I always enjoy reading collections assembled by Richard Labonte. He has a finely honed literary sensibility, and tends to choose stories for their emotional intensity as opposed to their physical extremity. He views the gay world with compassion and wisdom, revealing its complexities to outsiders like me. Boy Crazy is sweet, hot, occasionally silly, and on one occasion, brutal, but always respectful of the challenges faced by gay men in a het world.
This anthology is subtitled “Coming Out Erotica” but I think “Initiation Erotica” would have been more appropriate. Most of the stories feature young men—in their teens or twenties—finally experiencing the homoerotic intimacies they have imagined for so long. While a few of these boys—the bookish cello player in Dale Chase's “Army Brat,” the “lumpish, clumsy” hero in “Larry and His Father” --go through the painful experience of admitting their sexual orientation to their family and friends, most of these tales are concerned with more private revelations.
Being a teenager—constantly horny, eternally insecure, perpetually misunderstood, at odds with family and the world—is hell for most of us. Being a gay teenager must be far worse. On top of everything else, there is the isolation, the inability to share one's fantasies with anyone for fear of being rejected, ostracized or even beaten up. These stories make that isolation real for non-gay readers. In both Michael Rowe's evocative “August” and Martin Delacroix's lusciously detailed “A Beautiful Motorcycle,” the boy is forced to endure the torture of seeing the object of his affections in the arms of his self-involved older sister. In “Paperboys,” by Natty Soltesz, two boys in lust pretend that they are just kidding around as they share their bodies. The heroes of these stories insist that they are not interested in men, even when they are dying to touch and be touched by one.
In some sense, there's only one story here: boy meets boy, or boy meets man, and is recognized, accepted, usually fucked and changed forever. As with a fairy tale, the reader knows how the story will end, but that doesn't diminish the pleasure of reading. The emotions make it all worthwhile, the unendurable longing and the incredible intensity of that first touch, when the longing is finally satisfied. These stories are a celebration of requited lust, and sometimes love.
One of my favorite tales in the collection is Alana Noël Voth's “Sundelin”, in which a college kid is obsessed with the barista at the local coffee shop. One reason I loved this story was that, paradoxically, it included no sex other than the narrator's outrageous fantasies. (It's also the kinkiest story in the book, since those fantasies are submissive in the extreme.) Ms. Voth leaves the reader to imagine what will happen next.
Another standout is “Game Boyz” by F.A. Pollard. In this incendiary tale, the narrator is swept off his feet and into the back alley by a gorgeous tough guy named Zen, only to be discovered in flagrante by his straight roommate.
Nearly all the stories in the collection are told from the perspective of the “boy” being initiated. The one exception is the amazing “The Pasta Closet”, by Davem Verne. Verne's narrator lusts for years for the hairy, meaty body of Gino, his childhood friend in Boston’s Little Italy. But it's Gino, the local Italian Stallion, who is ultimately forced to realize that he craves men as much as or even more than women.
A review of Boy Crazy would not be complete without a mention of the peculiar, outrageous, silly and entertaining tale “The Dolphin Temple”, by David Holly. This story, set in Crete under the Minoans, postulates a religious cult in which the primary ritual is mutual masturbation. The young hero Androgeous (!) is literally initiated into the mysteries of the Dolphin God by Phaeax, his boon companion and the object of his nocturnal fantasies.
The “brutal” story is William T. Hathaway's “Coming of Age”, which includes a gut-wrenching description of two hippie guys on their way from Kansas City to San Francisco being raped by a bunch of red-neck military men. Overall, I found this story a bit distancing, especially when it skipped over two decades of gay history in a few paragraphs, but the earlier scenes hammered home the pain faced by boys who love boys, but who can't or won't admit it.Overall, this intelligent and moving collection offers a sympathetic and exciting perspective on first times. Its unabashed sentimentality balances the anonymous physicality that I see in some gay erotica. Readers, gay or not, will identify with the boys in this book.
Those who remember the American TV sit-com named "Cheers" know the appeal of a home-away-from-home "where everybody knows your name." It’s a place where the regulars provide a comforting sense of familiarity and new customers prevent the series from growing stale. A bar, a nightclub, an apartment building or a hotel as the physical embodiment of a community or a "scene" as well as a unifying device for a series of episodes is not a new concept, but there are so many possible variations on this device that it still has charm.
In Broadly Bound, a new club named Broad Horizons is launched by its anxious owner, a lesbian Domme named Dani, who worries about losing her submissive femme girlfriend Maryanne because the club (like many new businesses) has taken over Dani's life, forcing everything else, including her relationship, into second place.
The first story in the collection, "Broadening Our Horizons" by Beth Wylde, introduces us to Dani and Maryanne, who have poured all their hope and all their money into this new venture, which is meant to be a home for the intersection of the queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or genderqueer) and BDSM (bondage/discipline/sadomasochistic, Dominant/submissive/fetish) communities in a town which might not be large enough to support it. In the culture of a medium-sized town in the eastern U.S., many members of sexual minorities can't afford to be "out" in public, and therefore they are hard to count. Dani must take it on faith that if she builds a place for them, they will come (in every sense). If they don't, she will be metaphorically screwed.
Dani's anxiety and Maryanne's touching faith in her seem characteristic of the general mood in a time of Recession as well as repression. In fact, the risk that they both take by investing in the club seems more extreme than the sex scene in which Dani shows Maryanne that she hasn't lost her sexual focus. Part of the risk they take involves the private invitations that Dani sends out to her friends for her opening night. No one without an invitation will be allowed in, and this way Dani can assure her “people” that they are in a safe space. Since the reader gets to enter the club on opening night, each of us is presumably one of the chosen.
The next story, "The Leash Has Two Ends," by Syd McGinley, is a study of another same-sex couple with realistic, contemporary baggage. Jake is a Dom by nature, but he has been disabled in war, and his damaged hand is more of a psychological disability than a physical one. Matt is submissive, but he is also Jake's landlord, and he has the challenging job of trying to restore Jake's faith in himself. The Grand Opening of Broad Horizons seems like a golden opportunity to Matt, if only he can persuade Jake to go. The author’s portrait of Jake as a man who is still attractive but shaken by self-doubt and a sense of failure looks like a realistic response to all the stereotyped military hunks in gay men’s erotica.
In D.L. King’s “Family,” that word has layers of meaning. At the heart of the household in the story is Ali, a Domme who lives with her submissive “wife” Glenda, a professional cook. Their “girl,” Missy, is a tattoo artist who dresses like a bratty goth schoolgirl. Their “boy,” Matt, does cleaning and odd jobs. Although Matt is good at his job, there is really no sexual role for him in the household, since he likes to bottom for male Daddies. The reader is told that Matt had to apply for the job, and was chosen over numerous other applicants who were clearly unsuitable, mostly because they were more interested in getting their own desires met than in what they could contribute. What makes Matt tick? He clearly enjoys being of service, and he might have been looking for the peace that can come from being removed from sexual temptation. Yet Ali, as the head of the household, has a responsibility for him.
Opening Night at Broad Horizons is the perfect occasion for play in various forms. Ali reserves a private room for her “family,” including Matt and two other men. An opening needs to be filled, so to speak, and the right person to fill it shows up. In this story, three different concepts of a non-biological “family” are neatly conflated, since the characters in this story are a group of friends, a group of friends with queer identities, and a group of queer friends for whom Dominance and submission are essential.
Kathleen Bradean’s “Opening Night” focuses on a pair of performance artists, the submissive femme Carrie, who tells the story, and the androgynous Zell, who demonstrates shibari (Japanese rope bondage) on Carrie, the model, for the crowd at Broad Horizons. The relationship between the two performers is intimate in a sense, since it involves trust and co-operation, but Carrie wants a more personal relationship with Zell, and she is not sure Zell wants the same thing. Here the author explores the complex relationship between life and art, or reality and fantasy, as well as the social ambiguity of a relationship between a “lesbian” and a person who is not female-identified.
Carrie tends to arrive late for rehearsals for reasons she herself doesn’t seem completely aware of. She is afraid that Zell might notice her sexual reactions to Zell’s touch and guess how Carrie feels about hir [the gender-neutral pronoun used in the story]. She is also afraid that Zell doesn’t return the feeling. Zell’s gender ambiguity seems like part of the impenetrable mask of a competent Dom, and on some level, Carrie wants to provoke a spontaneous reaction from hir. By the end of the story, the two performers have reached a new understanding, and they share their news with the crowd.
At first glance, “Trust” by Cassandra Gold has nothing to do with Broad Horizons or BDSM in general, and everything to do with clashing expectations in a gay-male relationship. Zach is attractive enough to attract men wherever he goes in the line of duty as a dedicated cop. His current fling, Lane, is satisfied with the sex but not with Zach’s refusal to let anyone get to know him well, which he can always justify on grounds that police work is confidential. Can this relationship be saved? Apparently not, as the reader discovers when Zach rushes to see Lane after spending six weeks cracking a case. Zach assumes that the weeks of silence from him have not changed Lane’s feelings, and that Lane will immediately fall into bed with him. Instead, Lane offers a cup of coffee and a chance to talk. When Zach refuses to discuss his feelings, Lane tells him gently that he can’t accept a relationship on those terms, and breaks it off.
Zach realizes that he no longer wants to flit from one man to the next, and that Lane is the best he ever found. He wants to win him back, but doesn’t know how until he visits his helpful younger sister (the go-between who introduced the two men in the first place) for advice. Luckily, Zach is still on speaking terms with his ex, Marty, who has a current boyfriend. And these two men received an invitation to opening night at Broad Horizons. When the invitation eventually reaches Lane, it is several times removed from the person for whom it was intended. Lane is intrigued but distrustful; why on earth would the man he rejected invite him to a BDSM club when BDSM was never part of their relationship?
The reader can guess that the two men will meet up again on opening night, and that something between them will be resolved. An unusual BDSM initiation takes place, and the risk-taking on both sides turns out to be worthwhile.
The sex is these stories is hot and consistent with the plots and the personalities involved. A mood of generous good humor prevails, regardless of how many hands and other implements land on how many bottoms. Although in some ways, Broad Horizons seems too good a place to be real, a sense of community is conveyed by the real-life teamwork of the five authors.
Paradoxically, the BDSM in this collection transcends gender, but it can enhance the “queerness” of same-gender relationships, loosely speaking. And the reader, regardless of sexual plumbing or sexual orientation, is welcome to join in. You won’t regret it.
Lethe Press very kindly directly sent me a copy of M. Christian’s Dirty Words, a collection of ruby red stories pulsing with extreme gay kink. I am hugely pleased that they did. The collection is a tour de force for Mr. Christian who says of his own book that, “It’s hard to write about a kink when it’s my own.” Surely he cannot possibly share all the exotic penchants of this collection. It would be far too exhausting for any single mortal. On the other hand, his emotional and intellectual presence surges up constantly as you read along. Dirty Words is an erotic celebration of Self – in this case Mr. Christian – and he totally gets away with it. “Casey, the Bat” even gives us an auto-erotic fuck-off in which Casey (of former baseball legend) fucks himself into oblivion aided by a chorus of human fuck toys at his every orifice.
Whether in the idiom of the surreal as with Casey, or that of the super-real in “The Harley” (a competitive fuck for a hog between two monster bikers), Christian gives us an oleaginous world of glorified decadence, physiological rot, and steaming piles of depravity laced with homicidal madness. Throughout, sex is the driving force behind the author’s boiling universe. Love then becomes the gag or screech as a behemoth, unwashed cock is jammed full force down a strangled throat or up an un-lubricated ass.
Despite the fact that the book is heavily laden with typos and editing oversights, the prose poetry is remarkable as you can see here in the opening lines of “The Harley:
If they’d thought of BO, Mammoth would have kicked it over and tore out of there no problem. Hands down, the fucker had the most righteous stench – one like a rap sheet (fucking bad and sticks to your ass for life): (sic) body reek, oil, farts, old blood, dog shit – the works. But they didn’t think of stink to settle the issue.
Just like the prose style, the book is densely packed with an overwhelming sense of unabashed homoerotic narcissism that makes each story a kind of figurative auto-performance given by the author. The book has an arrogant smirk to it rather in the spirit of Norman Mailer in his prime (Advertisements for Myself). Christian gives us gay lovers who are in fact sado-masochistic twins as in “Spike.” In “Matches” we find ourselves with the hero who encounters his ideal lover only when he sees himself as dead. The ardor of the coming together is celestial in feeling as we see here, “David’s asshole surged and sparked and twirled around his new cock like a particle accelerator.”
These doublings allow Christian to step in and visibly referee in his various bizarre, fictive contests of will. His muscular freaks battle over territory, motorcycles, lovers, power, and even it seems over who and how will do the fighting itself. The combatants are always worthy of their arena. Christian has captured for our time what Henry Miller captured for his, the corporeal metaphor of post-modern relationships, brutal sexuality laced with anarchistic self-interest. His Road Warrior is much more Agamemnon than Siegfried. In fact his heroes at best are anarchist psychopaths. From a rogue dwarf avenger to a vampire esthete, they are sub-political creatures feeding on social and economic weakness very often for the hell of it.
The murderer hero of “Blue Boy” speculates:
He thought about killing him: automatic and fully detailed. The cop would be slow, since he was an icon: easy to push him over his bike, simple to fumble his revolver out of his holster…. He supposed that the cop would soil his immaculate uniform with blue piss as he cried like a tortured baby. He knew, fucking knew, that his head would explode with the first round, his face blooming forward against the shock wave of the bullet passing through his head, confined by the helmet.
Like de Sade, Christian has captured a unique level of putrescent deformity in his characters. They are like monstrous fragments of the legendary Gilles de Rais who paddled through the entrails of his gutted murder victims for his sexual pleasure. They are avowed nihilists and yet still fascinating, despite that fact. They embody a truly new and scintillating foulness in literature.What separates them from the actual murderers, rapists, pederasts, and deviants that cruise along our streets is that, again -- like the old Marquis -- they are completely aware of what they are doing. They taunt and jibe at us, goading us to face what is in them to do. Do we have it in us as well? Who knows? Who cares? As each story gathers force, Mr. Christian shines through as the puppet master and he is clearly challenging us with a satyr’s leer to look away. We do not, caught as we are in his spell of the erotic unthinkable.
Academics will tell you that the title of the book is the most important part of the text. This is the area of the book that a reader first encounters. The title initially catches the eye of the reader – sparking their interest or otherwise – and suggesting a flavour of what is to come within the pages of the text.
And so it seems a shame that Girl Crazy!, an otherwise exemplary anthology from the marvellous Cleis Press Inc, is flawed by its title.
Yes the anthology includes some intensely exciting tales. All of them are well written and every one – without exception – is designed to stimulate the brain as well as other vital organs. The over-riding theme of the anthology is erotic exchanges between women and other women: some lesbian, some bisexual, some just too curious and horny for their own good. The anthology includes authors who most readers will have encountered previously (such as Sommer Marsden, D L King, Jean Roberta, Jacqueline Applebee, Kristina Wright, Catherine Lundoff, Cheyenne Blue and Sacchi Green). There are also less nefarious authors – I’m including here those whose fiction I haven’t personally encountered before – all of whom provide outstanding narratives that are erotic, exciting and eloquently executed.
Yet the book’s title leaves a lot to be desired. I am aware that there has been a Gershwin musical of the same title, which opened on Broadway in 1930 and was committed to film in 1932 and 1943. I also know that the pop band Hot Chocolate released a single with this title which got to #7 in the UK pop charts in April 1982. However, Girl Crazy! in the context of a title to an anthology of erotic fiction doesn’t seem to be an intertextual reference to either of those items.
I’m assuming here that Girl Crazy! takes its title from the modern usage of the word ‘crazy’ suggesting enthusiasm, infatuation or mild obsession (rather than straitjacket insanity or the taking-your-pet-goldfish-for-a-walk-type of mental illness). I’m OK with this vernacular terminology, even though I sincerely believe this idiomatic employment of the adjective reached the peak of its popularity in the late 1970s or early 1980s. What I’m not comfortable with is the reductive use of the word ‘girl’ to describe women who are mature enough to be in control of their sex and explore their sexuality. To me, this just sounds derivative and somewhat demeaning.
You may be reading this and thinking: “Take the stick out of your arse, Ashley. It’s just a title!” However, if I began to review this article and cheerfully referred to the authors as a bunch of “crazy girls,” I would be (deservedly) pilloried for:
Which all sounds like I’m having a rant – and that’s most likely because I am.
However, I have never come across a Cleis anthology I didn’t enjoy and I only stress my distaste for this book’s title because I don’t think it’s worthy of Cleis’s distinctive brand of top quality, balanced erotica. I also think the title is especially not fitting for this collection of intense and arousing well-structured stories.
Take, for example, Sommer Marsden’s beautifully stimulating story “Spitting Seeds.” Sommer is a fantastic author who never fails to blend beautiful prose with a lyrical ability to excite. “Spitting Seeds” manages to capture the erotic thrill of daring to do the forbidden without making this oft-visited scenario seem either trite or gratuitous. “Spitting Seeds” is a fantastic story, yet the characters, although presented as alluring young females, could not reasonably be described as ‘girls’ unless they were being spoken about by some leering old uncle.
D L King’s “Tasting Chantal,” is an intense encounter in the New York BDSM club the Whip Handle. The mature dominant protagonist, Neela, finds herself in the company of the delightfully submissive Chantal. The dialogue is sharp; the intimacy is passionate and powerful; and as Chantal is 23 years old and Neela is her senior, it would only be the most condescending misogynist who described either of these characters with the epithet “girls.”
Please note – none of this is being said as an indictment against the contents of the book. The fiction in these pages is outstanding and exciting. The compassion and sympathy in Jean Roberta’s “Getting It” is beautifully realised, gloriously stimulating and truly heart-warming. The humour and verve in Kristina Wright’s “Muddy Waters” is refreshing and a pleasant contrast to the intensity of passion and emotion in her characters’ erotic exchange. The realistic characterisation in Catherine Lundoff’s “Wine-Dark Kisses” will leave the reader sure they know Janeece and Ingrid more thoroughly then they knew their last lover.In short, Girl Crazy! is a wonderful book and well worth buying: it’s just burdened with a terrible title.
Considering the amount of books I read, it’s unusual when a friend recommends a book I haven’t read that was a Lambda Literary Awards finalist. Somehow, SoMa escaped my attention until friend John praised it. So thank you, John. I owe you a Stoli with lemon, on the rocks.
This is GLBT month at Erotica Revealed. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered – the order of those letters in the acronym also reflects how often those sexualities and gender identifications occur in books. So it was a surprise that the main character in SoMa was bisexual, and a pleasure to see him portrayed as truly bisexual instead of being in denial. Confused, however, is another matter.
Raphe is a dot.com bust, a former programmer who lives off unemployment and under the table payments for babysitting P.O. boxes in San Francisco. He has a crush on the redhead woman, Julie, who lives above the P.O. Box place, but never works up the nerve to talk to her. Other than sorting the daily mail, there isn’t much to do at his job, so Raphe tries to write. The only break in his day is when people come in search of Dr. Kaplan, Suite One. Suite One is really box 1, and there’s no Dr. Kaplan. Bored, Raphe lets his curiosity get the better of him and he opens one of Dr. Kaplan’s letters to find it’s a penis enlargement scam. With so much time on his hands, he starts musing about his size, and starts trying to guess how big other guys are. His curiosity is interpreted as interest, and although he keeps telling himself that he isn’t gay, he finally begins to notice sexual signals from other men.
Friends who live in San Francisco tell me that it’s a small town in a way, where they run into the same people everywhere they go. So it wasn’t that much of a stretch to believe that Raphe keeps running into a hot Latino guy, Baptiste. He first sees Baptiste when he’s on the last car of the BART train, where exhibitionists and guys into quick circle jerks congregate. Raphe convinces himself that he’s doing research for his book, and that maybe it’s about his curiosity about comparative cock size, but you can understand why later on Baptiste’s friends dub him Raphe the Retard. He seems to be the last person to catch on to his sexuality, probably because he’s hung up on the word gay. Later, he literally runs into Baptiste at the bank. They go out for dinner, and Baptiste skillfully talks Raphe into bed.
Raphe and Baptiste have an open relationship, but two things endanger it. Raphe goes home with online RPG game guru and sexual hedonist Mark, who barebacks Raphe. That leads to a month where Baptiste withdraws from him emotionally and sexually as thy wait for the results of an AIDS test. Raphe is hurt and misses the closeness between them. While job hunting, Raphe runs into Julie. Raphe enjoys sex with Baptiste, and he likes their relationship, but he can’t seem to get past the idea that he isn’t gay, so when he has a chance to sleep with Julie, he goes for it. Julie is into holistic health. She talks Raphe into getting a colonic. He gets addicted to them. It’s Baptiste who helps him with that, and Baptiste whom he turns to more often for support. Still, Raphe also likes women, and he is, as Baptiste’s friends pointed out, a bit of a retard, so he manages to destroy his relationship with Baptiste by sleeping with another woman after he promised he wouldn’t continue to seek other sex partners.
Hurt, broke, and quickly becoming addicted to meth, Raphe decides he wants revenge against the people he feels have ruined him. The only skill he has that people will pay for is his tolerance for pain and medical fetish. He becomes a sexual freak show. Mark, the guy who barebacked him, is celebrating his birthday by indulging in an all day sex fest. Raphe, now an underground sex star, comes to Mark’s party, fists him, and webcasts the scene. Raphe plans to leave a trail of ruin in his wake. Mark was the first on his list, but not the last.SoMa is much more complex than I can cover here. Like the South of Market neighborhood it’s named for, this story is a mix of straight, gay, rich, poor, technology, and simple scams. Every character (except Baptiste and maybe Julie) seems to be lying to others or themselves about who they are. They use and are in turn used by others for sexual satisfaction that leaves no one satisfied. Like all spectacular train wrecks though, even when you can see it coming a mile away, you won’t be able to turn away for a second. Thumbs way up.