Slender read

Our critic looks at the best in gay li

Freeman Hall
Freeman Hall

The holidays are a good time to curl up with a book — or get one for the hard-to-shop-for literati in your life. Here are my suggestions for the best of the last year or so for the queer audience.

Best novel with a twist, 2010: Room by Emma Donoghue. You’ve undoubtedly heard a lot about this book — all of it true. Room is a bit of a challenge at the outset, but the plotline will grab you, especially if you let your own imagination run wild. What would you do if you’d never seen the world from anywhere but TV?

Best novel with a twist, ever: Five Minutes and 42 Seconds by T.J. Williams. There are drugs in the house, and you’ve got to get rid of them. The feds know about the drugs and they’re on their way. I added this oldie-but-a-goodie because it’s quick to read, it’s action-packed, it’s wildly fun and because it’s my list, right?

Best slam-bang didn’t-see-it-coming novel ever: So You Call Yourself a Man by Carl Weber. I wish I could tell you why. I’d love to give you reasons, and you’d understand why I screamed and laughed like I needed a straitjacket. But if I told you, then you’d see it coming, wouldn’t you?

Best humorist: Freeman Hall. As if Retail Hell wasn’t enough to make you laugh ‘til you peed your pants, along comes Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep. Hall’s books are the kind you read when you’re tired of wallowing in pity and need a snarky snicker.

E. Lynn Harris
E. Lynn Harris

Close runner-up: Wade Rouse.

Author who will be missed most: E. Lynn Harris. Hands-down.

Novel that camps like Yosemite: Divas Las Vegas by Rob Rosen. Fun, silly, rompish and vintage Vegas, this mystery-ish novel about two friends in Sin City needs to be read in a tent by flashlight while eating s’mores.

Best book to share with mom: Where’s My Wand? by Eric Poole. A coming-of-age story with a bedspread, this book is cute, gentle and funny. My own mother loved it, and if you can’t believe a mom, who can you believe?

Close runner up, and sharable with your sister, too: Rhinestone Sisterhood by David Valdes Greenwood.

Happy reading!

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Fat girls aren’t easy: ‘Charm’ works its magic

The MAC, 3120 McKinney Ave. Through Dec. 11. KitchenDogTheater.com.

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Margaret Fuller (Tina Parker) was a real person who seemed unreal to the society of her day. She was educated, opinionated, frank and kinda ugly — she hated corsets and the sexual repression of women. By the time she died, at age 40, she had had a child (probably out of wedlock), dated (probably gay) author Henry David Thoreau (Michael Federic0), and dabbled (probably) with lesbianism, all while breaking into the Good Ol’ Boys’ Club of the mid-19th century Transcendentalist Movement.

At least that what Kathleen Cahill suggests in her new play Charm, getting its Texas premiere from Kitchen Dog Theater. The title is ironic, as Margaret, despite her many talents, was totally lacking in charm. She dared challenge Ralph Waldo Emerson (Jeffrey Schmidt, a dead-ringer) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Brian Witkowicz, hilarious), and irked a traditionalist like Orestes Brownson (John M. Flores). She was a woman outside her time.

KDT’s production — a fun, witty 90 minutes — captures the fairy-tale-like silliness of some very serious matters, especially feminism and sexual liberation of other kinds. Like Circle Theatre’s recent Bach at Leipzig, it tells historical facts with the freedom to turn  into a comedy. Hawthorne is a rabbity weirdo; Thoreau a bug-loving sickly nerd — a repressed closet case who moved to Walden Pond as a way of sublimating his sexual anxiety; Margaret lusts after a boyhood crush by the lake — a vast, blue parachute of rippling water. And the idioms are mostly modern, at once taking us out of its time and reinforcing how contemporary the ideas are (Margaret high-fives one of her friends).

The set, by Chase Floyd Devries, could have been designed for children’s theater: A serious of steps that resemble the books written by the literati that populate the play, in bright, colorful pastels. Just as interesting, though, is Parker as Margaret. Like her performance in Mr. Marmalade, Parker takes a childlike petulance and turns it into high tragedy. Things appear so simple to her — why can’t they really be that way? As with Dawn Weiner in Welcome to the Dollhouse, you sympathize with her even as you want to shake her. She may not have had any charm, byt the play has loads.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones