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Gay Men's Edition
Volume 1 Number 2
By Richard Labonte
books, queers in the military, offbeat favorites, intriguing new titles,
links to the Web, and a Google Monkey observation: welcome to the second
edition of The Gay Men's Edition of Books to Watch Out For.
This is a work in progress; look for author interviews, a review of reviews,
and profiles of publishers in coming issues – after my wedding on Oct. 11.
You can meet my partner Asa at www.couttsandking.com/richardandasa.htm
- we lived together in San Francisco for more than 10 years, and now we’re
becoming husband and husband here in Canada….
Queer Man, Help Thyself
The range of queer books mirrors closely the range
of mainstream books. They got mysteries with cats, we got mysteries with cats;
they got sappy romances with happy endings, we got sappy romances with happy
endings; they got kids’ books (and Harry Potter), we got kids’ books (and
Harry Potter); they got crossword puzzle books, we got . . . well, we used
to have a couple, but they may not be in print. And gosh, do we have self-help
books as well. Most of them say the same things over and over again - be good,
be good to yourself, be good to others, and trust therapy (after all, a lot
of them are written by therapists of one sort or another, from low-caste counselor
to full-fledged psychotherapist). From a bibliography of many dozens of titles,
I've plucked a handful.
Affirmative Gay Relationships: Key Steps in Finding a Life Partner,
by Neil Kaminsky (Harrington Park Press) $19.95 paper.
Before he wrote this find-a-man how-to, Kaminsky explored the dark side - his
first book was When It's Time to Leave Your Lover: A Guide for Gay Men.
Hmm. Which to read first? I'd go with affirmative, and not just because I'm
an optimist; Kaminsky's sage relationship advice acknowledges that finding and
sustaining love is darn hard work. Like most of his colleagues in the relationship-support
world (Rik Isensee, Eric Marcus, Don Clark, Perry Brass, Brad Gooch, etc.),
Kaminsky likes empowerment, but he doesn't get too spiritual about it. He covers
such issues as body image, expectations, facing rejection, and emotional vulnerability
with varied and actually interesting real-life anecdotes drawn from his therapy
practice; and he is unusually realistic about the intricacies of dating, intimacy,
and long-term living. Best of all, it's almost a chatty book: he is an LCSW
("licensed clinical social worker"), but eschews jargon for a well-informed
but formal tone - something that can't be said for all the queer-interest nonfiction
from Harrington Park.
Go here for an excerpt from the book:
The Power of a Partner, by Richard L. Pimental-Habib (Alyson Books)
As long as gay girls and
boys fret about finding the perfect Ms. or Mr. Right, there will always be
a market for books like Kaminsky's. And if he doesn’t have the answers to
your yearning questions about companionship, perhaps therapist Pimental-Habib
does. After all, it's that hope thing, eternally springing, that churns the
self-help bookshelves year after year. His suggestions for "creating
and maintaining healthy gay and lesbian relationships" are drawn from
15 years of marriage and family counseling, and he is happily partnered himself.
His advice is based on a functional blend of common sense and life experience,
two pluses for any book professing to tell anyone how to find what they’re
longing for. All the basics are covered - from figuring out why you want who
you want, to differentiating love from lust, to incorporating friends and
families into a relationship, to trusting that therapy can keep a couple together,
even to breaking up with grace. Dr. Rick (that's how he refers to himself)
is affable, practical, and stern where appropriate, all of which help his
how-to medicine go down smoothly.
Go here for an excerpt from the book:
Boyfriend 101: A Gay Guy's Guide to Finding Romance, by Jim Sullivan (Villard
Books) $12.95 paper.
The serious business of
finding true love deserves a serious book. Despite its rather glib title,
Boyfriend 101 is it - thoughtful, thorough, an exhaustive guide to
the emotional and physical intricacies of dating, scoring, perchance even
settling down with Mr. Right, rather than settling for a Mr. Might As Well
For Tonight. Which is not to imply that Sullivan, an experienced New York
relationship counselor and "dating coach," is a dull advice writer.
There is wit in this well-crafted, quite readable compendium of tips, hints,
and wise instruction. But for the most part, the tone is firmly no-nonsense,
the sort of caring advice a sensible, sensitive father might impart to his
ready-for-romance boy - if straight men were ever comfortable discussing sex
and love with their gay sons. Most aren't, so this book - drawn directly from
dozens of real lives - is the next best thing, answering such questions as
where to meet guys and how to flirt without cruising, set sexual limits, define
sexual types, and deal with body image - all the topics covered by Kaminsky
and Pimental-Habib, but with a touch more of a cheerleader tone.
Author info: http://www.boyfriend101.com
10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives, by Joe Kort (Alyson
Books) $14.95 paper.
Eat more vegetables; floss more often; read more books - these are
just three of the many smart things gay men might well do to improve their
lives. A more serious 10 are enumerated in psychotherapist Kort's stern yet
sincere and accessible book of the near-same name. The buzzwords are familiar,
a litany of self-help tropes and truisms: Affirm Yourself By Coming Out; Resolve
Issues With Your Family; Avoid (Or Overcome) Sexual Addiction; Maintain Rewarding
Relationships; Commit to a Partner. Well, of course! But, surely, easier said
than done. Kort's step-by-step suggestions are a bit heavy on the jargon,
but he enlivens his queer life-instruction manual with plenty of entertaining-enough
anecdotal material drawn from 16 years of counseling hundreds of gay men.
Not much new get-a-better-life ground is broken - common sense is really just
common sense, after all. But 10 Smart Things... is a complete, compact,
and confident guide to identifying and overcoming self-defeating behavior
- and a useful companion to the more relationship-attuned books. Read, learn,
and floss your way to a better life.
Go here for an excerpt from the book:
The Soul Beneath the Skin: The Unseen Hearts and Habits of Gay Men, by David Nimmons (St.
Martin's) $23.95 hardcover.
The image - often self-image - of gay men: They are self-absorbed,
hypersexual, hedonistic, and promiscuous. The reality, argued with well-researched
passion in The Soul Beneath the Skin: Contemporary gay men are highly
ethical, remarkably nonviolent, heavily involved in both gay and nongay charity
and volunteer work, and often happily enmeshed in circles of lovers and friends
that endure for decades. Nimmons' book is much more metaphysical then the
others - he has nimbly pulled together personal experience, statistical analysis,
and cultural and anthropological studies, then enlivened and enriched his
daunting array of facts with an engaging, persuasive philosophy suggesting
that gay men ought, for the most part, to be proud of who they are. His optimism
is visionary. And - with this book as a text - Nimmons is currently taking
his gay-is-great mantra to workshops around America, in which he calls for
gays to explore "Manifest Love" - a "national project ... to
help gay men find new ways to be with and for each other," a screed articulated
in the book's cheerfully gung-ho last chapter, "Men for a New Millennium."
Even readers leery of movements, however, will find much to encourage and
enlighten them in this dynamic, often witty guide to what the author reads
as the elemental goodness of the gay male community.
Author info: www.manifestlove.com
Growing Up Gay in America: Informative and Practical Advice for Teen
Guys Questioning Their Sexuality and Growing Up Gay, by Jason R. Rich (Franklin
Street Books) $11.95 paper.
There is no shortage
of enthusiasm in Growing Up Gay. Lots of assertive declarative sentences!
And exclamation marks! But the exuberant tone of this breezy, usually sensible
coming-out guide - perhaps gratingly simplistic for an adult reader – is straightforwardly
informative. Rich pitches his advice at an appropriate teenage level, opening
with a discussion of sexual orientation, coming out to oneself and then to
parents, before discussing the gay social scene, the boyfriends-and-beyond
stages of relationships, and the ins and outs of health and sex. The book's
emphasis on cyberspace contacts, both in a separate chapter and sprinkled
throughout, is excellent. But a wordy chapter on career goals seems oddly
out of place, more suitable for a generic how-to guide, and the closing chapter
on homosexuality and religion is much less than exhaustive. The lack of a
bibliography of other coming-out books, or of titles extending the parents-sex-boyfriend-religion
chapters, is a severe shortcoming. And scattering more than a dozen pictures
of buff, mostly white male models through the book is surely at odds with
the sentiment, repeated several times, that "gay people come in all shapes
and sizes." This isn't a perfect book for the questioning young person,
but it is an adequate, well-intentioned primer, written with a sincere concern
that kids come out okay, and more in touch with the assets of the Internet
than other books.
Two of the "classic" self-help writers - and my two favorites,
because of the range of their work - are Betty Berzon and Rik Isensee, both
of whom have written extensively on coming out and relationships. Berzon is
a real old-timer: she was writing about gay and lesbian lives a quarter century
ago; here's a review I wrote for www.PlanetOut.com of Berzon's update of her
classic coming-out-wisely book, Positively Gay:
Bravo - or Brava - to coming-out-positively pioneer Betty Berzon,
for taking the time to update her 1979 handbook for the newly queer. This
third edition (the second was in 1992) mixes older essays (by the late John
Preston, for example, on the importance of "Telling Our Stories"),
with fresher work.
New or updated essays include Robin Podolsky's astute "The Ever
Changing Lesbian Social Scene"; Michael Shernoff's generous survey of
dating, sex and love: "Gay Men's Sexualities: Reflections at the Dawn
of the Millennium"; Rabbi Denise L. Eger's overview of one religion's
views on queers: "Judaism: A Time of Change"; and Jonathan A. Wright's
dry but practical "Financial Planning: Making the Best Use of Your Money."
Berzon, whose own introduction is a clear-headed, from-the-heart
call for coming out, touches most all of the gay bases. Opening essays on
the broader question of coming to terms with oneself are followed by more
focused chapters on partnering, family relationships, aging, religion, practical
matters (finances, job security, voting power), youth (though an essay or
two by young queers would have added valuable perspective), and, in the section
"People of Color: The Special Experiences of Minorities Within a Minority,"
essays touching on African-American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander and Native
What's missing? How bisexual women and men, and the transgendered,
fit into the queer tapestry; thoughts on how the boom in queer visibility
on TV, in film, in music, and through the Internet, have transformed the process
of coming out; and a deeper look at particular gay health matters, not just
AIDS, but also club drugs, body image and the persistence of alcoholism. As
it happens, of course, Positively Gay isn't the only primer on coming
out at any age, in any era, and what's not in Berzon's soul-centered anthology
can be found elsewhere. But hers ought to be among the first any questioning,
closeted queer turns to, or is offered, whenever that closet door starts to
open. In addition to its wealth of guidance, perspective, and support, the
book includes a discussion guide that broadens the value of the anthology
for classroom use (we should be so lucky), and almost every essay is followed
by a bibliography and an Internet resource listing. It's good the book is
back: even into its third decade, it remains the most useful general guide
for anyone seeking to out themselves, as well as for their friends and family,
and for counselors and other professionals.
Isensee is a couple of queer generations younger than Berzon. And
in addition to self-help books, he's written a couple of young adult novels,
a sharp political spoof of the ex-gay ministries, and, most recently, Spank
the Monkey: Reports from the Front Lines of Our Quirky Culture. I haven't
read it yet, but I know Rik, so this cover blurb reads well to me: "A
saucy burlesque of the postmodern world, a cosmopolitan compendium of racy
rants, fond reminiscence, and irreverent monologues: a sharp satire of human
foibles, a lost art in this fretful age of sensitive sensibilities."
Author info: www.rikisensee.com
(We Love) Men and Women in Uniforms (Or Not):
Did you know that in the aftermath of 09/11, the American military,
hypocritical as ever, issued a "stop loss order" to all branches,
an order suspending all discharges - including those for same-sex soldiers,
sailors, and airmen. On one hand, it was a remarkable order, coming as it
did from a generally homophobic administration, notes Gary L. Lehring in Officially
Gay: The Political Construction of Sexuality by the U.S. Military (Temple
University Press, $19.95 paper); on the other hand, the same thing happened
in 1991, for Desert Storm; and Alan Berube's landmark popular history of gays
in the military, Coming Out Under Fire, made clear that when America
needs its queers to die, they're welcome to wear the uniform. Lehring's book
is a concise interpretation of both how the military defined homosexuality
in the 20th century - and how that shifting interpretation helped shape the
gay and lesbian identity movements; its wide-ranging sources (legal, medical,
historical, cultural, political) are rather exciting. And accessible, too.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell Tomes
Quite a different book is Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Debating The
Gay Ban in the Military, edited by Aaron Belkin and Geoffrey Bateman (Lynne
Rienner Publishers, $18.95 paper). It's a choppy read, since much of it is
drawn from a pro-and-con conference organized in December, 2000, by the Center
for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, around the topic "Don't
Ask, Don't Tell: Is the Gay Ban Based on Military Necessity or Prejudice?"
Yes and yes, no and no - there are infinite shades of answers to the central
questions, though in the main prejudice trounced necessity. Editors Belkin
and Bateman acknowledge upfront that their intention was to draw participants
from "a critical mass of experts of all political persuasions" -
but military-gay opponents from the American Enterprise Institute, the Family
Research Council, and several other right-wing "family values" groups
mostly declined to attend, perhaps out of fear they might have to shower with
the pro-gay participants. Didacticism abounds, but this is, nonetheless, a
useful overview of the ban; and in the chapter "Openly Gay Service Members
Tell Their Stories," two gay soldiers are rather riveting.
Unlike a couple of the fantasy-fodder titles from Harrington Park
(Military Trade and A Night in the Barracks come to mind), Brothers
and Others in Arms: The Making of Love and War in Israeli Combat Units,
by Danny Kaplan ($19.95 paper) offers substantial food for thought. The first
third of Kaplan's insightful study consists of first-person interviews with
Israeli combat veterans. With slangy vernacular intact, these voices are more
ruminative than naughty in nature - but they leave no doubt that homosexuality
and homoerotic play are an integral component of the Israeli military environment.
Building on the factual yet often emotional anecdotes, Kaplan - a military
veteran and an Israel-based psychologist focusing on gay experiences – uses
the academic tools of cultural, historical, and sociological analyses to contrast
the more tolerant Israeli take on gays in the military with the hidebound
hypocrisy of the U.S. experience. Among his many substantive (and heavily-footnoted)
observations is that queers in the Israeli ranks - even in the showers - don't
diminish unit morale or combat effectiveness; both suppositions, of course,
are at the hysterical core of American military homophobia.
(And for a really different take on gay/military books, follow the
following link - which itself links to a page with conservative founding father
Barry Goldwater writing on gays in the military):
Books to Watch Out For
Here are a dozen books I'm looking forward to reading. Histories
of our lives, of AIDS, of club music interest me; I always did like Judy;
I need to read more poetry; I admire Ian Philip's way with words... well,
every one of these titles intrigues me.
The Consequence of Sex, by Robert Reinhart - A History
of Shadows was an instant gay classic when it was published 20 years ago:
the novel was a riveting illumination of the pre-Stonewall generation, its
stories told through the linked reminiscences of elderly gay friends. The
eleven related short stories in this collection pick up the history of the
shadows as AIDS entered the lives of gay men. (Alyson, Nov.)
2. When AIDS Began: San Francisco and the Making of an Epidemic,
by Michelle Cochrane - The thesis is provocative but intriguing: AIDS even
in its early American days was not a "gay" disease, but then, as
it is increasingly now, an affliction of IV drug use and socio-economic status.
3. Judy Garland: A Portrait in Art and Anecdote, by John Fricke
- For the queer gene in all of us, a heavily illustrated (previously-unpublished
pics promised) love letter by an author who has made a career from Garlandia,
with a foreword by the star's less notorious daughter, Lorna Luft (Bulfinch
Satyriasis: Literotica 2, by Ian Philips – “Ian kidnaps
Flaubert, Mark Twain, and the Marquis de Sade. He stuffs them in the trunk
of his getaway car with a bottle of lube and a wooden paddle. Then he drives
them cross-country. His voice is smart, funny, and totally filthy. Yum,"
says Kirk Read of this second fiction collection from an impishly wicked,
or wickedly impish, Bay Area writer. (Suspect Thoughts Press, Oct.) www.suspectthoughts.com
5. The Erotic Writer's Market Guide, by Lawrence Schimel and
Rachel Bussel - Market listings accompany advice about breaking into the queer
erotica field, from the really trashy to the most literate, in print and on
the web. (Circlet Press, Jan.) www.circlet.com
6. Queer Theory and the Jewish Question, edited by Daniel
Boyarin, Daniel Itzkovitz, & Anne Pelligrini - Serious essays on Jewishness
and queerness, homophobia and anti-Semitism, and how they interconnect. (Columbia
7. Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture,
1970–1979, by Tim Lawrence - Dance to the music! This is the story of American
dance music culture in the 1970s, from its subterranean roots in NoHo and
Hell's Kitchen to its gaudy blossoming and polymorphous sexuality in midtown
Manhattan and beyond. (Duke University Press, Dec.)
Masquerade: Queer Poetry in America to the End of World War
II, edited by Jim Elledge - Voodoo chants and cowboy songs share the pages
with more traditional works by famous and little-known GLBT poets; and we
all should be reading more poetry, anyway. (Indiana University Press, Jan.)
9. P.S. Your Cat Is Dead, by James Kirkwood - A welcome reprint
of a darkly queer comic classic from 1979, with a hapless (but hopeful) protagonist
tied up in his kitchen by a bisexual burglar; as a play, it lasted on Broadway
for just 21 performances, five previews included. (St. Martin's, Nov.)
10. Art: A Sex Book, by John Waters & Bruce Hailey - Waters
is notorious for his flamboyant, hilarious films; co-author Hailey is a more
sober-sided contributor to Artforum magazine; they team up to interpret
sex and sexuality within contemporary art; really funny, really smart. (Thames
& Hudson, Oct.)
11. Death Comes Easy: The Gay Times Book of Murder Stories,
edited by Peter Burton - How many ways are there to kill? At least the 30
in this hefty collection of short stories; a couple of the contributors (Steven
Saylor, Perry Brass) are well-distributed Americans; but most of the authors
collected are UK or Australian writers, and this is a dandy introduction to
their work. (GMP, Dec.)
12. That's Why They're in Cages, People, by Joel Perry - A
really, really, really funny essay collection. Really. (Alyson, Nov.); and
for an excerpt from his 2000 collection Funny That Way, which you’ll
want to read if you haven’t already, go here: www.alyson.com/html/funnythatway/1200funny_excrptone.html
Here are a few of my favorite things
Title of the month:
Icelandic Lives: The Queer Experience, edited by Voon Chin
Phua (Harrington Park, $24.95 paper). Who knew that "the growing literature
on Scandinavian homosexuality" could yield such a fascinating footnote.
Cover of the month (and a campy queer classic, too):
The Gay Detective, by Lou Rand (Cleis Press, $12.95). Before
there was Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, vintage pulp writer
Lou Rand delivered this high-camp masterpiece in 1961. Set in Beat-era "gay
mecca-in-the-making" San Francisco, the novel's tightly knit plot boasts
a sissy gumshoe, his butch ex-marine assistant, a nymphomaniac on the make,
and plenty of dishy humor.
Most original anthology:
Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian, edited by Mike Resnick
and Janis Ian (DAW Books). Thirty SF writers, including David Gerrold, Spider
Robinson, Mercedes Lackey, Diane Duane, Nancy Kress, and Joe Haldeman, based
short stories on the lesbian folk-singer’s songs; the result is a refreshing
and outstanding blend of gay and straight sensibilities. (And while attending
the World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto in September, Ian married
her long-time partner Patricia Snyder).
Lesbian book now in paper:
The Lost Garden, by Helen Humphreys (WW Norton, $13.95).
Here's what I wrote about the hardcover last year:
When spinsterish gardener Gwen Davis leaves a bomb-blitzed London
in the spring of 1941, there is nobody in her life she'll miss. She has volunteered
for the Women's Land Army, to oversee a gaggle of girls planting potatoes
for the war effort on a rural estate occupied by a regiment of Canadian soldiers.
For companionship, she has her gardening books and her Virginia Woolf novels.
She's a decade older than her charges, moody and melancholy, withdrawn, a
woman alone. At the estate, Gwen is attracted to a Canadian officer - but
he's gay. She's drawn to a frail, flighty girl - who is pining for her husband
missing in action. Seems a downer of a story. Not so. The Lost Garden
is a joyous, luminous celebration of unexpected passion, of freshly discovered
feeling, and, finally, of the memory of a love that will last a lifetime.
Humphreys has an impeccable command of the haunting, intimate moment, and
complete understanding of the power of subtle imagery.
News, Notes, & Web Connections
For readers seeking a sense
of queer fictive history, there's no book better than Lost Gay Novels:
A Reference Guide to Fifty Works from the First Half of the Twentieth Century
(Harrington Park), by Anthony Slide. As Gavin Lambert - a contemporary
of Christopher Isherwood's, and still writing - says, it rescues "some
fascinating, frequently alarming, and occasionally absurd works of fiction
from obscurity." Chapters of the book are appearing in each issue of
the Harrington Gay Men's Literary Quarterly, less cumbersomely known
as HGMLQ, but this book is best enjoyed as a full-course meal rather than
a series of occasional snacks.
For a listing of titles
- Rex Stout, James Cain, and John Buchan are there - follow this link; you
can download a PDF excerpt, too:
by Simon Sheppard was one of the Books To Watch Out For in the
last edition of this newsletter; but it’s not hitting bookstores until December.
So for an early sampling of Simon’s sharp, well-informed wit, go to the San
Francisco Bay Guardian’s recent Sex Issue, and his Field Guide to “Stalking
the Wild Kink:”
For that matter, most
of the Sept. 24-30 issue is queer queer queer; there’s a guide to the leather-bent
Folsom Street Fair; a guide to kinky merchandise outlets, “Fetish Fabulous”;
“How to Have Sex in San Francisco: A Beginner’s Guide”; and even half the
winners of the “Are You Hot?” contest are fagolas of assorted genders. Go
to the site, and then use the search function for stories by Sheppard, Karen
Solomon, or Melissa Broder:
In the Los Angeles Weekly, playwright Tony Kushner talks on,
and on, and on, most entertainingly, about his work, American politics, gay
marriage, and queer arts in general:
Also in the Weekly, ask-and-tell entertainment writer Boze
Hadleigh tells how and why most of his 15 books unlock the closet doors of
any number of dead movie stars:
Even though he's gay and a writer (first novel: The Concrete Sky
from the Southern Tier imprint of Harrington Park), Marshall Moore doesn't
want to be known as "a gay writer" - but he certainly respects gay
lit as a genre, he says in the Philadelphia Gay News:
And here's an on-line interview with Moore, by Jim Gladstone:
And at his own site,
Moore gets interactive with his fans: click on "News" to read about
his travails on a recent East Coast book tour - Hurricane Isabela blew him
off course, and Creative Visions bookstore in New York just blew him off:
Trebor Healey is having
more fun on his book tour for Through It Came Bright Colors, also a
Southern Tier novel. Read about his Southwest reading and signing experiences:
And for an interview focusing on Healey's spiritual side:
San Francisco poet Thom
Gunn is profiled, nicely, in The Guardian newspaper; it seems the country
of his birth is finally forgiving him for wearing leather and writing about
"Almost without exception," says John D'Emilio, "those
of us who do gay-and-lesbian history don't get jobs in history departments.
If we're lucky, we find appointments in American studies, or in gender studies,
as in my own case." The author of a new biography of Bayard Rustin discusses
the incremental growth of queer history studies in The Chronicle of Higher
And here's a review of his essay collection from 2002:
The World Turned: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and Culture, by John D’Emilio (Duke
University), $18.95 paper.
There is much to nourish the curious queer young mind in The World
Turned, D’Emilio’s wide-ranging collection of a decade’s musings on
history, politics, and culture. And to challenge it, too, particularly in
the author’s careful re-assessment of the 1969 Stonewall riot as more a steppingstone
along the way to liberation, rather than a convulsive kick-start to it. Some
of the nourishment comes from his informative chapters on how pioneering civil
rights leader Bayard Rustin’s homosexuality angered, puzzled, or shamed his
peers, decades before Stonewall. More stems from D’Emilio’s refreshing ability
to reconsider his earlier views on a number of topics, from the novels of
Andrew Holleran and Larry Kramer to the centrality of sex as an element of
gay self-identity. Each of the 16 pieces is engaging, thoughtful and lucid
– even those delivered as a eulogy for a dead friend, prepared as a paper
on the history of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), or presented
on a queer biography panel. The grab-bag nature of the book doesn’t detract
a bit from its steady, sensible assessment of gay life today.
We're Being OutGoogled
I use Google several times
day, most recently to find the best way to freeze cilantro, an herb I use
a lot in cooking, but which is hard to buy fresh in the relatively rural village
of Perth, Ontario, where I live.
So a couple of weeks ago, I came across a new beta-testing service,
the Google News Alert; type in a few keywords, verify when a query comes to
your mailbox that you actually did want anything related to those keywords,
and once a day (or whenever the Google News Monkeys come across your keyword)
you'll receive an email with a link to the news story.
I've asked for variations on such words as gay, lesbian, bisexual,
transgender, homosexual, queer, culture, publishing, arts, books, novels,
fiction, bookstores - topics I can mine for this newsletter. That's how I
got the Tony Kushner interview (though I read the LA Weekly online
most weeks when I remember to); I received news of another feminist/gay bookstore
closing (My Sister's Words, In Syracuse, New York) that way; news from The
Advocate about Gray Davis signing benefits legislation for California
queers popped in, as did similar stories from Reuters and the Associated Press;
and there have been interesting offbeat stories about gays and religion in
Kenya and a gay marriage in Russia. Random fun, with some news value.
But for every yay-gay link I've received, there are a dozen links
to really rabid religious (mostly) or right wing "news" sites. Like
this one, about the "homosexual agenda" taking over the Big Brother
and Big Sister organizations: http://www.americandaily.com/item/2619. Or this one, about the "gay agenda" turning Gray Davis into, says
Lou Sheldon, "Gay Davis": http://www.chronwatch.com/featured/contentDisplay.asp?aid=4315
It's easy to focus on the good news. But it's instructive how much
bad news is out there...and it is to wonder why there are at least 15 different
religious or right-wing newspapers, newsletters, and web sites combed regularly
by the Google filters, but almost no queer papers – in the two weeks I’ve
been sampling the service, The Advocate and Windy City Times
have been the only specifically gay news source to show up. Hmmm.
(Richard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,
at 613 264 5409, or at 7-A Drummond St W/Perth, ON/K7H 2J3 Canada. Books for
review, author news, interesting links – all appreciated.)
(c) 2003 Books to Watch Out For