Thursday, August 28, 2014

Faggots by Larry Kramer

Faggots by Larry Kramer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much to say on this book! It’s never gone out of print and is one of the most widely read gay books of all time, which to me is remarkable. I know about two gay men who could read and finish this book. I know many more who should but the graphic sex, perhaps the most graphic in any book I’ve ever read, and the drug use would turn a lot off.
From the introduction:
“The purpose of satire… offers us oddly entertaining, generally exaggerated copies of foolish or evil behaviour in order to provoke our ridicule.”
This the book does. It took me about 100 pages to really get where the book was going and to fully understand the satire. In some ways nothing has changed from 1978 when this book was published and the tales of sexual excess still rang very true. It was only when I read of the white man having sex with the black man, the white man calling him the N word and the black man, pumping away, yelling “…you done take our cotton fields away!,” that I got that this was satire.
The book starts off with Kramer’s doppelganger Fred, and a refrain that will ring true then and now:
“All I want is someone who reads books, loves his work, and me, too, of course, and who doesn’t take drugs, and isn’t on unemployment.”
But this desire for a mate is impeded by Fred himself, and many gay men, by, as Kramer says:
“And every faggot couple I know is deep into friendship and deep into fucking with everyone else but each other and any minute any bump appears in their commitment to infinitesimally obstruct their view, out they zip like petulant kids to suck someone else’s lollipop instead of trying to work things out, instead of trying not to hide, and…unh…why do faggots have to fuck so fucking much?!”
In this I think Kramer relates the struggle of all gay men and the eventual growing up, or not, they must do. To me this is ultimately the point of the book, its one man’s struggle to weed out the excesses in his life in an attempt to see the forest for the trees. There are sub-points about gay identity and self-worth, but in the end the book is presented as one man’s struggle, and presented, I think, in the hope that we can find ourselves in that struggle. There was much backlash against this book, and judging by the reviews on here, there still is a lot of negativity directed at Kramer for writing it. The only gay bookstore in Manhattan banned the book upon its release. And something I learned in a course recently applies here, out of the 100% that is your negative reaction, what if 5% applied back to you?
That is I think there’s a lot that applies in this book. The desire for a mate sounds so simple but it’s really unattainable in that you cannot find someone who is not sabotaging themselves, we all do it. Kramer takes these sabotages to the extreme with the hope of asking why in a smart and funny way. The book isn’t easy to read, there are a lot of wayward tangents, lists, and run-on sentences like the following two:
“And so it was while watching one of the members fucking himself by sitting on a stationary twelve-inch rubber dildo while being bound hand and foot, the dildo impaled to a cross, the cross mounted on a stage, and the fellow also sucking the cock of a gentleman clad entirely in chain mail, except of course for his genitals, which were exposed, and enormous, and holding in his hand while mouth-fucking the impaled acolyte, not one but two hissing rattlesnakes, reputed to have been defanged but dripping something from their mouths nevertheless, all of this witnessed by forty-nine other members, each donged with grease, each jerking off either himself or a fellow clubber, in some sort of cockamamie version of the daisy chain, don’t Southern Californians have wonderful imaginations, whatever happened to King of the Mountain?, well, perhaps this was King of the Mountain—it was while watching all of this, and of course participating, he couldn’t be a spoilsport, that Randy had an epiphany. He began to realize to what lengths it would soon be necessary to travel to receive kicks sufficient to cause erection, and while he was finding these ceremonies reasonably exciting (and certainly a nice time-out from his studies), in that he had a good stiff one on while those two snakes were up there hissing away, he knew he had neither the time nor the abundant imagination to play “Can You Top This?” every time he wanted to get his rocks off.”
There’s enough wit to get through but the book could have used an editor with a heavier hand. An example of the wit:
“His skin was that deep white which tans nicely and is associated with health, vigor, keeping regular, drinking milk, chewing Wrigley’s, using Colgate, and walking in Keds.”
Some comments about the gay community can be scathing:
“Sex and love are different and any faggot given half a choice will take the former. And probably fucked with Adolf Hitler if he’d been cute!”
But it’s really no worse than we’ve all heard other gay men say.
The book ends with some home truths but it takes a very circuitous route to get there. The following quote was memorable for me:
“I’ve lived all over the world and I haven’t seen more than half a dozen couples who have what I want.”
Dinky’s voice chirped up in relief: “Then that should tell you something!”
The quote goes on and Fred justifies himself but I think the retort itself is worth noting. What if what we’re looking for doesn’t exist? With so many gay men there was never the option of the white picket fence and 2.2 kids, so what else is there and what does that look like? And is it even there for straight people? I agree, maybe half a dozen couples have a marriage that I would want, but what about our easy access, no responsibility culture is causing that, and what are we doing ourselves to cause that? Is it possible we don’t want what we want?
The book mentions “And a commitment to the notion that our shitty beginnings don’t have to cripple us for life.” I think a lot of gay men still have these terrible beginnings, and maybe that does make it harder to find love and happiness, but as Kramer would say, that doesn’t mean we have to act like faggots and make it more difficult for ourselves. As the book says: “There will always be enemies. Time to stop being your own.”

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Some notes on the text:

“He winced at second… And be winced at third.” – Should be he, Pg 132, Location 2041

“1 was doing in Savannah.” – Should be I, pg 173, location 2631

“be went to his scrapbook of clippings.” – Should be he, pg 183, location 2792

“Laveme, and Dinky with Laverne,” – Should be Laverne, pg 191. Location 2907

‘That’s very important today. – Opening quote should be “ instead of ‘, pg 217. Location 3283

“And it’s that self I say l want” – Should be I want, not L want, pg 319, location 4795

“hell wake you up and slip you your hose and I’ll wrap myself up in my poncho, just like overnights at Kamp Kedgeree, and hell”- First and last word should be he’ll, not hell. Pg 326, location 4894 & 4895

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Gay Haunt by Victor J. Banis

The Gay Haunt by Victor J. Banis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A cute fun read along the lines of a gay I Dream of Jeanie.
There is such a small window when this book would have been published that it's very much of it's time. It feels like the late 1960's romp that it is. The market didn't begin openly publishing gay books until 1967 and after 1971 or so the market split into gay literature and gay pulp porn, so this hybrid between the two wouldn't really have had a place. There's not enough sex to make it porn and not enough literature to make it a literary work.
This kind of fun light read though does have a place, and the void was filled briefly by Robert Rodi in the mid-1990's, although he left out the sex to conform to more literary standards of the time. I always thought there should be more sex in Rodi's books and the answer comes here with this re-issue of The Gay Haunt.
A humorous sexy tale of a man trying to go straight being haunted by the ghost of his ex-lover. A fun read I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Making It Big: Sex Stars, Porn Films and Me by Chi Chi Larue, EPub download

Making It Big: Sex Stars, Porn Films and Me by Chi Chi Larue
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Download the eBook here.

A poorly executed book with little content or redeeming value.
Having finished Thousand and One Night Stands: The Life of Jon Vincent, which was told in a straight-forward, direct way, I moved right into this book hoping for more insight into the late 1990’s world of gay porn stars from someone who was there. I was disappointed. As LaRue says:
“I have had sex with some of the stars of this industry, but I’m not going to name names here. Sorry if this disappoints you, but I’ve never liked kiss-and-tell books, and I’m not going to write one. That’s unfair to the other people involved. If they want you to know, let them tell you.”
I wasn’t so much looking for a kiss-and-tell book as just a tell. The best story in the book is about Ryan Idol threatening her with a baseball bat and that’s told in about one sentence. The whole book is short vignettes with a few paragraphs and then a page break, and rather than tell a linear story the book is grouped into categories like how to direct a porno or popular drag queens of 1996. The woman’s met Prince, Madonna, Cher, Jeff Stryker, Ryan Idol and tons more and each gets about a paragraph.
LaRue’s humour very occasionally comes out:
“Bradley’s also gotten me addicted to fans, the little handheld spreading kind that classy women throughout history have fluttered when swooning with the vapors or watching their plantations burn down.”
But the humour is too infrequent and I don’t know how well it translates to the page. The book was written with a ghost writer and I have no idea what he did, he certainly didn’t help flush out the narrative.
There’s a reason people usually write these books at the end of their career. LaRue seems so concerned with stepping on people’s toes that nothing gets said.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Thousand and One Night Stands: The Life of Jon Vincent by H.A. Carson

Thousand and One Night Stands: The Life of Jon Vincent by H.A. Carson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really liked this book. Very hard to put down and told in a straight-forward focused and concise way. The book details the life and death of Jon Vincent, how he got into the business, his experience.
I wouldn't necessarily have liked to have known Vincent. He seemed a real mess, often in the book blaming others for his problems. He blames the porn industry for a lot of his addictions and issues, but doesn't do a very good job explaining why they are at fault. They gave him money and fame and tried to dissuade him from working when it was clear he was out of control on drugs and alcohol. I don't know what more he was expecting. Similar to any modeling job, there will come a time when you are no longer marketable, and Vincent hastened that time with his own actions. Others worthy of blame include his family, being molested, and pussy.
I'm not sure what the role was of Hope Carson, the stated author. Vincent's life story never mentions her and it seems he was recording the book into a tape recorder so I'm not sure why he isn't listed as the author, or at least a co-author. It's clear there was a lot of time and effort spent trying to get him to stay focused and on-track but it seems the words in the book are his.
Vincent never learned to take responsibility for his life. When bad things happened he blames others and when good things happened like not dying during one of his 18 heroin overdoses (!) he credits God. He occasionally in the book claims to want to do the work of God and find the Lord, I suppose he was using this as part of his recovery from addiction but it clearly didn't work.
A couple of notes on the style. You know going into this that Vincent died, so I would have preferred an explanation on that right up front. Then the last line of the book about how he thinks he's going to get better would resonate more. Also I would prefer pseudonyms instead of initials for people he doesn't want to or can't mention. Sentences along the lines of "I went with C. to meet Y. and P. came with us" don't really add to the storytelling. Finally many times Vincent mentions famous people or fellow actors and says he can't reveal their names. Well he's dead, so what is he waiting for? If it was for legal reasons I would say some hints wouldn't be out of order.
Overall though I thought the book was remarkably well done, told in a likeable style from an unlikeable man with an interesting life and story to tell.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Disappearance Boy by Neil Bartlett

The Disappearance Boy by Neil Bartlett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A charming, engaging book that shares a vibrant story of theatre life in 1953 England. The hero 23 year-old Reggie works as a stage-hand with a magician and wanders through life looking for his place and purpose as a gay man in 1953.

The book was well done, a little simplistic, but a much more worthy addition to Bartlett's literary canon than his first two books. Not as amazing as Skin Lane but worth a look for a very pleasant distraction.

The errors in the ebook copy I bought from Amazon on Aug 19, 2014:
location 558, 16%, "Reggie always hold his breath."
location 1282, 37%, "to find what he was looking before before he was due back"
location 2501, 73%, "After all, every seaside pleasure has it mechanics, its point of friction and purchase"

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party by Alexander McCall Smith

Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it. The book is about Fatty O'Leary from Fattyville, sorry Fayetteville, and his misadventures trying to reclaim his Irish heritage.
A few of the points stretched credulity but McCall-Smith writes so well, it's like sitting down for a cup of tea with an old friend and the time just flies by.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Dancer From The Dance by Andrew Holleran, EPub download

Dancer From The Dance by Andrew Holleran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Download book here.

A well written book, hauntingly melodic at times, yet ultimately short on plot.
The book is timeless is a way, describing the feeling all gay men have when they first come to the city:
“…especially the young ones, come into the canyon for the first time, quiet as deer, some of them, coming to your hand for salt: their dark eyes wide and gleaming with the wonder and the fear we had all felt at seeing for the first time life as our dreams had always imagined it… at seeing so many people with whom they could fall in love. The old enchantment composed of lights, music, people was transfixing them for the first time, and it made their faces even more touching.”
I remember well the days and nights spent dancing and looking for love:
“Any memory of those days is nothing but a strong of songs.”
Holleran writes very well and this is the first book of his I have read not dealing with AIDS. While there are many occasions in the book for beautiful prose:
“Love was the key: The popular songs he heard on the radio, Malone realized now, were in the end perfectly accurate. Each time he ran his lips across the concave depression of Frankie’s stomach, he banished further the nights of loneliness, the widow’s cold cream, the sterile years of his wasted youth, and he burrowed deeper at the thought of it into Frankie’s flesh.”
And touches of humour:
“I’ll go live in the woods,” said Malone.
“You’ll be lonely,” said Sutherland. “Even Thoreau went to town in the afternoon to gossip.”
Ultimately not much happens. You come to the city, you dance, you love, you die. Which now that I think of it could be the plot of a lot of people’s lives. I ultimately found the characters under-developed and wanted a beautiful story to go with the amazing prose.
“…what happens to most of these people anyway? They have their fling and then they vanish. They have to take jobs eventually as telephone operators, bartenders, partners in a lamp shop in some little town in the San Fernando mountains… and others take their places… but mostly they just vanish, and you forget about them unless you hear, one day, a certain song.”

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Recipe: Aunt Alma's Trifle

I know a lot of additions have been made to trifle over the years, and Americans added Jell-O (???) but this was the first one I ever had. My step-grandmother Alma Welborn made it and before she passed away she told me the recipe.
I usually make this in a glass bowl but I wanted to make a bit more so I used this 9x13 for the example. The recipe is for the bowl.

  • 1.5 packages lady fingers
  • 1 cup Sherry
  • 2/3 jar of jam (prefer raspberry)
  • 4.5 tablespoons custard powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2.5 cups milk
  • small container whipping cream

Place the lady fingers on a baking sheet and pour over 1 cup Sherry.  Let sit until moisture is absorbed.
Place the lady fingers in the bottom of the bowl using a fork until the bottom is covered, use about half. Spoon 1-2 to 2/3 jar of jam overtop of lady fingers, then cover with remaining lady fingers.
Make custard according to package directions, using 1.5 times more custard powder than required. For mine I used 4.5 tbsp. custard powder, 3 tbsp. sugar and 2.5 cups milk.  Place in microwave and heat on high for 8 minutes or until starting to set, beating every two minutes. So I put it in for 2 minutes, beat, then put it back for another 2 until it's starting to set. You can make it on the stove but it's very tricky and you will get lumps.
Pour over lady fingers while hot. Cover with cling film, ensuring the cling film is sticking to the top of the custard, not the top of the dish. Otherwise you'll get a film on the custard.
Place in fridge until fully cooled.  Whip small 250 ml container of cream and spread on top of custard.
The more you can let this sit the better it will taste, so try and leave overnight.  I am usually unsuccessful.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Grim by Rupert Smith

Grim by Rupert Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good book by a good writer, just not really what I was looking for. I bought this book and then took about 8 months to read it. There were no reviews on the Amazon US site where I bought it and no in-depth reviews on Goodreads so I couldn’t really figure out what it was about. Mostly I was wondering if there was any gay angle in the book and the answer is basically no. The book itself is a British horror written in the Stephen King mode, with some Rosemary’s Baby and a touch of Maeve Binchy thrown in.
After reading the prolific Mr. Smith’s amazing Man's World, I then read I Must Confess and was less impressed. I feel that Mr. Smith has a little trouble writing likable characters and this book is no exception. While he writes plot and story very well, this is an area I would work on.
The book was a little slow to get going, by 50% I was into it and by 70% I couldn’t put it down and raced to the end. Again Smith writes very well but there were a few points I got stuck at along the way. The American hero speaks and thinks in British slang, which was okay, I enjoyed the Britishness of it all, but I didn’t understand why. There’s one point where he’s talking to someone and thinks to himself Do the British really talk like that? I’m thinking you’ve been talking like that the whole book!
The other thing is the religious aspect, the moral of the story could quite easily be that Catholicism is the one true religion, and I didn’t really sign up for that either.
I don’t want to give anything away but the story was engaging in itself and I enjoy books where you have to burn through the end to find out what happens.
There is again the question of proofreading for the Kindle, or lack thereof. The version I purchased on November 27, 2013 had about a dozen errors. What is the answer for this? Does the author need trusted friends who can proofread? Should those of us who can offer our services? Whatever the answer is the ebook community has yet to find it. Some of the most glaring errors:
At location 175, a paragraph is doubled, starting with ‘There is nothing wrong with this house.
At location 2048, “restore the land and the building to its original usage, id est a place of worship”
At location 4735, “No doctors are nurses were harmed”
At location 5349, “if he looked down between yhe arms”
At location 5835, “It feels like a had a whole bottle of scotch.”
At location 6249, Chapter 17, doubles the word ‘and’ in the first sentence.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Money's On The Dresser - Escorting, Porn and Promiscuity in Las Vegas by Christopher Daniels

Money's On The Dresser - Escorting, Porn and Promiscuity in Las Vegas by Christopher Daniels
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good book on the escorting business, perhaps one of the best.
Daniels writes well, focusing a little but not too much time on his life before porn and escorting. The stories he tells are hot and I admire him for showing his life really as it is, warts and all. I imagine when escorts talk there's a tendency to play up how much you got and play down what you did or who you were with and Daniels avoids that trap, telling honestly what his time in the business has been like.
Most of the people who write books like this have left the business not wanting to put down clients or divulge stories but Daniels does both while coming across as just being honest, never bitchy or snide.
Escorts have to overcome a lot of Puritanical crap about their lives and their work to provide a much needed service and I was glad to read this. When you hear about the 28 year old disabled virgin you realize that these people are providing positive service.
One thing about the copy, I don't understand why so many people put out books without proper proofreading.
On page 119: "Here I was finally shooting such a, but because we were pressed for time..."
On page 126: "This really annoyed me, because if I had saved his number, I would not have known not to see him again."
On page 134: "In the elevator, I had to keep readjusting my dick in my underwear because it was still rock-hard from all the."
All the what??? There's about a dozen such errors and they distract.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Story of a Life: For the Consideration of the Medical Fraternity by Claude Hartland

The Story of a Life: For the Consideration of the Medical Fraternity by Claude Hartland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting enough short book I managed to read in a couple of hours.
I had never heard of this book before and was surprised, the first American account of an avowed homosexual from 1901? I don't know of another account before this one from any place and so was anxious to read it. Now that I have, I understand why it isn't more popular.
While I enjoyed reading of the time period and occasionally placing myself in the situation of the author, it was hard to relate. The author was SO emotional, he cries and weeps on nearly every page. Some of this may be a figure of speech but I don't think so.
Due to the time it was written the author rarely speaks plainly about sex and sometimes the undertones are too subtle for me to tell if anything happened. Much of the book is lamenting his condition, worrying it will spread, effecting others, etc. He refers to masturbating as self-abuse and says he tried to do it not often enough to cause permanent harm, limiting himself to a few times a week and eventually making a pact with God to never do it again. This pact is then broken with much torment and tears and weeping. It's just hard to relate.
The book is presented to the medical establishment in hopes of finding a cure. The book ends with the author at age 30 so hopefully he found some comfort.
A couple things surprised, the number of times grown men shared beds surprised. Why was a teacher invited to stay over at his 16 year old pupil's house and share his bed? Also people seemed to die a lot. They'd look pale, and next thing they'd be dead.
Overall worthwhile as a glimpse at history but not a book to hang the hat on.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Sexual Outlaw: A Documentary by John Rechy

The Sexual Outlaw: A Documentary by John Rechy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rechy seems to me to be unappreciated in our time, perhaps because of his frank use of sex. He has some good ideas in this book but I don’t know that they were all fully explored or that they necessarily stand up over time.
The book is a valuable piece of history, one that I think will stand up for generations, showing the pursuit of sex and interaction with police over a period in the seventies. There’s always been the idea, are gay men so promiscuous because they’re men, because they’re gay, because they’re oppressed, why? This book attempts to answer some of those questions and I think it would be interesting to take these ideas and re-work them against modern concepts. For example I think with liberation a lot of anonymous cruising areas have disappeared. Or have they just moved to the internet?
There are several incidents described which almost defy belief in our time:
A youngman cruising: “The judge threatens to hold you incommunicado for three months—for ‘psychiatric examination,’ insisting that all homosexuals are insane.”
“A man is cruising. Two men drive by and call him a ‘fucking queer.’ Through their window, you swing at one angrily. They turn out to be vice cops, and you’re charged with assaulting an officer.”
The piece on the slave auction in particular stands out.
The last twenty percent of the book delves into S & M, or what Rechy would I think call then the problem of S & M. With the recent release of the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer, you can’t call S & M exclusively for self-hating gays looking to act out the experiences of their tormentors. I will acknowledge that there is some of that, I think all oppressed people take on characteristics of their oppressors. But Rechy is not always reasoned in his arguments:
“I heard, increasingly, intellectualized defenses of Manson, even of Hitler. From there the defense of S & M is easy.”
Comparing things to Hitler is a guaranteed way to bring the conversation to a stop.
On Fisting: “this activity has already resulted in death and permanent crippling.”
Let’s check this with Google. I had never heard this idea before that people who want to be fisted are really looking for ways to die. Silly. Especially when Rechy himself uses this at the end of his book The Coming of the Night, published in 1999, so perhaps his attitude has evolved. I checked Google, I don’t see evidence of fisting making someone crippled, there are a very few cases documented of people dying, but it doesn’t seem to be any different from other large items that could be inserted.
He is more reasoned in his depiction of a specific S & M scene:
“In effect, the ‘S’ says, ‘You are the queer now, not me, and I’ll punish you for it, just as I was punished for it—and I’ll call you the names others would call me, and have called me.”
But I don’t think you can generalize it like that. I think in our society there is still an element of punishment and self-abuse for wanting sex period, not just gay sex. Also I think there’s a larger element of self-hating gays that Rechy touches on with older gay men and transsexuals being excluded from the community that I think goes deeper to the root of the problem that the S & M theory does and could have been explored more.
The main value of the book is the time being described. A time when you would call the police for help after being attacked and:
“A cold voice accuses from the telephone: ‘What were you doing in a queer park at midnight?’”

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