Song of the Loon by Richard Amory
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I finished it. That’s a good thing.
The book itself is tedious. For the first 60% the book follows a simple pattern and then rinse and repeat. The hero sails downstream, meets an Indian, they have sex. Within the first hour of their being together they tell each other they love each other and have never loved another more. They recite long drawn-out poetry to each other. Then the hero moves on downstream and the process begins again.
There is really no description of native life to keep you interested, although the book is set in the past there’s no historical interest displayed. Just clumsy sex scenes and clumsier dialogue about love said by people who just met.
This book is held up as one of the gay pulp classics and an example of the author overcoming the pulp medium to produce literature. For me this is the wrong book to hang that hat on. I’ve read much better and more relevant pulp, such as Sam or Lost on Twilight Road.
The hero must keep moving on to see Bear-who-dreams for a spiritual quest. Once he finally does (and sleeps with him, no shock there) the book picks up a bit. It’s enough to get you through to the end, although the villain of the piece really goes nowhere.
An example of the sticky dialogue, after sleeping with the entire Native community, Ephraim picks a mate and everyone else is jealous. “Tell them,” Ephraim said after a hushed pause, “to forget their disappointment at not having either of us, for we love each other.” As if that helps the other guys, that’s why they were upset in the first place!
There’s a nice introduction in the Little Sisters version I read detailing how pulp can be more than pulp and holding this book up as an example, something I don’t really agree with.
In the afterward the author explains more through interviews what he was trying to do with the book and I can see elements of this in the story. Writing a book with no women, where women weren’t even acknowledged to exist. Writing a story hoping to deal with issues of body image and monogamy. I appreciate the try.
The appendices for the book are great and make this edition the one you need to pick up. There are several interviews with the author and another author of the time on this book, the movie and gay publishing of the time. I can sense the author’s outrage at the injustice coming through the page, though the things they were arguing about now seem less important with time. For example, the author takes exception to the publishing industries term “fag hot” for gay themed books. Another author wrote an S&M book and specifically said in the intro letter that the leather community hates being called “leather queens.” So of course they called the book “The Leather Queens”. No royalties were paid, lines were cut or inserted from other sources, and the editors were heterosexual. Not very conducive to artistic expression.
There are also examples of gay infighting, where the book says men should act and dress like “men”. Where the author says publishing books with the word “fag” or “gay” in the title is bad for the image we present to straights, etc. This idea of self-policing gays has been around forever. I remember recently a debate on whether there should be a separate “gay” section at a local author’s festival. If there’s no gay section, how am I supposed to find the gay books?
I don’t understand how this book was so popular, other than it was one of the first. It’s not one I would choose to rest my laurels on now.
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