HOLIGAYS ON ICE

Remembering-Christmas-scan

Remembering Christmas by Tom Medicino, Frank Anthony Polito and Michael Salvatore (Kensington, 2011). $15, 250 pp.

It happens every year. First you start seeing Christmas decorations. Then you notice yourself mouthing the words to carols while shopping. You start to get nostalgic, missing family and remembering this gift and that holiday dinner through rose-colored glasses. It’s ho-ho-horrible, a homesickness for something you never really had — who ever had a perfect holiday, anyhow?

In Remembering Christmas, three authors use three gay-themed novellas to show the only things perfect are the ghosts of Christmases past.

It’s funny how we remember special things we got for Christmas at the same time we remember things we didn’t get. In “Away, in a Manger” by Tom Medicino, middle-aged James is empty-handed and empty-hearted. Life as a gay man in New York was good once. There was always another party, another summer on Fire Island, another trip with Ernst, James’ lover and mentor.

But Ernst is now an old man with fusty habits, the summer house is a tired tradition that needs to be retired and James wants … something. Then, while on his way to spend Christmas with his family, car trouble strands him in a tiny town where his future is hiding, covered in snow.

Remember wishing for that one special thing to show up beneath the tree? No matter how old you are, it’s hard not to have a specific gift in mind when you see piles of gifts, and in “A Christmas to Remember” by Frank Anthony Polito, all Jack Paterno wants is a boyfriend — specifically, Kirk, his pal from high school. There’s much history between them, many mutual friends and boyhood memories in common, but even though Jack is pretty sure Kirk’s gay, Kirk isn’t so sure himself.

Sometimes, lost love feels keener at Christmastime. When Neil broke up with Theo just before the holidays, Theo decided that he might as well do what he said he’d never do, and go home for Christmas. But in “Missed Connections” by Michael Salvatore, a chance encounter with an old love becomes an odd gift.

Though my mother told me not to judge a book by its cover, I have to admit that I did. This book looked like it was going to be a fun read.
I should’ve listened to mom.

Remembering Christmas is fatally dark-mooded. It pouts and mutters, feels sorry for itself, gets morosely introspective and wallows in pity page after page after page. There are occasional bursts of good tidings of great joy, but the melancholy and angst overpowers them. I think I could have handled that in one story, but the similar theme of all three tales made me want to drown my sorrows in spiked egg nog.

If you’re single, hating it and want some paper commiseration, then this book will be good company this season. But if you’re looking for a holiday book that makes you feel all Christmas-y, this one is a perfect disaster.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay poets to be featured at SMU Lit Fest

Rick Barot and C. Dale Young have been announced as two of the eight writers scheduled for the SMU Literary Festival 2011.  The event will be held March 24–26 on the school’s campus.

Barot’s last book, 2009′s Want, was a collection of poetry Lambda Literary reviewer Brent Calderwood described as an “impressive collection.” And the excerpt he includes in the review is also kinda hot.

In “Theories of the Invisible,” Barot collages pithy, lush observations about art with the fleshly beauty of a man with whom the speaker shared a summer house. In pondering the nipple of a Greek sculpture, Barot notes the “deliberate / chiseling accorded even to the brailled / texture surrounding the stiff eraser-like tip” as well as “the prerogative no of the youth something I can only imagine, / no worked into the cold sinew, the utterly / soft cock.” In this way, Barot intimates that the speaker’s adoration for his summer housemate was also unrequited.

Young’s Torn is slated for a Spring release and perhaps right in time for the festival. He was a finalist for the 2007 Lambda Literary Award in poetry. And if that’s not enough, the guy is also a practicing physician and educator. He recently posted on his blog that Lambda Literary listed Torn as one of the “23 Highly Anticipated Books of 2011.”

The book is described on his site as an “earnest investigations into the human, depicted as both spiritual being and a process, as “the soul and its attendant concerns” and as a device that “requires charge, small / electrical impulses / racing through our bodies.” What Young tells and shows us, what his poems let us hear, does not aim to reassure or soothe. These are poems written from “white and yellow scraps / covered with words and words and more words— // I may never find the right words to describe this.”

Now you know.

—  Rich Lopez