Saturday, March 31, 2007

“Philip’s not going to talk to me anymore.”

from the diary: “Thursday 2/26/87

“Yesterday and today were Club Days. We had the [Gay & Lesbian Student Union] table pretty well manned yesterday. I sat in for a couple hours – 12 to 2.

“Teresa made a lovely banner and taped up some nice rainbow flags. … Philip, the custodian at the library, walked by at one point – shortly after I’d arrived. He said, ‘What are you doing in there?’ I said, ‘Sitting.’ He gave me an odd look and kept walking. I thought, ‘Oh, well. Philip’s not going to talk to me anymore.’

"Today at lunch [Philip] sat down at the table in the cafeteria where I was eating and said he was real surprised. He’d never suspected. He asked about my family. I got the feeling he was fishing for ‘the reason’ – the gensis of my [homosexuality]. He seemed satisfied when I said my parents are divorced. But he’s not rancorous or condemning, rather more bewildered. He asked me if I didn’t think I’d cause AIDS. I said something about you can catch herpes, too, if you’re not careful; you can fall down the stairs and break your head. He told me the library could be mine when he left. He was giving it to me.

“And I thought he wouldn’t talk to me?”

Friday, March 30, 2007

Creative Writing Class with Don Emblen, part II

from the diary: “Wednesday 2/18/87

“Creative Writing was boring. [Prof. Emblen’s] in-class assignment was to look up words from two poems – find which one are ‘native’ and which are ‘latinate’. How boring. I had no desire to plow through the dictionary doing any such thing so I lent my dictionary to Jeni and tried it w/o. Emblem talked about iambic pentameter and ‘strongly suggested’ that we try writing some iambic pentameter poetry. Bleah.”

2/28: “I realized what animal Don Emblen reminds me of – a Galapagos tortoise.”

Thursday, March 29, 2007

in the bookstore

from the diary: “Sunday 2/15/87

“Hung out at Copperfield’s for an hour. Looked at poetry books. Felt alternately encouraged and discouraged by them all. Look at all this poetry to read! Wow! But nobody buys poetry. Look at all the starving poets, the crazy poets! How beautiful much of this is, how hard to understand so much of it is. Will my poetry ever be noticed? Will I make a living as a writer? How can it all be read? It’s hopeless. Bleh.

“It’s better to take it in pieces. Read what I can, when I can – find what enjoyment, fulfillment as comes. Write what I can, when I can – don’t fret over the future, don’t fret over critics that haven’t noticed, editors that pay no attention, just write what needs be written and don’t worry about it. Life comes in pieces, doesn’t it? Nothing comes all at once – life doesn’t come all at once.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Creative Writing class with Don Emblen, part I

from the diary: “Friday 2/6/87

“I’m disappointed in Don Emblen’s Creative Writing class. Apparently we’re not going to do any in-class writing. He gives no assignments cuz, he sez, writing is a solitary business.”

Thurs 2/12: “I’ve ‘finished’ revising the first poem I turned in to Emblen, Creative Writing. Started out called ‘The Smile That Died’ – a tacked on title since most poems in my notebook aren’t titled – now called ‘Can’t Be Put Back Together’. I handed a poem in Wednesday – ‘Encountering the Divine’. We don’t have class again till next Wed. cuz of presidents’ birthdays, but I’ve typed a couple short poems – ‘Blah-de-blah’ and ‘New Suit’ to turn in then. Also gonna hand in revised ‘Smile’. “

I visited Don this January and got some of his books. As I’m reading my old diary not just for the books in it but for my development as a writer I have included talk here at Dare I Read about writers I’ve met & writing classes I’ve taken. Don, also known as D. L. Emblen, besides poetry, had written a biography of Peter Mark Roget, creator of Roget’s Thesaurus and coedited with Donald Hall (now U.S. poet laureate) a textbook for writers called A Writer’s Reader -- perhaps two Dons on a book cover was deemed too much.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

So Well Remembered

from the diary: “Sunday 2/1/87

“All I did today was lie around – finished James Hilton’s So Well Remembered, and began Make Believe: the story of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. … Waiting listlessly for school to begin tomorrow.”

You’ve heard of Shangri La, haven’t you? James Hilton invented the place, a sort of heavenly Tibet, for his novel Lost Horizon. I wanted to read Lost Horizon. Then So Well Remembered fell into my lap. And I read that instead. No, I don’t remember anything about So Well Remembered. Useless, aren’t I? On the other hand, the whole novel is on the web via Project Gutenberg, so if you want to do your own research …

I was amused to find this So Well Remembered cover image on the web. The copy I had looked just like it -- there used to be an attractive dustjacket, no doubt.

Ronald Reagan was famous long before he became president. My mother hated him. Had she hated him as an actor, too? I don’t think so. But I got the idea no pleasant thoughts survived his appearance as a sympathetic witness before McCarthy’s House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Laurence Learner’s Make Believe gives the Reagan story from its defining fantasy – that by putting on roles Reagan thought he was doing heroic things, pretending to do and actually doing being little different in his mind.

Monday, March 26, 2007

gays in space

In doing research for another book I won’t be getting to for awhile I came across this account of a 1988 science fiction convention. There was a panel titled, “Alternate Sexual Lifestyles in F & SF” and among the panelists was Samuel R. Delany. The author of the convention report complains, “[T]he panelists … seemed to want to talk only about homosexuality (or perhaps bisexuality, if pressed). Any attempt … to ask about any other aspect of sexuality was fairly quickly shunted aside and the discussion returned to homosexuality. What is disheartening about this is that I get the impression that the committee wanted a panel on homosexuality and was afraid to use the word.” OK, yes. When I read Worlds Apart I was more hoping for Gays in Space than “alternate sexual lifestyles”. Just because I’m tired of the standard het scenario doesn’t mean I’m looking for just anything else.

Anyway, my favorite bit about Delany goes, “In response to someone's wondering why ‘straight’ porno films (aimed at men, presumably) always have a lesbian scene, Delany observed two things. One, the ‘lesbians’ in these scenes don't act like any lesbians he knows (this was met with general agreement from the audience), and two, ‘if you desire X, why shouldn't you desire 2 X more...especially if you rub them together.’”

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern

from the diary: “Tuesday 1/27/87

“Reading Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern.”

Thursday: “I was sitting in front of Merv’s Little Super on Mendocino Ave [Santa Rosa], waiting for the bus, reading bits of Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, when I hear a roar, I look up, the bus is sweeping past. … Once, at the beginning of the school year I timed the bus in its circuitous route past Kaiser and County Administration. It always seemed like a long time and I wondered if I could walk to the JC from [the bus stop at] Coddingtown [mall] faster than the bus. The bus timed out to 10 or 12 minutes. Later I timed it walking – that took 17-20 minutes. So I had a chance today of catching that bus. I had a chance. … And, yes, I beat the bus [to Coddingtown]. Not by much. I got there and looked, looked – no bus. I thought sure I’d missed it. But no. It just then crossed Guerneville Road.

“… Finished Moreta this eve with Peanuts [pet cat] lounging quietly and contentedly against me.”

I enjoyed Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, a sci-fi take on the fantasy of riding dragons. Every seven years this other scary planet passes near Pern and spits a nasty pestilent Thread across the gap. Only the fire breath of the Pernian dragons can burn away the Thread before it digs into the earth and sterilizes it. It seems bit of a stretch to expect a few flapping reptiles to protect an entire planet, but I bought it at the time. After reading Moreta I wondered if my tastes had changed and McCaffrey had always written that badly or if it was just, you know, a bad book. It didn’t make me want to read any more Pern or any more McCaffrey.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

pile of reading

The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga, edited by Ilya
Japanese-style comics rather than Japanese comics

Emma by Jane Austen
I like Austen’s prose, she can be quite funny, but Emma herself is rather annoying

A Public Space, Summer 2006
good stuff

Small Town, Summer 2003
a friend has a poem in this

Whispering in the Giant’s Ear: a frontline chronicle from Bolivia’s war on globalization by William Powers
I was thinking I hadn’t read any geo-political type books lately and wanted to?

World Poetry: an anthology of verse from antiquity to our time, edited by Katharine Washburn, John S. Major & Clifton Fadiman
if this were 900 pages I’d be done with it already

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
I read between 4 and 12 pages a week

Living Free: the story of Elsa and her cubs by Joy Adamson
sequel to Born Free; delightful if occasionally tiresome (I feel like I’m reading the diary) account of the lion cub who went back to the wild

Friday, March 23, 2007

what's new

Wednesday was a pretty day so I walked up to Euclid. The last block before North Gate (UCB) has some restaurants and a bookstore. And the walk up the hill provides some nice views of the Bay. I had a chef salad at Stuffed Inn and sat and read & wrote. Then I crossed the street to Analog Books (formerly Signal Books, formerly Collected Thoughts) to see if they had any new literary magazines. Now that I’ve finished with my year’s worth of New Yorkers I seem to be making my way through the lit mags I’ve been buying. Gotta keep myself supplied.

I’ve seen Golden Handcuffs Review and have to confess my pleasure in the title, conventional though it looks. Plus which we have to admit that price is a consideration. At $6.95 and fat it seems a good value. I was also attracted to the special “San Francisco Writers” section, despite my indifference to Michael McClure.

Also picked up Zone 3, which has a white cover, at the center of which is a small color photo of someone’s hands. It was rock bottom for a lit mag these days -- $5. I had heard of very few of the writers inside but decided what the heck. I was going to get a coffee & cookie at the cafĂ© so crossed back over and stepped inside. It was crowded and noisy. I’ve been riding the borderlands of a headache since Tuesday night (evidence of progress!), so I changed my mind and turned for home.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Worlds Apart

from the diary: “Monday 1/26/87

“[P]icked up a book I requested from the library -- Worlds Apart -- gay SF short fiction.”

Social arrangements in science fiction were so conventional, so 20th Century American standard. SF authors could extrapolate technology, could picture themselves on other worlds or bopping between dimensions, but anything other than boy-girl (note the order) was just beyond their imaginations. It always seemed to me that should not be so.

The stories in Worlds Apart, as I recall, weren’t exactly gays in space. Rather, they offered variant sexualities. Which was okay, but not what I was hoping for. Of the authors included I’ve gone on to read more Samuel Delany and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Jewelle Gomez read for the Poetry & Pizza series.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


from the diary: “Monday 1/26/87

“Finished Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut.”

For a few years I gobbled up Vonnegut. Then I hit Jailbird, a book I think I didn’t get all the way through, and I wondered if Vonnegut was no longer writing what I wanted to read. After what seemed a long pause I picked up Galapagos and enjoyed it. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was Jailbird. I’ve read a few Vonneguts since. I had Player Piano on my shelf for ages. Vonnegut’s first novel. When I read that I found another Vonnegut not to like.

I remember reading Cat’s Cradle on a flight to Hawaii (a vacation with my dad’s family when I was in junior high). I loved the tiny chapters and Ice 9, a doomsday material that would instantanteously freeze solid all water into which it came in contact and all water to which that water was connected. Since it’s rare to have water here on earth not connected to other water, once Ice 9 touched its first puddle it wouldn’t be long before all water on earth was frozen up. Scary, right?

I bought used copies of Vonnegut’s books from the comic store my brother and I frequented. The comic store had a bookcase of used science fiction. I don’t remember what first turned me on to Vonnegut. I read Slaughterhouse Five twice. In eighth grade a student teacher saw me reading Breakfast of Champions and delightedly showed me the illustration of the asshole (for some reason she was unamused when I responded by showing her the illustration of the cunt). The asshole illo appears on this cover of Stop Smiling.

I liked the way Vonnegut would have characters recur in different books, mostly minor characters, the books not being sequels exactly as a new book would rarely build on the plot of an earlier book.

Galapagos, as I recall, had a milder doomsday than Cat’s Cradle. The human race evolves into harmless penguin/seal-like marine animals and they/we are last seen sporting in the waves.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fuzzies and Other People

from the diary: “Tuesday 1/20/87

“Read Fuzzies and Other People, [H. Beam] Piper’s long lost sequel to the other two Fuzzy books. I enjoyed it. Much better than Tuning’s Fuzzy Bones.”

Little Fuzzy, the first of Piper’s Fuzzy books, was a gift, I believe. I think it was one of the books Mom read to my brother and me before bed. She did that long past our being little kids. It was a family thing, more fun than TV. And she was good at it. Fuzzies are big eyed, silky furred humanoid aliens, natives of a planet thought to have no sentient life. Their existence creates a problem for those who want to use the planet’s mineral resources without having to spare a care for the planet’s biosphere.

I remember finding the big eyed Fuzzies hypnotically cute – those cover illustrations! Little Fuzzy and the sequel Fuzzy Sapiens were published in the 60s. A third Fuzzy book was rumored. A carbon copy of the manuscript was finally discovered in a trunk 15 or 20 years after the author’s death. Two new Fuzzy books by other authors had been published by the time Fuzzies and Other People turned up. I read one of them, Fuzzy Bones. It seems it left me cold.

Of all the Fuzzy books Little Fuzzy is the one I remember most. Worrying about whether the Fuzzies would be legally recognized as sentient beings and thus entitled to protection from the depredations of ruthless corporations! What would happen!

Monday, March 19, 2007


from the diary: “Friday 1/2/87

Rode the bus to San Francisco to visit a friend. “On the way there & back I got 2/3 way through [Stephen] King’s Thinner.”

I think I read all Stephen King’s books up through Pet Sematary. I did not care for Pet Sematery. I got tired of it yet it kept going and going, page after page after page. I decided King no longer listened to editors and his books were published however long he wanted them. But I heard Thinner was tighter, a more focused thriller. It was shorter. I liked it well enough. Not so well that I had to read more King, though. Unless another has slipped my mind entirely I do think this is the last King novel I’ve read. Other than that the main character is cursed to lose weight – and lose weight and lose weight until he threatens to evaporate – I don’t remember the book’s plot.

Thinner was originally published under a pseudonym, the fourth fifth book King had published under the name, Richard Bachman. As I recall Stephen King had been feeling somewhat oppressed by his own success, his King-the-horror-writer persona. In earlier years he had written novels that he didn’t consider strictly horror, more adventure/thriller, I guess. These novels remained unpublished so King turned the manuscripts over to his agent and asked his agent to offer them around but keep his name on the q.t. The first three four books were published as paperback originals. Thinner was the first book by “Richard Bachman” to have initial publication in hardcover. So Bachman was on his way to the bestseller lists himself? Perhaps. But clever readers detected the ruse. When King at last fessed, Thinner leapt to bestsellerdom. I doubt I would have heard of Thinner otherwise.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The City and the Pillar

from the diary: “Thursday 1/1/87

“finished The City and the Pillar last night – by Gore Vidal. It was pretty good. HEY! Nobody died! The ending was kinda tragic. But nobody died – not even a minor character. Not bad.”

Of the gay fiction I’d read in the preceding few months the following books included the death of at least one gay character: The Collected Stories of Tennessee Williams, Dance on My Grave, The Front Runner, Solstice. Not like I was supposed to take any message away from that.

In fact, in the first version of The City and the Pillar the main character kills someone. As the glbt encyclopedia says, “Vidal had gone against tradition by having his protagonist kill his boyhood love rather than expiate his own supposed transgressions through death.” Gore Vidal himself writes, “At the time it was generally believed that the publishers forced me to tack on a cautionary ending in much the same way the Motion Picture Code used to insist that wickedness be punished. This was not true. I had always meant the end of the book to be black, but not as black as it turned out. So for a new edition of the book published in 1965 I altered the last chapter considerably.” I remember seeing the word “revised” on the cover of the copy I read. I remember thinking that was a good thing, as though I were reading the most up to date version. It probably was a good thing.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

more musings on the diary

from the diary: “Tuesday 11/25/86

“It’s odd, isn’t it, how I’ll never be sure what was the most important incident in my life by reading this diary. It’s interesting, but the immediate conflicts get dealt with, relationships evolve and change and basically all that gets recorded is what comes quick to mind when I sit down to write. I suppose this constitutes the shavings and leavings of particular moments and reflects only a little the more complex patterns of my continuing existence. So what, eh?”

Friday, March 16, 2007

Collected Stories of Tennessee Williams

from the diary: “Monday 11/24/86

“Started reading Tennessee Williams’ Collected Stories. Not bad.”

The story that sticks in my mind is the one where the hero yearns to be dismembered and eaten by the man of his dreams. Yuck? Williams was good at atmosphere, I recall. I’ve read his poetry, too.

In an Amazon review J.E. Barnes says, the stories “reflect the degree to which Williams internalized the shame and self hatred he experienced as a homosexual male in a predominantly heterosexual and anti-homosexual society.” One story, for instance, finds its elderly main character choking to death on a hustler’s cock. In a New York Times review Reynolds Price looks on the bright side, The best stories “move with a leisurely, even archaic, nobility of pace and tone through unblinking scrutiny of those few tendencies of human nature that empowered [their author] - the irreparable damage one person can inflict on his or her companions, the tyranny and persistence of physical desire, the pathos and peculiar grace of the walking wounded.” Empowered by the irreparable damage one person can inflict on another? It’s often the case that one writer’s summing up of another is truest of himself. Just saying.

The next day: “Went to [Best of Two Worlds, a comic shop in Santa Rosa] with Juan. He sez he’s been trying to show that my grand revelation – ‘That you’re homosexual.’ – has not affected our friendship. Oh. Kay. He asked me if it showed. ‘Oh, you mean coming up to the desk [at the library where I worked] and shaking my hand?’”

Juan was a friend I made on the bus. I got acquainted with him while commuting to Day Treatment. He was taking the bus to school. We hung out together some when I started at the JC in the fall.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dance on My Grave

from the diary: “Sunday 11/23/86

“Just finished reading Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers. About a love affair between two teenage boys. But just as much about the reaction of one to the other’s death. Good but kinda depressing.”

I was trying to find gay fiction that wasn’t … um … tragic? I was not having much luck. As Michael Cart in his essay on young adult fiction says, a kid is looking for “the shock of recognition, the sudden, amazing realization that one is not alone, that there are others like me out there. [And] acceptance, [the hope] for happiness … for being loved and cared about ‘like everyone else.’” Cart calls the death in Dance on My Grave, “seemingly obligatory.”

I still remember Hal riding behind Barry on his motorcycle, Hal wrapping his arms around his daring boyfriend, the motor revving, the wind … ah love!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


from the diary: “Monday 11/10/86

“I was bored. Had Veteran’s Day off from school and work. I didn’t study. Did cut some more hedge – only the [neighbor]’s side left to do. The hedge trimmer is screwing up. Read Fup.”

Fup is a short novel by Jim Dodge, a Sonoma County writer. Fup is a duck (Fup duck!), a pet. Fup, the book, was published by a small local press, and the book became a local bestseller. A New York publisher caught wind of the novel waterfowl and reissued it. I’d heard the buzz and was curious. Says Dodge, “I only want to be famous for a 100 miles. I had my moment of American fame with Fup -- People Magazine, Good Morning America -- and found it distracting to the point of distortion.”

I do like the idea of reading the local author. I remember being a bit disappointed. Many people love the book. There are several editions, it seems, and a few different covers. The picture I found (above) looks like the edition I read. Other more colorful covers can be seen here.

Then that Friday: “Geoffrey called at about six … He was going to come and spend the weekend [while Mom was away]. But he has a touch of the flu, and besides he’s still hung up on Daniel. Could we just be friends? He hopes so.” And that was that as far as my first boyfriend went. Two weeks from my asking him “to be my boyfriend” to him saying, “Could we just be friends?”

Did I read nothing in September and October? So far as the diary mentions it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

what’s new

Last night I went to Moe’s to hear Paul Vangelisti. He read with Debra Di Blasi, who I don’t know, but I liked her reading well enough. I bought Vangelisti’s first book, air, which is either back in print or the publisher found a full box in his bedroom, I wasn’t sure which. It was published in 1973.

I also picked up 6X6, a poetry mag out of New York. I think I have another issue or two of it around here somewhere. It’s bound with a rubber band. Good until the rubber decays. Maybe that’s when the poetry expires. There are six poets, each poet with six poems.

And I’ve had my eye on The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga, an anthology of non-Japanese manga (Japanese-style comics). I felt like buying things so I took that from the shelf, too.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The diary, 6/6/86 – 10/14/86

This journal is a stenography notebook. The spiral binding is at the top of the page. Every time you turn a page you have to flip the whole book over. This makes it hard to browse. A lot fewer books mentioned in this diary.

What happened? I quit Day Treatment for college. A friend from DT convinced me I didn’t need to take that antidepressant anymore (though I would occasionally dip into the bottle when feeling overwhelmed). After a decent experience with the summer school class I got a job at the SRJC campus library and took on a full-time load of classes during the fall semester. I joined the campus gay club, which was quite small, and seemed always threatening to evaporate. I also began attending a gay youth group in not-very-nearby Marin; this involved long busrides &/or carpools, as I had no car. And, yes, I had nongay friends and we would hang out, play boardgames, watch movies, go for long walks. Still going to poetry workshops and Russian River Writers Guild readings. More things going on, less time to read. Plus, of course, much reading time having to go to reading for school.

movies mentioned:
Piranha 2: The Spawning
Return of the Living Dead
My Beautiful Laundrette
The Fly
Return to Oz
Club Paradise
Legal Eagles

People are Talking
America’s Top Ten

Sunday, March 11, 2007

States of Desire

from the diary: “Thursday 8/28/86

“Still reading States of Desire.”

The following day: “Finished States of Desire, which was good but faintly depressing.”

Edmund White traveled the country, finding sex with men in every region. I like White’s prose style. I continue to read his work. But the gay identity that consists not of loving men but “tricking”, that is, sex sex sex, mostly with strangers, I still find, at best, uncongenial.

White’s adventures did not thrill me with the possibilities. On the other hand, as this description at Edmund White’s own website suggests, the book probably exposed me to a range of gay life I hadn’t yet much seen in those sociological tomes: “gay engineers, gay computer experts, and gay cowboys … a gay timber baron from Portland and a ‘big-wig’ (literally as well as figuratively) in the Florida drag world. Here are: handsome lifeguards in Chicago—those ‘bronzed demigods . . . who lord it above us on their white wood towers’ [ellipsis in orig]; a Hollywood host who has just spent ‘a typical L.A. day, driving 150 miles assembling the twelve ingredients for supper’ … gay Cubans in Miami, a gay lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and even a self-appointed gay Mormon prophet in Salt Lake City …” I’m sure they all didn’t sleep with (sleep with?) Edmund White.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Tom Jones

from the diary: “Wednesday 8/27/86

“Pretty much spent the day at home. Started Tom Jones and States of Desire.”

Two days later: “… reading s’more Tom Jones, which is good but which I can’t read great portions of at one sitting – oh, well, I planned to renew and renew it. The library’s not likely to yank it from me cuz someone’s requested it.”

9/13: “Still reading Tom Jones.”

In my memory the library had instituted its renewal limits by this time. Guess not. Once I started the fall semester, however, I saw there was no way I would be able to keep up with Tom Jones. I remember contendedly chuckling away over the book while soaking my feet before bed (conquered athlete’s foot that way and learned to like it). There are essays Henry Fielding throws in at the beginning of each “book” (the text is divided into sections, which, I suppose, were originally published as separate volumes). Fielding even says if you don’t like your narrative interrupted just skip the essays. But they were fun. Some of the easiest essays I’d come across. So I didn’t want to skip them. Yet they stopped the story dead and it was hard to get myself into the swing of the narrative again. It was a fat book besides, and I was a slow reader. I don’t remember how far I got. Not halfway, I think.

Published in England in 1749, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling is often called one of the first novels. Not that I really know what people who say that mean. The full text is available online.

A few years ago I found a cheap paperback. I much prefer a hardcopy book to scrolling along on a computer. So someday, soaking my feet before bed some chilly winter night, I’ll chuckle along to Tom Jones again.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Talking Animals and Other People

from the diary: “Friday 8/22/86

“Been reading a good book, Talking Animals and Other People, autobiography of animator Shamus Culhane.”

I was a big fan of animation. It seemed to me the place where you could realize things that could never be in real life. If the Oz books were made into movies I thought they should be animated movies. A gangly pumpkin-headed man built from sticks? You wouldn’t have to plump him up to make him a costume for a meat person. A sawhorse brought to life by a sprinkling of powder? No need to built a puppet to dangle in front of a blue screen. And animals talking? It looks natural.

Since the images depicted are limited only by what the artist can draw an animated world seemed the perfect place for exploring unknown regions of the mind. Such is rarely the case, of course. Typical animated films are no more interesting than your typical live action films. How much this has to do with the inelastic imaginations of the creators, how much to do with the expectations of the money men and their wish to sell the product to an audience – too weird and nobody wants to buy, right? – how much it has to do with something else I haven’t thought of, who knows?

The review in the NYT praises Culhane’s look back at his career (only a glance at his personal life, it says), “Much of what [the book] reveals is disagreeable, and one of its great merits is that it offers such an unsparing view of a world that was all too often subject to strain, squalor, brutal internal politics, harsh labor relations.” Not unlike the sweaty shops where comic books were cranked out, I suppose. I understand there’s long been an overlap between comics artists and animators. Culhane “has the knack of explaining technical matters clearly … [and] is equally concerned with esthetic issues, from the use of backgrounds inspired by Victorian illustrators to the lessons to be learned from the movie-making innovations of an Eisenstein or a Pudovkin.”

Culhane worked for Disney and claims credit for the “Heigh ho, Heigh ho” marching dwarves sequence in Snow White. “He had good reason to resent Disney's authoritarianism, and to know how unfair he could sometimes be, but he admires his dedication and his abilities too much to let fly against him.” And who knew that “toward the end of the making of Snow White … [the animators were so keyed up for a week they poured out an] avalanche of pornographic drawings in which Snow White, the dwarfs and even the old witch performed feats ‘that Krafft-Ebing would never have dreamed of.’” What private collection has those drawings?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

African Short Stories

from the diary: “Thursday 8/14/86

“I lay around today reading African Short Stories.”

This probably is the anthology edited by Chinua Achebe & C. L. Innes. Can’t know for sure cuz I didn’t list author or publisher in the diary. Nor did I say anything about it, any of the usual critical commentary like “good” or “liked”.

I was trying to write short stories and I was reading short story anthologies in hopes reading stories would help my own. If you want to be a writer, declared several advisors (mostly how-to books), you should start by writing short stories. Short stories not only are good training for building a narrative, capturing character, developing a style, but they are a lot easier to sell than a novel. If you grow a career in short fiction publishers & agents will come calling. We see you can write, they will say. Show us your novel.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


from the diary: “Tuesday 8/19/86

“Jeff came over. That is, I met him on the way to the library (to return Aphrodisiac: fiction from Christopher Street -- a good little collection of gay fiction) … [Jeff] wandered around with me, came back here. We played a couple [board] games.”

I was both embarassed by and defiant about carrying this book around. Cover pic showing man’s bare torso (stopping short of the pubes), and with that title, didn’t it scream? It was literary fiction, not porn. I don’t remember anything about the stories. What can I say? Christopher Street was a gay literary magazine out of New York.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Front Runner

from the diary: “Tuesday 8/12/86

“I went downtown. … Got The Front Runner (a novel about a gay relationship) on Chris’ recommendation from the S[anta] R[osa] library.”

Chris was the leader of a gay youth group in Marin that I had recently connected with.

Two days later: “I’m reading The Front Runner, a 1974 novel by Patricia Nell Warren about a track coach and his star runner who fall very in love. And it’s a good book, too.”

And then: “I finished The Front Runner. But Billy had to die? And Delphine committed suicide? Oh, come on. The ending was semi-happy, but the endless tragedy of gay lives gets awful tiring. Actually, Delphine’s suicide irked me the most because he seemed more a stereotype than a real character. At least there was important, relieving resolution to Billy’s death. Oh, well. The book had me in a powerful grip, and a book has to be purty dern good to do that.”

A lot of people love this book. Rave some Amazon reviews: “truly remarkable,” “very much the right book at the right time by the right author,” “heartbreaking, insightful, beautiful, painful,” and so on. I had asked Chris if she knew about good gay novels. Everybody loves The Front Runner, she said.

Author Patricia Nell Warren maintains her own website. She has written two sequels, neither of which I’ve read. Many times Warren has been asked why she, a lesbian, wrote a gay male love story. “She started outlining The Front Runner as a story about a lesbian coach and one of her runners, who became lovers,” says an Outsports interview. But, “’When I finally looked around at real life I thought, nobody will believe this because there aren’t any women coaches in track. … [I]f you were going to have a cliff-hanger story about being outed on the way to the Olympics, if you were a woman athlete, you’re automatically suspect by many people anyway.’”

Monday, March 05, 2007

The last New Yorker

In 2004 I sent in a subscription to The New Yorker. Kent had said he would read it, I’d read and enjoyed the magazine in small doses (though there was one point a friend had passed her subscription to me and I let the issues gather dust in my room for a year or two before finally throwing them out), and the subscription offer was real cheap, the “professional rate”. When the issues started showing up I would flip through them, look at the cartoons, read a poem, scan the movie reviews, then they would fall into this pile or that pile and the next issue would crowd in.

When I switched to a parttime job last spring I began to clean up some piles and in doing so collected the New Yorkers. Was I going to throw them out again, lightly read, as I had that friend’s batch? I decided to give reading them a try. I could always change my mind. I didn’t read them in chronological order (unusual for Glenn, typically obsessive about that sort of thing) and I let myself skip or skim articles, particularly ones about the 2004 presidential election (we know how that depressing thing turned out), and the Iraq War (I never wanted to be an expert on Iraq), but I read all the fiction, and most everything else.

Kent never did read much (though I see the last two I read are serving as bathroom distraction right now). As I finish with them I dump the issues in the recycle bag. I finished the last issue of the subscription. The Oct. 18, 2004 issue. It’s not, as I said, the last I received, the subscription ran out in 2005, it’s just the one that was on the bottom of the pile. It calls itself “The Politics Issue”. Yes, I mostly hopped over the article on “How George W. Bush reinvented himself.” I like Clive James’ poem “Exit Don Giovanni”; am thinking about copying it out. It would be the second poem I’ve copied out from the subscription issues (the first appeared in an article as an example of a song by an Eskimo tribe).

In this last issue there’s an article on a Boston charter school that tries to give the extra to students struggling. One of the students profiled is Rousseau Mieze, a goodlooking, smart black boy whose struggles with school seem more to do with boredom and the difficulties of living poor than with understanding the assignments. He writes poetry, which seems primarily influenced by rap music, and there are excerpts in the article.

My life yo I’m thankful
On the real I feel I’ll tank though
I feel like death is hangin’ on my ankle.

Mieze tortures language for his rhymes here. The subject is serious, isn’t it? But I get the feeling the language is enjoying its torture and the seriousness is shot through with humor. Humor helps, people.

You be the minority, preferably black?
The new social profiling is green in fact.

Mieze is worrying about college. If you can’t show the school that you’re a consistent high achiever then the financial aid that makes school possible won’t come through. Mieze’s grades are middling.

He’s stepping with some newness
What problems? He can do this.

I find that couplet utterly charming.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


from the diary: “Monday 8/11/86

“Reading a novel by Joyce Carol Oates: Solstice. It’s good.”

Joyce Carol Oates writes a lot. Many of her stories have a fantastic or magical realist flavor, and they are often dark, even creepy. I think this is still the only of her novels I’ve read. I have read several short stories, mostly as I’ve run across them in anthologies. I probably read this one for the gay aspect. “Imperceptibly, hardly aware of what is happening to them at the deepest level of feeling, [the two women] move, or are moved, toward love, and ultimately beyond it, arriving at last at a near-fatal obsession with each other.” (That’s from Celestial Timepiece.) Doesn’t exactly sound life-affirming. Probably will never be an Oprah choice.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies

from the diary: “Friday 8/8/86

The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies by Rito Vusso [sic] came in from the Solano Library an’ I bin reading it tonight.”

This was the third book on gay subject matter that I had to get via interlibrary loan. Like the other two (Reflections of a Rock Lobster and One Teenager in Ten) The Celluloid Closet came from the Solano County Library. What was it about the Solano County Library? It’s not like Sonoma County’s library had no gay books. Huh. They did tend to be rather more … sociological? … than cultural. I read a lot of dense texts trying to figure out what the gay thing was.

I suspect Vito Russo’s reading of the queer killer stereotype informed the protests in San Francisco over the filming of Basic Instinct in 1991. I refused to see Basic Instinct for several years. Yes, I did succumb when I was bored and the DVD was kicking around. By that point, I figured, nobody was making money off my eyeballs.

If you want to read a review, here’s one.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Christmas in March

My s’mom sent me an Amazon gift certificate for Xmas. Amazon has much more than books these days. But I knew I was going to get books.

I’ve been working my way through unread Baum books. Recently I read John Dough and the Cherub and I’m in the middle of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. I’ve had Santa Claus for years and the time just never seemed right. Twenty years ago I got Twinkle and Chubbins and late last year I finally read it. I’ve been thinking about rereading the Oz series. I’ve read all the Baum Oz books more than once; yet there are non-Oz Baum books that I haven’t read. Oughtn’t I read them first? I mean, if I ever intend to. Twinkle and Chubbins is a collection of fairy stories set on the prairie, the main characters being a girl, Twinkle, and a boy, Chubbins. The Oz Club did a nice hardcover. But they didn’t bring back into print the sequel, Policeman Bluejay. The University of Nebraska Press’s Bison Books imprint has remedied the situation, bringing both the short stories and the full length sequel into print in a paperback, calling it Twinkle Tales. I figured I might as well get that.

I’ve been curious about the small poetry presses I’ve been watching birth on the internet. Steve Mueske’s Three Candles. Reb Livingston’s No Tell Motel. Both have recent anthologies. I was leaning toward The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel. But I guess I decided to go with Digerati: 20 Contemporary Poets in the Virtual World because I’ve been following a few more of the poets in it. I read Seth Abramson’s blog, for instance. And Paul Guest’s. Both are on my blogroll. (As are Steve Mueske and Reb Livingston, by the way.)

The books arrived yesterday. Twinkle Tales is nicely done. Digerati: 20 Contemporary Poets in the Virtual World isn’t quite. All of the design seems just a bit off. I like the colors and the cover photo but the fonts clash and the text inside seems to have been captured as it floated by. It’s a print on demand book. Print on demand books don’t look as good. But then it’s always been a struggle for a tiny press and p.o.d. offers opportunities that just weren’t available before. Not for us working stiffs. Anyway, I’m happy enough to have it in hand and am looking forward to the read.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I Never Loved Your Mind

from the diary: “Thursday 8/7/86

“Mom and I exchanged animosities tonight. She was pissed at me for not turning over the paper to her right when she asked for it and I was pissed at her for crabbing at me. According to her I ‘had no right to be offended.’ Since I’d had all day to read the paper I had no right to be reading it just when she wanted to be reading it. I don’t think she would’ve cared if she had known that it would’ve taken me four minutes tops to finish and hand it over. She just wanted to be petty. She was looking for something to grouse over and found it. So I threw the paper on the floor, said, ‘Here! Read it!’ and fled into my room with Paul Zindel’s I Never Loved Your Mind. Mom came to my door as she was going to bed and said, ‘Good night.’ I, of course, still feeling offended, despite my having no right to the feeling, said nothing. So she said, ‘Don’t do this.’ Sounded like something I could’ve said. When she told me I had no right to be offended I told her to leave me alone and I’d do the dishes tomorrow. I wasn’t actually as angry as I tried to make myself sound. She was lighting into me because she had no one else so I returned the favor.”

I loved the title: I Never Loved Your Mind … and I liked Zindel’s The Pigman. The publisher’s description at Amazon: “At 17, Dewey Daniels is fed up with his boring high school and decides to drop out, taking a part-time job at Richmond Valley Hospital. One day he catches fellow dropout Yvette Goethals stealing hospital supplies, and it's lust at first sight. But Yvette and Dewey are like night and day: she's a vegetarian and couldn't care less about a romantic commitment; he loves cheeseburgers and can't get Yvette out of his mind. By the time these two get through with each other, will true love ever be the same?”

I was probably disappointed the book was completely het. If it had had a hint of queer representation I would have made note? Truthfully, I remember nothing about it.