I suppose there are funnier writers than Julia Willis (
We Oughta Be in Pictures), but I'd be hard-pressed to name them. In her first foray into noveldom, Willis uses the metaphors and images of the movies to create as winning and vibrant a collection of characters as I've met in a long time. Oh, yes, and Reel Time laugh-out-loud funny, too.
Willis uses language with a surgeons skill to expose, to reveal to skewer. After spilling scalding coffee on herself for the third time, Laney realizes: "Suddenly, I'm wide awake. I often think it's not the caffeine in franchised coffee I crave, but the spilling and the screaming instead. ... No, nothing gets me up and moving like a good second degree burn, maybe with a onion bagel to go with it."
Whether describing the horrors of lesbian dating, or worse, the horrors of not dating, Julia Willis brings good humor, OK, wicked humor, and real tenderness to a real-time look at lesbian lives. If you are also a fan of old movies, you'll enjoy the references to classic scenes from classic films. Even if your idea of a great time is anything but a movie, you'll enjoy meeting the characters who inhabit Reel Time. -Bay Area Reporter - San Francisco, CA
Gay Old Girls
by Zsa Zsa Gershick
"Tell me a story Grandma." Remember saying that as a kid? Well, in Gay Old Girls, we have our lesbian grandmothers telling us stories-lots of stories about what it was like to e a lesbian in 1930s Chicago, during World War II, in suburbia in the 1950s, and during the coming of the various revolutions in the 1960's.
gay Old Girls is an important work of lesbian history without the obscurity of academic language that so often alienates general audiences from history books,. The women interviewed in this book tell their stories simply and eloquently, speaking of their self-discoveries, coming out, work and life experiences, lovers and enemies.
By opening a door into a largely hidden past, Gershick has done a great service, and an even greater one by allowing the women to tell their fascinating stories themselves. Gay Old Girls is immensely readable and will have you laughing at some stories, and near tears at others. There is so much more work to be done, and our elders are beginning to leave us.
Southern Voice - Atlanta, GA
Boy in the Sand
by Roger Edmonson
What sets Boy in the Sand apart from the usual porn bio is that author Edmonson puts the life and career of Casey Donovan (real name Calvin Culver) into a historical context of the gay rights movement. Edmonson contrasts Donovan's life and career with the development of the gay ghettos in major cities, and the development of the gay community, which makes the book interesting in terms of historical significance. He conducted scores of interviews with Donovan's friends, family, and former clients to develop a true picture of Donovan.
Boy in the Sand gives an excellent overview of attitudinal changes toward the gay community and sex in general, and places pornography in historical context within the gay community.
Impact - New Orleans, LA
Out On Fraternity Row
edited by Shane L. Windmeyer and Pamela Freeman
Out on Fraternity Row, edited by Shane Windmeyer and Pamela Freeman is a collection of memoirs written by gay men about their experiences in their college fraternities. Windmeyer created the Lambda 10 project in 1995 to help support gay fraternity men and women and to educate others about issues of homophobia within the college Greek system. The recent murder of Matthew Shepard and the Pi Kappa Alpha homecoming float at Colorado State that condoned the attack on Shepard are further proof that a book like this is sorely needed.
The stories themselves are compelling and varied. Some of the men had good Greek experiences, even the men who were openly gay. Other stories are frightening. There are many stories in this book about fear: fear of violence, fear of discovery. Some of the writers have never come out to their fraternity brothers; others have, but only after graduation. As many of the writers point out, most fraternities have mottoes promoting diversity, yet the reality of homophobia is frightening.
This book should be required reading for every college freshmen. Perhaps by reading about the experiences of these men, their eyes would be opened to the ugliness of homophobia, hate and fear.
Impact - New Orleans, LA
There is some good material in this first novel by Boston comedian and writer Willis (a sometime contributor to Joan Rivers's act). There's the big, floppy carpet-munching Irish wolfhound named Rita Mae, for one. And there's the description of gentle and well-mannered lesbian sex as "the careful exchange of orgasms." There's also the female-to-Elvis transsexual that the heroine--a classic-film buff and rep-house projectionist named Lana Turner Tuttle--meets at the wedding of a recently-ex-lesbian to a guy named Brad. But these comic moments are spread far too thin to excuse the sketchiness of the characters (a house full of variously underemployed Boston-area lesbians) or the longueurs of the story, which chronicles the trials and tribulations of serial monogamy (dates gone predictably wrong and reminiscences of relationships gone not so originally wrong) from a lesbian perspective. Indeed, Willis leaves out too many of the basics that one expects from a novel of manners, lesbian or otherwise. (Sept.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Laney (short for Lana Turner Tuttle) finds herself looking for somewhere to live after her lover, who is also her therapist, kicks her out in favor of another patient. Laney is in a dead-end job as projectionist at a struggling classic movie theater in Cambridge, MA. With her large dog, she finds a room in a communal house of lesbians and begins looking for love again, hoping to find someone special, someone who will not be just another one of her serial monogamous relationships. Playwright and comic Willis's smart and engaging first novel describes the chaotic lives of Laney's friends and housemates and the comic, hapless souls who frequent the theater. Laney's blind dates never work out, and as she gets to know some of her housemates she is captivated by Ena, the alluring redheaded lead singer of the resident rock band, the Girl Group, which rehearses in the basement. Their inevitable encounter forms the center of the story, and Willis's descriptions of lust and passionate sex capture the heat of love at first sight. Highly recommended for all collections.--Daniel Starr, Museum of Modern Art Lib., New York