be faithful was bourgeois yet as a follower of Trotsky, this should have been an alien idea. Greg could not deal with his father either politically or personally. Saul later was filled with shame about his life from his teenage years through his forties and he felt he had to alter that about himself.
I have always respected Bellow, the man and author but after reading what his son says, I am afraid that the ivory tower where I placed him is beginning to rot, brick by brick. Yes, he was a great writer but now I see him as vain, bitter and cruel and as much as I do not want to believe that is so, it is his son that makes these claims. I see now that I do not have to love the man in order to love his writing—something akin to the way many feel about Wagner and his music.
SUMMER OF PEACHES
Midnight Mass Hostess Unleashes a Holy Terror of Hotness with Special Events featuring
Patricia Quinn, Mark Patton, Sharon Needles, Alaska Thunderf*ck & Jinkx Monsoon!!!
(San Francisco, May 6, 2013) Peaches Christ Productions is thrilled to declare this the SUMMER OF PEACHES with a special sneak preview of maniacal film & music events guaranteed to add additional heat — much needed in foggy, cold San Francisco — to your summer lovin’.
A delectable mash-up of music/dance, cult-film, red-hot special guests & buttery popcorn await you as Peaches Christ brings you the witchy-poo horror of “THE CRAFT,” the queer-fear of “A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE” & the staunch realness of “GREY GARDENS.” She wants you to save the date for the return of SHOWGIRLS MMXIII (2013) & reminds you to grab your tickets quick for the upcoming “THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW 4Oth ANNIVERSARY CONCERT TRIBUTE “with Patricia Quinn!”
Not in San Francisco? Plan ahead, join us at the altar of cult-film & if you are a local, than this will be the ultimate ‘staycation.’ Advance tickets are available now. More details, discount codes will be revealed at www.PeachesChrist.com
(Pictured l to r: Sharon Needles, Peaches Christ, Alaska Thunderf*ck and Honey Mahogany) Photo by Jose A. Guzman Colon
SUMMER OF PEACHES 2013 Official Events
Midnight Mass presents Night of 1,000 Scream Queens: “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” with Peaches Christ & actor Mark Patton
Saturday, June 22nd, 2013 – Castro Theatre
Don’t miss this extra special Midnight Mass presentation of the gayest horror movie ever made, “A Nightmare on Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” with the film’s own “scream queen” Mark Patton, live & in-person! Experience the outrageous musical pre-show, an on-stage interview, post-show meet/greet & a “Scream Queen” costume contest. Presented by Peaches Christ in association with Frameline37: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. More info at:http:// www.frameline.org
THE CRAFT: WITCH-tacular! featuring Peaches Christ, Sharon Needles, Alaska Thunderf*ck & Honey Mahogany!
Saturday, July 13th, 2013 – Castro Theatre
Queens, conjure up a beauty spell, because you’ll need it! After the extravagance of last summer’s “Silence of the Trans’ with Peaches Christ & Sharon Needles, we conjure up more star-studded entertainment, guaranteed to tickle your inner…witch. Celebrate the Nineties’ supernatural masterpiece “The Craft” with a sickly fantastic pre-show featuring Ms. Christ, Ms. Needles & two flesh-faced gals joining our coven, direct from “RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 5,” the wisely hilarious ALASKA THUNDERF*CK & San Francisco’s own cackling, lip smackin’ HONEY MAHOGANY.
Advance tickets available now: http://store.peacheschrist.com/products/120-the-craft.aspx
SHOWGIRLS MMX111 (2013)
Saturday, August 24th, 2013 – Castro Theatre
You won’t feel like you’re too old for that ‘whorish’ look when our annual, consistently sold-out, omnibus of sparkle & g-strings returns. It will be a night of 1,000 showgirls featuring the pre-show “Goddess Spectacular,” free lap-dances with LARGE popcorn & “Nomi-Malone Look-A-Like Contest.”
Advance tickets available now:http:// http://store.peacheschrist.com/products/119-showgirls-2013.aspx
“RETURN TO GREY GARDENS” an original stage-show production & film screening.
Starring JINKX MONSOON as Lil’L Edie & PEACHES CHRIST as Big Edie
Saturday, October 12th, 2013 – Castro Theatre
Come experience the legacy of the “Edies” with the classic film presented as you’ve never seen it before. Not familiar with the film? Get “schooled” mother darling, by JINKX MONSOON & Ms. Christ as they transform the Castro Theatre into a musical, dilapidated haunted house full of spirits resemble the dusty mansion in East Hampton. Inspired by last year’s “The Shining” event, prepare to come face to face with some of your favorite “ghoulfriends.” Advance tickets available now: http://store.peacheschrist.com/products/121-grey-gardens.aspx
Don’t forget! Grab your tickets now for
“THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW 4Oth ANNIVERSARY CONCERT TRIBUTE “with PATRICIA QUINN
May 10 & 11, 2013 at San Francisco’s Victoria Theatre
This truly unique celebration will be a fully realized rock music concert presenting songs from the original stage production & is being orchestrated by hostess Peaches Christ. Patricia Quinn, who played ‘Magenta’ in the stage & screen versions, will participate in an onstage interview with Ms. Christ, take questions from the audience & mingle with her fans in a post-show meet/greet! Why watch the film, when you can live it??? Tickets available at: http://store.peacheschrist.com/products/116-the-rocky-horror-show.aspx
Leave the sunscreen for amateurs & get your tan ON when you enter the world of Peaches Christ at www.PeachesChrist.com
“The First 70: California’s State Parks Under Threat”
Closing the Parks
The news that California chose to close about a fourth of its 278 state park and save twenty-two million dollars meant that aside from the loss of park lands, visitors would also no longer have access to wildlife reserves, recreation areas–50% of historic parks would be affected. This move would undermine local economies. Director Jarratt Moody and two other young filmmakers decided to visit 70 of the parks slated for closure. Area wise this meant some 3000 miles and in this documentary they have photographed the beauty and majesty of the parks as well as the outrage of local community members, park rangers an environmental activists who found the state’s decision difficult to accept and were determined to keep the parks open. It is so interesting to watch this and once again realize the importance of money in our world today. Future generations can possibly lose the chance to see the beauty that was there for all of us to enjoy.
Picano, Felice. “20th Century Un-limited”, Bold Strokes Books, 2013.
Two from Picano—Speculative Fiction
I have been reading gay literature long enough to know what I like and which authors always provide a good read. Felice Picano is one such author who never disappoints and I have read both fiction and nonfiction by him.
In this new book, we get double Picano—two short novels about time travel. “Wonder of the West” takes us to the Golden Ageof Hollywood where we meet a man whose chronological age does not match exactly with the fact that he is retired. Since I do not live on the West Coast, I found this to be a difficult story to follow even though Picano is a master storyteller. I understand that it deals with a section of Hollywood Hills is a place where he once lived.
“Ingoldsby”, on the other hand, pulled me in immediately. Here a good looking graduate student in the Midwest is caretaker of an architectural work of art and through it he meets all kinds of people. I was reminded of the adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” and here we have the addition of time adding that a book cannot be judged by neither cover nor when it was written. The story comes to use through a journal entry, newspaper and police reports. It’s interesting in that there is no narrator, per se.
I am not a fan of speculative fiction and I rarely read it but I am a fan of Picano who as a member of the original Violet Quill helped to open the door for what we refer to as gay literature. So while this book did not fit in with my personal taste, it is important when looking at how our literature has progressed and changed over time. This is where the book to me has something to say. As we have changed as a community, our literature has also changed. Now with the tremendous changes of late, I suspect that our writing will be reflective of those changes and here is Picano leading that parade.
Bishop, John Schulyer. “Thoreau in Love”, Book Baby, 2013.
Six Months in New York
What we know about Henry Thoreau we have learned from his biographers and from his journals—some forty-seen volumes but 250 pages, which include his trip to New York, are missing—ripped out. We do not know who tore them out or why but we can suspect that they have to do with his sexuality and it was probably the literary executor of his state who is responsible (but this is only speculation). What we do know is that Thoreau’s mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, advised him to move to New York City when Thoreau found it difficult to cope with the Puritanism of Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau did just that and never considered returning home. Whatever happened during that period is what is missing from his journal. He stayed in New York for six months and we don’t know why he left. Thoreau scholars and academics insist that he was heterosexual but he never married and his journals contain passages about “the beauty of men”. It is only natural to suspect that we are not supposed to know about his sexuality as if that would somehow discredit his writing. In fact by hiding his sexuality, whatever it was, reduces him to someone we read about but never really get to know.
Schulyer fills in those missing pages when Thoreau was 25 years old and we see Thoreau as a man with urges and desires who explored himself and the world before returning to Massachusetts where he spent the rest of his life and eventually became regarded as a major voice in American literature. We see here that while in New York, Thoreau fell in love with a man named Ben and we can surmise that his return home came because the two separated. Although Thoreau tried to find Ben again, he was unsuccessful and spent the rest of his life in solitude. He never mentioned Ben again but he did kept the man’s letters even when he was with Ellery Channing who became his companion in Concord.
The author tells us that he found the missing pages from the journals and tells us that Thoreau told Ben that he was tired of running away from who he was yet he did run—right back to Concord and to Ellery. When the book closes, Henry Thoreau and Ellery Channing are naked and swimming. Thoreau was no longer afraid of who he was.
I can only imagine the research that went into the writing of this book and the difficulty the writer had putting dialogue into the mouths of characters long dead. Historical novels demand great discipline and to write a novel with the atmosphere of time past is indeed challenging. Schulyer does so with great style and avoids the clichés that others meet when putting words in the mouths of others. There is a true feeling of authenticity here. After finishing the book, I took it with me to Walden Pond where I sat, holding the book, and thinking about what I read. I was for an hour or so taken back to the 19th century to meet the literary giant who has inspired so many of us but this time he was very real—especially when I now could feel that we had something truly in common. Schulyer returns Thoreau to us as a partner to our lives and I feel so much better because he has done so.
Murphy, Ken. “Stubborn Heart”, Dreamspinner Press, 2013.
Burned but Relit
Mark Smith, recently broken up with his boyfriend, has decided to live a simple life. He really is only interested in his career as a nurse and his home. Because he learned about the “perils” of dating when he found out that his ex had been cheating on him, he decides that there will be no dating. He has not had much luck with happiness and has begun to feel that he may never find it. But then… (there always seems to be a “but then”) he met Trevor Hayes at the hospital where he works and is as attracted to him as Trevor seems to feel the same. However, Trevor wants a relationship and Mark doesn’t. Even after spending a lot of time together, Mark is sure that this is a temporary romance. When it seems that he might lose Trevor, he realizes that happiness can indeed be his and is forced to choose between love and being alone.
The relationship between Mark and Trevor began slowly. Mark was very apprehensive and Trevor is very determined. Mark just wanted this to be fun but he soon understood that it is turning into more than that. When Trevor got the news of the death of a friend, Mark was there to comfort him. Trevor’s fellowship at the hospital was ending soon and so he would be leaving Mark. This was stressful for both men and Mark said some things that should have not been said and he hurt Trevor. Then they were both robbed and gunpoint and this gave Mark the courage he needed to hold on to Trevor.
This was a good read and it would have been much better read had Murphy stuck with one narrator and one point of view. At times, it was confusing to understand who was relating the story. This was a bit difficult to review without giving away the story. I think we shall be hearing more from Murphy and this prose does have a charm to it.
Weber, Ilse. “Mendel Rosenbusch – Tales for Jewish Children”, translated by Ruth and Hans Fisher, Bunim and Bannigan, 2013.
For Children of all Ages
It seems to me that most children’s stories never lose their charm and that is probably the reason that they do not change and stories that are read to children, in many cases, are the same that were read to those now telling them. The stories here are folk tales and the original German edition dates back to 1929 when it was first published. Now we have a wonderful English edition that was translated by Ruth and Hans Fisher. I met Hans at a recent lecture and was mesmerized by the stories and by what he had to say about the author, Ilse Weber, who together with her son, was killed at Auschwitz.
The central character is Mendel Rosenbusch, a senior citizen, gets a magic coin that lets him become invisible when he wants and he uses this power to do good things for those around him. It was not long before Mendel became the town hero especially among the children. Mendel lived behind the synagogue in his shtetl in Eastern Europe and regaled everyone with his stories, eleven of which are in this book. I have always felt that stories that have nothing to teach or intellectually barren but here is a treasure trove of tales that not only teach us the Jews of Eastern Europe once lived. These stories do more than that—they teach about Judaism and its traditions and remind us of our rich heritage and who we are. Whether we are baking “Shabbos Challah” or listening to the Megillah at Purim, we get a strong sense of unity knowing that we are not alone and that people all over the world bake “Shabbos Challah” and make noise when Haman’s name is mentioned. And as I said, these are not stories just for children but for all of us who want to know our pasts.
The illustrations by P. John Burden are wonderful and with them the book becomes visual. As years pass, the world of the Jews of eastern Europe pass with them and if it were not for books like this, it would be gone forever. Just to give you an idea about relevant these stories are, I found myself being taken back to my childhood and listening to my parents tell me these stories. They are universal and have stood the test of time. They seem to eschew being dated and remind us that doing good deeds never goes out of style. The book is more than stories; it is an experience and a guide to a world that will never be again which was an important thread in the quilt of Jewish history. So often we learn about the Holocaust but not of the world that existed before the genocide of the 6,000,000. We need to know about that world and here is a way of doing so.
Kadence, Sam. “Evolution”, Dreamspinner Press, 2013.
Hiding from the World
Genesis (Gene) Sage is 17 years old and a singer with his band, Evolution, and they are on the cusp of going “big time”. He loves singing but lately he finds his mind filled with strange thoughts and he knows that he does not fit the role that society has deemed. One day he ran into and “ran over” Kerstrande Peterson, a rock star and another guy who has no place in society— Peterson is a vampire and from that moment Gene’s life changed forever. Peterson thinks that Sage wants to use him to gain immortality for Evolution but his immediate affection for the singer and his enthusiasm causes him to bring Sage into his world.
The story has two narrators, Sage and Kerstrande, giving it two perspectives. Sage has the power of being able to see the dead and what people around him are thinking. With his mind somewhere else, Sage hit something when he was driving home after a gig and discovers that it was not something but someone. Sage fell asleep and dreams that he was having sex with someone who he discovered, upon awakening that was Kerstrande, the rocker and the legend—the former guitarist of one of the greatest bands of all time.
Each of the narrators speaks totally differently. Sage is the voice of innocence while Kerstrande is blunt and “in your face”. The voices show us the opposition between them but we also get a sense of balance which later helps us to understand what each is going through. Perhaps the biggest difference between them is that Sage lives in the present while Kerstrande lives in the past. Kerstrande is not at peace with who he is and how he is forced to survive but he also has the ability to make Sage fulfill his dreams and to be accepted.
Using the themes of lust, jealousy, envy, love and heartbreak, we watch Sage become a star as each man discovers more about himself and each other. This is a novel about acceptance and self-understanding. Some may have trouble with the fact that when they met first, Sage was underage but I think that with young people coming-out so early, this is an important aspect of the story. I sense that there is a sequel coming so if anyone has questions about the characters, I am sure the answers are on their way.
Publishing Triangle— Winners Announced for 2012′s Best Lesbian and Gay Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Debut Fiction
“The Happy Poet”
Love and Food
Who would have thought that a film about a vegetarian poet and a healthy food stand would provide a unique movie experience? I, for one, would never have believed it had I not seen it myself. Bill (Paul Gordon who also directed the film) uses his last few dollars and all of his heart to start a stand to sell healthy food. He has a bit of help from some surprising supporters; he strives to make a difference in the world by creating a future without hot dogs. He is an underdog who struggles against the system and gives us a new look at America’s social conscience and what we eat. Bill is a MFA graduate who reinvents himself as the owner of an all organic vegetarian food cart that he hopes to use to change his world. He sets up his stand in an Austin, Texas park and has a few friends around—“Jonny Mars as a wily opportunist, Chris Doubek as a local mooch, and Liz Fisher as a would-be love interest” and they hang around Bill and his cart, encouraging the recovering artist to begin with a brand. We see a view of American class structure and ideas about sustainability. The movie is filled with sophisticated humor and there is wit everywhere.