Monday, October 31, 2005

November Publishing Notes

The buzz: Charles Flowers has been appointed the new Executive Director of the Lambda Literary Foundation. Brendan Lemon stepped down as the editor-in-chief of the gay monthly Out. Euan Morton, who starred as Boy George in the musical Taboo, will play the lead in Brundibar and Comedy on the Bridge, two new operas by Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak. CNN reporter Anderson Cooper has officially landed a book contract with HarperCollins. The not-yet-written memoir was bought for $1 million by HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham, who will be editing the book himself. The book will deal with the last year of Cooper’s life as a journalist and human being in Sri Lanka, Africa, Iraq, and Louisiana/Mississippi. Most of the proceeds will go to charity. The recent success of the film Capote has sparked an interest in the author’s books. USA Today reported that Vintage is now in its third printing of the movie tie-in edition of In Cold Blood. Gerald Clarke’s Capote, A Biography, the basis for the recent movie, has also seen a surge in sales.

Kudos: Houston resident Greg Chapman was selected from among 6,000 entrants to read his essay about putting aside the teachings of childhood and embracing his homosexuality on “This I Believe,” a series of weekly essays featured on National Public Radio. James Purdy received the Clifton Fadiman Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the Mercantile Library of New York for his controversial gay novel Eustace Chisholm and the Works, published in 1967, two years before the Stonewall Riots. The award carries a $5,000 cash prize from Bookspan. The novel was selected by Jonathan Frazen as the most memorable book published at least a decade ago. Julie Marie Wade of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania won the Fourth Annual Oscar Wilde Award sponsored by Gival Press for her poem entitled “The Lunar Plexus.” An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Women Studies, edited by Robert L. Giron and Dr. Brianne Friel, won the 2005 DIY Book Award for Compilations/Anthologies. The book includes essays by lesbian writers Teresa Bevin and Rita Kranidis. PressPassQ reported that the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association has established a Hall of Fame. Initial inductees include NLGJA founder, the late Leroy Aarons (who in retirement sat on the board of the LGBT publication We The People); partners Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, co-editors of the The Ladder, considered America's first publication (1956) for lesbian readers; the late Sarah Pettit, co-founder and editor of Out magazine (1992); the late Randy Shilts, whose career included a stint at The Advocate; and the late Don Slater, founder and editor of the crusading gay publication, ONE, whose five-year battle against antigay U.S. postal rules ended in a 1958 U.S. Supreme Court victory for all gay media. Among the titles which made Time magazine’s Best All-Time Novels were The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Deliverence by James Dickey, Falconer by John Cheever, Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin, The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, I, Claudius by Robert Graves, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Open calls: Amie M. Evans is accepting submissions for an anthology titled Drag Kings: Short Story Erotica involving drag kings on or off the stage. Deadline is April 1, 2006. For more information write Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore, is seeking essays up to 6,000 words for an anthology titled Realness Is Overrated: Rejecting the Requirement to Pass. Essays should explore and critique the various systems of power seen (or not seen) in the act of passing. Deadline is January 31, 2006. For more details and submission guidelines, e-mail

The Lone Star State of Mind: Members of the American Veterans in Domestic Defense staged protests at six local libraries in Montgomery Country. The group cut up 70 books they considered “perverted” and containing pornographic pictures or promoting homosexuality. Some of the titles include It’s Perfectly Normal, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Plastic Man. St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, a private school in Austin, declined a $3 million donation rather than cut a gay-themed short story from the English curriculum. English teacher Kimberly Horne has included the short story “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx, a love story of two gay cowboys, as optional reading in her high school class for several years. The Austin American Statesman reported that parents Cary and Kate McNair met with other parents and school authorities and objected to the short story and the school’s participation in Day of Silence, an annual event that seeks to address antigay discrimination on school campuses. McNair is the son of oil magnate Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans pro football team. After the school refused to remove “Brokeback Mountain” from the assignment list, the McNairs pulled a $3 million pledge.

Between the Lines: If my recollections are right, I heard of Sam D’Allesandro in several ways. First, there was “Nothing Ever Just Disappears,” his short story that was included in the anthology Men on Men, edited by George Stambolian and published in 1986 by Plume. Before the deluge of gay-themed fiction and erotica anthologies of this century, twentysomething years ago in the last one there was just Men on Men and a few gay bookstores where this particular anthology could be found, and for those of us trying to imagine ourselves as a new breed of writer — a gay writer writing about gay life — being included in Men on Men meant that Sam was already some kind of god-like talent. A few years later I learned of The Zombie Pit, Sam’s collection of short stories which arrived in 1989, because I knew of Crossing Press, having had a correspondence with editor John Gill over a potential collection of my own short stories (and which didn’t come to pass). At the time I was living in exile in New Hope, Pennsylvania, after a decade of struggling in New York City, quietly having a breakdown after the death of a friend, disassembling all the pieces of my psyche, repairing and polishing them, and reassembling them into what I was hoping would be a new and improved model of the cheerful young man I had once been. I’m not exactly sure where I picked up my copy of The Zombie Pit — it must have been at either the Oscar Wilde Bookshop or A Different Light during a weekend jaunt back into New York City — or maybe even at Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia, but wherever I purchased it, when I sat down to read it, I was struck by lighting when I came to the second story titled “Electrical Type of Thing.” “Electrical Type of Thing” is the story of a young man obsessed with another man who, as the story progresses, becomes obsessed with another young man. Also, as this simply written episodic tale unfolds, the first young man finds another man who becomes obsessed with him. In other words, guy likes guy likes another guy in a sort of series of overlapping triangles. Before I read this short story I had always dreamed of taking the best parts and traits of one boyfriend and graphing them onto another imperfect boyfriend, in hopes of creating the ideal kind of boyfriend — or at least the sort of perfect one that I could set out and search for. Having that sort of romantic quest, I was usually unfulfilled in matters of both love and sex. Somehow, it had never dawned on me that I might be a different person with different people as Sam so vividly explains in that story and my psychological awakening of that notion was a truly inspired moment — the kind of thing whereby a reader turns to fiction in order to better understand his own life, to find his world illuminated and explained in a way he might not be able to grasp himself, and zing-zap-crash-boom! — it actually happens, only it is something different than what he thought he would find. Mind it, that year I was still a neophyte in affairs with men and grieving over just about everything that had come to pass thus far in my life. And the truth of the matter was I discovered “Electrical Type of Thing” at the same time I was discovering a lot of other first-rate writers — at the time I was also slowly making my way through Echo Press’s thirteen volumes of the Collected Short Stories of Anton Chekhov. But my psychological awakening of what to expect from sexual relationships also incorporated an awareness that Sam D’Allesandro was a very talented writer and that the bitter truth was his bright light had already been diminished. In the back pages of The Zombie Pit was a chronological time line of Sam’s life, with the startling fact that he had died February 3, 1988, at the age of thirty-one, a year or so before I had ever picked up this book. For years I’ve held onto my copy of The Zombie Pit and used “Electrical Type of Thing” as one of those occasional touchstones a writer often refers back to, turning to it for inspiration when an idea strikes me and I begin to work my way into writing a new story or to revisit to see if a final version of a story is working as well as I hope it does — and I can trace Sam’s influence on a string of stories I’ve written over the years — particularly those triangular ones where matters of the heart often intersect with the realities of sex. So it’s heartwarming to discover that good gay writing lasts because it’s good gay writing. Suspect Thoughts Press has recently issued a new collection of Sam’s writings titled The Wild Creatures. Delightfully included is “Electrical Type of Thing,” a story I hope many other would-be gay writers will discover, enjoy, and find inspiring.

Passages: Theodore ‘Tobias’ Schneebaum, artist, author, and anthropologist, died September 20 2005 in Great Neck, NY, from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was in his mid-80s and a longtime resident of Greenwich Village. In 2000, Mr. Schneebaum was the subject of the documentary, Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale, which follows his return to the Amazon and to Indonesian New Guinea, where he also lived. Mr. Schneebaum came to prominence in 1969 with the publication of his memoir, also titled Keep the River on Your Right, which was published by Grove Press. The book, a cult classic, described how a mild-mannered gay New York artist wound up living among, and ardently loving, the Arakmbut, an indigenous cannibalistic people in the rain forest of Peru. In 1955, Mr. Schneebaum, then a painter, had won a Fulbright fellowship to study art in Peru. There, he vanished into the jungle and was presumed dead. Seven months later, he emerged, naked and covered in body paint. After his return to New York, Schneebaum travelled widely, often visiting isolated people, and settled in New Guinea in 1973, where he spent 10 years studying the art of the Asmat head-hunters in Irian Jaya and serving as assistant curator of an art museum. He also took a married tribesman lover, named Aipit. His other published works include Wild Man, Where the Spirits Dwell, and Secret Places: My life in New York and New Guinea.