Queer Tales: 3 Works by Queer-lit Masters
From prose to poetry, the sublime to the ridiculous, the written word can be a source of inspiration, instigation and infuriation. Jeffrey Round looks at three books by three contemporary queer writers who have made a name for themselves — and helped define genre within genre — and dissected some of their most provocative works.
Tales: from a distant planet by Felice Picano (French Connection Press 2005)
To anyone who has followed his career, it’s clear Felice Picano doesn’t belong to any one particular genre, whether it be literary, speculative fiction, memoirs, sexual aids (let’s not forget he co-authored The New Joy of Gay Sex), pulp or horror. He is comfortable wherever he lands. It’s hard to pinpoint why Picano is so compelling, other than to say you want to know what he’s thinking, no matter the subject or genre. In fact, the best of these tales refuses to be confined to just one genre, much like their peripatetic creator.
Some of them read like compressed novels, others like film treatments, as though Picano’s imaginative overload is constrained only by the time he has to explore it. “The Lesson Begins” is told from the unusual POV of a landing module camera on Mars, while “The Guest in the Little Brick House” is an affecting tale of a man’s obsessive love affair with a spectre. “Ingoldsby”, a true novella, begins as a whodunit but quickly transforms into speculative-horror before resolving in a charmingly comedic fashion.
Unlike many writers who are content to turn out the same book again and again, Picano happily refuses to stop exploring and growing. We can but follow. As they say, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” My guess is Picano’s closets must be very full of well-worn and well-loved heels.
La cité dans l’oeuf par Michel Tremblay (Éditions du Jour 1969)
One of the celebrated Quebec writer’s earliest and most atypical works, this dystopian fantasy reads like a cross between Le Petite Prince and Doctor Who. Francois Laplante, a young Montrealer subject to disturbing visions, inherits a glass bauble containing what appears to be a miniature city. On discovering the key to entering it, however, he learns it’s an entire civilization with a history predating earth’s.
It’s also a world at war with itself, one whose fate holds the balance of our own. As Laplante encounters the strange denizens of this world, including the gruesome hyena-birds, the metal-skinned Khjoens (said to be the most terrifying creatures in the universe), and a race of gods facing their own twilight, he ultimately discovers his purpose for being there. Marked with a surfeit of imagination and written over the course of two months in 1968, the book is an easy, straightforward read even with limited French.
Its descriptions of Montreal by night and the fantastical City in the Egg are at times sublime.
Accidental Genius: The Pantheon of Modern American Poets by Keith Garebian (Guernica 2015)
Sometimes blatant stupidity is a cause for amusement, sometimes for aggravation. Not many people build a shrine to it and watch it self-immolate, but that is what critic and writer Keith Garebian has done.
Taking sure aim at the American Right (an easy target, you may say, but Garebian has done his due diligence in what would please any rigorous academic), Garebian provides us with a panoply of public pronouncements presented as Found Poetry. The results are as hilarious to contemplate as they are unnerving to read. The field was his for the picking, as it turned out, because there is no lack of material, from would-be-president Sarah Palin’s baffling political pronouncements (“Polls are for strippers and cross-country skiers”) through to the more egregious declarations by world leaders and authority figures, as well as the words of self-made egotist Donald Trump and celebrities like Tom Cruise and Paris Hilton, who lack for nothing to say even when they are saying nothing.
For someone like me, who tries to avoid politics in general and American politics in particular, some of these pieces are so astounding as to make me reconsider the phrase, “Know thine enemy.” It’s impossible to single out a clear winner among the bunch, but Mitt Romney’s pithy “Corporations are people” is a definite contender. This book deserves to be one of those handy pocket books that sits beside every cash register in every gift shop. Come the Day of Judgement in whatever form it takes, it will provide ample opportunity for compiling a list of names that deserve to go down in infamy.
If these are leaders of the people, Garebian serves up ample evidence to support the claim that there is no such thing as a moral majority. A pity, then, that the creators of these truly frightening gems would never understand that.
Jeffrey Round’s first two books, A Cage of Bones and The P-town Murders, were listed on AfterElton’s Top 100 Gay Books. Pumpkin Eater, the sequel to the Lambda award-winning Lake on the Mountain, was released in April 2014. Please visit his website: jeffreyround.com.
Tags: A Writer's Half-Life
, Accidental Genius: The Pantheon of Modern American Poets
, American Right
, Felice Picano
, Jeffrey Round
, Keith Garebian
, La cité dans l'oeuf
, Michel Tremblay
, Mitt Romney
, Paris Hilton
, Queer Tales: 3 Works by Queer-lit Masters
, Sarah Palin
, Tales: from a distant plane
, Tom Cruise