Category Archives: Reviews

How to Fall in Love with a Love Story

By Katy Hershberger 

My husband and I met at work, and for two years we kept our relationship a secret in the office. When we tell people that, they imagine it as exciting and sexy: sneaking around for in-office trysts. But in truth, hiding our relationship was stressful and annoying. We lied to our colleagues, stood in awkward silence in the elevator, locked down our Facebook privacy settings, and entreated friends and family to never post a photo of us together. But when people listen to the story, our lives become most interesting as a Secret Office Romance, less so as just our lives. The reality isn’t always the best story. Continue reading

Growing Up Gay in Backwoods Mississippi: Nick White’s How to Survive a Summer

By Nathan Scott McNamara

When Will Dillard was 15, his Preacher father caught him pleasuring himself with a candle in their Baptist Church. “He was not a violent man,” Will, the protagonist of How to Survive a Summer says, “but this — this — had been on the docket for a long time.” After beating Will until they’re both exhausted, Will’s father sends him to a backwoods gay conversion camp owned by their unqualified family in central Mississippi.  Continue reading

Women Without Men Without Women

By Zoë Hu

Seeing no alternative, a woman plants herself in her family’s courtyard and sprouts into a tree, begging aghast visitors, “Don’t cut me down. Let me grow.” Her name is Mahdokht, and her germination as human-cum-sapling has a loyal chronicle in the Iranian modernist novel Women Without Men, written by Shahrnush Parsipur in 1989 and first translated into English 10 years later. The text follows five women as they escape Tehran, shrug off dreary brothers and husbands, and — aided by the occasional, benevolent dollop of magical realism — find their way to a garden refuge. Rooted at the center of this botanical sorority, Mahdokht the tree-human is cared for and cultivated by the other women. She is also their witness, keeping time with her gradual growth to the loneliness and struggle that mark their isolated existences. Women Without Men asks its characters to begin new lives, free from the social mandate of a male partner, but once in the garden this possibility opens onto foreign, craggy territory. Unable to transform into a tree herself, one woman feels that nevertheless she is “rotting from within.” Continue reading

Writing Reptiles: Qiu Miaojin’s Notes of a Crocodile

By Rhian Sasseen

The crocodile of Taiwanese writer Qiu Miaojin’s recently translated first novel Notes of a Crocodile is and is not a metaphor, is and is not a character, is and is not really a crocodile at all. The crocodile — the subject of a half-dozen surreal and witty vignettes sprinkled throughout the novel’s overarching coming-of-age story — exists halfway, appearing here and there in fragments, snippets, prose that functions somewhere between fiction and theory. It’s that halfway feeling that’s so essential to and so refreshing about the book, the ambiguity of sex, gender, queerness, desire, and the question of identity itself, all the more sobering to read in today’s political climate. The crocodile’s favorite treat, the unnamed narrator slyly notes, is cream puffs. Pass the cream puffs, please. Continue reading

Don’t Panic: Coping with the Internet Age Through Ignorance

By Kevin Litman-Navarro

The last time the United States was the world’s premiere manufacturing power, American citizens lived under the specter of an atomic assault. From their perch atop a nascent post-war order, the global superpower enjoyed unprecedented levels of production — it was the 1950s, and business was a-boomin’. Foreign relations, on the other hand, were rather precarious. Continue reading

Romeo and Juliet of Hell’s Kitchen: On Tina Cane’s Once More with Feeling

By Matthew Lippman

When you read Tina Cane’s Once More with Feeling you will scratch your head and say, “What the fuck?” You might not actually say, “What the fuck?” But I did. The question gave rise to another one: “What took so long for someone to publish this book?” But don’t waste too much time on questions; return to the poems and read them again — once more, with feeling. One way to read this book is to listen to Lou Reed’s 1989 classic record New York. The book is a Romeo and Juliet of Hell’s Kitchen. That is to say, it is New York — a New York that rolls around in the late 1970s then falls straight away into the 1980s. If you were coming of age in New York at that time, be it in Queens, Manhattan, or Canarsie, you will get this book. It’s part of your DNA, already in you, even though you had no idea it was there. It’s some back page of your personality, which you might have filed away, might have forgotten about, but once you step inside Cane’s vision, boom, there you are, hopping into the L train at 14th Street and headed into Williamsburg. It’s 10th Avenue, stinking and brutal, up in your eyeballs. You know it. You will know it. Delicious, like a mile-high pastrami sandwich from The 2nd Avenue Deli, or the rear corner of Gus “N” Bernie’s Candy store, with all those fantastic comic books. Continue reading

The Heart Grows Stranger: Sorrow & the Unspeakable in Three Recent Prose Texts

By Kristina Marie Darling

In Black Sun, Julia Kristeva observes that mourning is, in essence, a loss of language. Words abandon their meaning; sentences no longer fit together the way they should. Yet it is language that allows us to derive significance from an experience, integrating it into our understanding of the world around us. The sorrow of a lost object, then, is a double loss: the thing itself has vanished and so too has its place in the lovely arc of story. Once we have fallen out of language, the absence itself becomes unspeakable, and likewise, the stories that makes us ourselves. Continue reading

Beneath the Veneer: John Banville’s The Untouchable

By Steve Isenberg

John Banville’s The Untouchable (1997) gives imaginative life to what Lord Annan, then Provost of King’s College, Cambridge, described as  “the long-running inquest upon the culture, morality, and patriotism of intellectuals” brought about by the “saga of the Cambridge spies.”  The artistry of the novel is, indeed, no less captivating than the reality from which it draws — the double life of Anthony Blunt, who juggled the intense secrecy of a spy with the public stature of a leading art historian. Continue reading

Destruction and Deconstruction in Tommy Pico’s Nature Poem

By Massoud Hayoun

Tommy Pico’s book-length epic Nature Poem is written, in parts, like a string of OK Cupid messages from every run-of-the-mill gay manic depressive I’ve ever met — frantic thoughts, ultimately wretched and whining.

Maybe that’s what grated on me at the onset of this young, gay, city-dwelling Native American man’s journey. All-too familiar to me, as a gay Arab-American man, are the histrionics that pass for conversation at the Boiler Room in the East Village or at The Abbey in WeHo on a Saturday night. Even at a gay bar I once visited in faraway Urumqi, China, there was this same mixture of thirst and depression. It’s a global plague, deeply bourgeois; if you have the disposable income to buy a drink at a gay bar, you probably have enough time to think. And if you think too much about what’s going on around you at a gay bar, you’ll probably become thirsty and depressed. Continue reading