Thursday, May 19, 2005

A few days and nights in the Big Easy

This year's Saints and Sinners Literary Festival for Queer writers was again a lot of fun. (Thanks again to Paul Willis for his great organizing efforts.) It all began when I had a little too much to drink at the opening reception on Friday night, but I sobered up in time for Saturday's panel on Writing Sex Scenes for Erotica and Romance (with the help of pain killers and a yoga class). Amie M. Evans did a great job moderating and my fellow panelists included Robert Taylor, Radclyffe, and Kelly McQuain. Sunday's What is Taboo panel went well, too, with Rob Stephenson keeping us all on our toes with one question after the next. Also on the panel were Bill Brent, Jim Gladstone, and Sean Meriwether. It was great to see and catch up with a lot of friends and fellow writers and I'm looking forward to going again next year, when rumor has it that it will be integrated into the larger Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in March. To see the crew at this year's events, D. Travers Scott (whose new book One of These Things Is Not Like the Other is just out) has some photos posted at his blog, and Michael Walker of Dreamwalker Group has posted a few of our faces, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Last night in New York City

On May 10, 2005, the Publishing Triangle presented their literary awards in New York City at the New School Auditorium in the Village.

The winners were:

The Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction
David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (University of Chicago Press)

The Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction
Alison Smith, Name All the Animals (Scribner)

The Ferro-Grumley Awards for Fiction: Men
Adam Berlin, Belmondo Style (St. Martin's Press)

The Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction: Women
Stacey D'Erasmo, A Seahorse Year (Houghton Mifflin)

The Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry
Carl Phillips, The Rest of Love (Farrar Strauss Giroux)

The Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry
Maureen Seaton, Venus Examines Her Breast (Carnegie Mellon University Press)

The Robert Chesley Foundation presented its 2004 awards in Playwriting to Michael Kearns (Lifetime Achievement Award) and Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas (Emerging Artist). The recipient of the 2005 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement was Edward Field. In addition, the Publishing Triangle presented a special Leadership Award to The Lesbian Herstory Archives, the largest and oldest lesbian archive in the world.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Recommended reading

My interview with author Harlan Greene (Why We Never Danced the Charleston and What the Dead Remember) is now on-line at The Forward about his new novel The German Officer’s Boy, about Herschel Grynszpan. On November 7, 1938, Herschel, a 17-year old Jewish youth living illegally in Paris, walked into the German embassy and shot Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat. The assassination triggered Kristallnacht, the organized Nazi pogrom against the Jewish community inside the boundaries of Third Reich and was the symbolic beginning of the Holocaust. I read an early draft of the novel the year it was one of the winners of the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation competition (then titled The Lost Light). Greene’s vivid, complex novel details the affair between Herschel and Ernst and Herschel’s subsequent time at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and it is a masterful weaving of deception, twists, cover-ups, politics, and public relations ploys during Herschel’s confinement.

I may be biased here (because he was the editor of my recent collection of short stories), but Kevin Bentley’s new memoir, Let’s Shut out the World, is simply divine. On a trip to San Francisco last year I heard Kevin tell his story (over cocktails on the deck of his partner's house in the Russian River) of visiting the miracle dirt chapel in New Mexico and it was both hilarious and magical and I was delighted to find it included in the book. The narrative essays are both comic and poignant, and I particularly enjoyed the title story of how one woman and one house can contain both the elements of lesbian history and unimaginable clutter and the final essay "Party of Two" about Bentley’s current partner Paul. Bravo!

Monday, May 02, 2005

May Publishing Notes

The buzz: Columbia Pictures has optioned the film rights of Marc Acito’s Lammy-nominated debut novel How I Paid for College. Director David Yates has backed out of the new big-screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited to direct the next Harry Potter film. A Hans Christian Anderson bio pic is in the works, to be directed by Swedish filmmaker Billie August. The cast of the film version of Armistead Maupin’s The Night Listener now includes Bobby Cannavale, Robin Williams, Toni Collette, Rory Culkin, and Joe Morton. Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s stage musical Lestat, based on Anne Rice’s pansexual vampire, will open in San Francisco this winter en route to Broadway. Another Elton John musical, Billy Elliot, based on the movie of the same name, is scheduled to start previews May 31 in London. Carroll & Graf will publish The Sluts, Dennis Cooper’s new novel about a gay male hustler and his client’s obsessions with him. Rob Weisbach has been named president and chief executive officer of Miramax Books, which will be managed over the next two years by executives representing both the Walt Disney Co. and Harvey and Bob Weinstein. Weisbach will also sign up authors for an imprint that will be part of the Weinsteins’ new venture, tentatively named WeinsteinCo.

Kudos: The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation presented writer-director Bill Condon (Kinsey and Gods and Monsters) with the Stephen F. Kolzak Award in Los Angeles in April. The award is named for a successful Los Angeles casting director who devoted the last part of his life to fighting AIDS-phobia and homophobia in the entertainment industry. Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs was named a Book Sense Honor Book for 2004 in Nonfiction. Jim Grimsley was one of eight authors who received the 2005 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. The award will presented in May in New York City.

Everything Old is New Again: The first known recording of poet Allen Ginsberg reading Howl was donated by California-based Pacifica Radio to Naropa University. The recording was made in 1956. The donation also includes audio recordings by James Baldwin, Kurt Vonnegut, Dylan Thomas, and Aldous Huxley. Ginsberg was a co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets at Naropa, a nonprofit school that is inspired by Buddhism and located in Boulder, Colorado. The New York Times reported in April that a previously unknown poem by playwright Tennessee Williams was discovered in the back of a small blue test booklet from Washington University in St. Louis. Williams penned the poem, “Blue Song,” while taking a final exam in Greek in May 1937 at the University. The poem was discovered by Harvey I. Schvey, a Washington University professor, among the Williams-related materials kept at Faulkner House Books, a bookstore in New Orleans. A portion of the poem reads: “If you should meet me upon a/ street do not question me for/ I can tell you only my name/ and the name of the town I was/ born in . . .”

Maybe Blogging’s Not Such A Bad Idea: A diary of the novelist Yukio Mishima that is on display at the Yukio Mishima Literary Museum in Yamanakako, Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan is believed to have provided material for his later novels, contradicting previous theories on his work. The diary was kept from 1946 to 1947 when the author was a student in the law department at the University of Tokyo. The diary details the writer’s efforts to become a novelist, his relationship with another writer, Osamu Dazai, and his reunion with a woman who is believed to be the model for “Sonoko,” a character in Confessions of a Mask. “The diary suggests that he drew material from what he actually experience,” Professor Hideaki Sato of Kinki University, an expert on Mishima’s works, reported. The diary, originally begun as an account ledger, also describes the films the writer saw, his railway fares, admission fees to theaters, and the prices of books he bought. According to experts, the author did not record his income and expenditures for the purpose of being thrifty but to see how much money he would need to survive as a writer. Masayoshi Kudo, chief curator at the museum, believes that Mishima made up his mind to join the Finance Ministry as a bureaucrat because he deemed manuscript fees would be insufficient to cover his living expenses. In June 1946, while he was still a student, Mishima published his first novel, Tabako (Cigarette), in a literary magazine.

Off the Shelves: The Open Book, Ltd., the nine-year old bookstore in Sacramento, is in the process of being sold and is no longer accepting orders on its Web site until further notice. The owners Ron Grantz and Larry Bailey, both 65, are retiring to remodel apartments, travel, and “fade into the sunset.” In April 2004, Bailey told a reporter from the Sacramento Bee that “it just doesn’t pay to be a gay business in Lavender Heights, at least not like it used to. Greater social acceptance means greater business competition.” “There’s no ‘us and them’ attitude anymore,” his partner, Grantz said. “People from around the area used to come in on the weekends and spend $200 to $300 in one trip. They don’t do that anymore. Why should they drive all that way when you can get the same book at Barnes & Noble in Elk Grove?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

For Your Leisure Reading

My interview with author and editor Jim Gladstone about his new tattoo-themed gay fiction anthology Skin and Ink is now on line at Velvet Mafia. Jim is a terrific, enthusiastic, and gracious guy who I always enjoy hanging out with in his hometown of Philadelphia (where he has a terrific, huge apartment) or at places like Saints and Sinners in New Orleans. Rob Stephenson, Patrick Ryan, D. Travers Scott, James Williams, and Kal Cobalt also have great new fiction up in this issue of Velvet Mafia. I also love to help writers find new outlets for their work and I read Tom Cardamone’s Pacific Rimming in an early draft and thought it was superb. I’m so glad VM boss Sean Meriwether decided to put it on line. Part One is in this issue and Part Two will be in the next VM issue. Tom will also have a surreal story titled "Bottomfeeders" going up on line this summer at Sean’s other literary Web site, Outsider Ink.