My Diva Anthology Out Now
My Diva: 65 Gay Men On the Women Who Inspire Them (University of Wisconsin Press) is already racking up some good reviews. This is the anthology that includes my essay on the great French actress Jeanne Moreau. It's out and now and available at Amazon, B&N and should be in many bookstores. Editor Michael Montlack is setting up a reading during the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival and we're hoping to get him down to Atlanta as well.
Gay male writers-including Mark Doty, Wayne Koestenbaum, Cyrus Cassells and others-pay homage to their divas. In the introduction to this revealing study of secular devotion, fanatic fandom, heroine-worship-call it what you will-poet Montlack (English/Berkeley Coll.) says that within two weeks of announcing his idea, more than 40 contributors had signed on. The list is quite a cornucopia of female cultural icons, ranging from Sappho to Princess Leia. "[T]here seems still to be a particular type of fandom, or devotion, that only gay guys can deliver," writes the author. "[W]e show up for the ladies like no one else and usually stick with them for life." Such fervor and steadfast loyalty blaze through these diverse accounts, whether in depicting an icon, admitting what she means to the devotee or exploring the nature of devotion itself. Poignant and colorful description dominates: Queen Elizabeth I, "undeniably a nerd's diva," that "crusty, white-faced Gloriana"; Nina Simone, with her "velvety voice" so "slow, so full, so processional it could pull a ship of lonely sailors to shore"; Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, whose "disheveled hair falling onto her bloated face and into those famed eyes physically transformed her to a gorgon"; Julia Child, "crowned everlastingly in a brown helmet of bedroom hair." Such splendid portraiture traces the outlines of the writer's immediate, breathless relation to his diva, for whom she may have paved a route out of repression or a confining home life (Joan Sutherland, Auntie Mame), acted as a tangential, sympathetic witness to the author's budding sexuality or take-no-prisoners attitude (Kate Bush, Sade, Bjork) or continues to serve asa catalyst for an evolving sense of self (Lucille Ball, Mahalia Jackson). A delightful essay collection.
In very short, very tender essays, a variety of gay male writers, from poets to playwrights to a standup comic, pay homage to an even wider variety of women who have inspired them. Peter Dubé writes how the photography of Claude Cahun suggested “a delirious world of possibilities”; Jeff Oaks recalls a childhood of wearing wristbands fashioned from paper cups to emulate his “model of power,” Wonder Woman; Christopher Lee Nutter looks back on his closeted teenage years and how Sade taught him “that there was a world somewhere that suited them better than the world they'd been born into.” While a few essays are disappointingly shallow (“More than smart and fabulous, Parker Posey is fall-on-the-floor ridiculous”), such standout pieces as Mark Doty on Grace Paley are elegant and affectionate tributes to how these muses have been “fairy godmothers” and “older sisters,” as Montlack's introduction explains, and illustrate how complex, sustaining and lifelong are the bonds between gay men and their divas.