December 29th, 2011

andrew potter

Woke Up in a Strange Place by Eric Arvin

Eric Arvin is a master of fantasy tales with a bittersweet aftertaste. In this case he chose to retelling the Dante’s Divina Commedia, even if he doesn’t strictly believe in Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, but mainly in an afterlife place where everyone needs to pass and come to account with their past life.

It’s not a spoiler if I say that Joe is dead. Even if he is confused, that is one of the things he himself understand. Like the fact that he is “bonded” with the Stranger, a blue-eyed man who is encouraging him in his journey. But Joe doesn’t remember his past life, as he doesn’t remember how he died, and so he needs to “relive” it, till the last moment, to be able to reach Stranger in Paradise.

As Dante’s journey with Virgilio, Joe is accompanied by Baker, a player and a singer, someone who was there a long time, and has seen many things. Joe, who has always known he is gay, starts to remember his life from the moment he was a little kid, and on the most important time of his life there was always a special person near him, Louis, Lou, at first a blue-eyed little kid but then an handsome man, the man Joe was destined to love. But before he was able to reach that love, Joe had to go through many challenges, love and loose people, understand what was important in his life. It was good and bad, but you cannot have the good without the bad. Joe loved other boys and men, or at least he thought he was loving them, but I think he was only preparing himself to the time when he was ready for Lou. It was a long and pained quest, but the outcome was an happily ever after… but then, why Joe is dead? Why he is so sad? And why he is so young?

As a reflection of his life quest to obtain Lou’s love, Joe is undergoing another quest, but this time the happily ever after will be forever, and nothing, not even death, would be able to ruin it.

For sure this is not an happy and light tale, I feel a lot of pain and sadness, in the tale but also in the author, but at the same time, I feel also hope, hope that despite everything, there will be always an happily ever after for everyone, just waiting behind the corner, not matter how good or bad you were in this life, Heaven or its equivalent doesn’t discriminate, it’s for everyone.

Amazon: Woke Up in a Strange Place
Amazon Kindle: Woke Up in a Strange Place
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (February 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1615817956
ISBN-13: 978-1615817955

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle

Cover Art by Paul Richmond
andrew potter

Best LGBT Non Fiction (1° place): My West by Patricia Nell Warren

I admit that I knew Patricia Nell Warren for being the author of The Front Runner (and two other sequel in that series) and I knew she was often paired with Mary Renault in the “Olympus” of those women who are able, and so can write gay-themed novels who are loved and appreciated by gay men, but I’m true, I “didn’t” know Patricia Nell Warren. I didn’t know, for example, that she was lesbian and that she came out in 1974, more or less around the time The Front Runner was first released. I didn’t know that she wrote other gay-themed novel, like The Fancy Dancer, that, for theme and development, I would probably found more my cup of tea than The Front Runner (yes, I know it’s a wonderful novel, but I tend to avoid reading, or re-reading, novels that can have a so strong impact on my emotional balance, I tend to care too much for fictional characters).

Anyway, My West allows you to know better Patricia Nell Warren as a woman AND an author, and it’s true, maybe it’s not mainly a LGBT work of non fiction, but nevertheless, it’s ABOUT a lesbian woman and her venture in life. It’s divide in chapters (Agriculture, Animals, Arts, Cities, Cooking, Gender, History, Politics, Sexuality, Spirituality, Women, Zest) and you can well understand from the titles that it’s about everything and everyone, but mostly it’s about Patricia Nell Warren’s roots in the Montana country, roots that are deeps and far, far away. Patricia comes from a family that, more or less, was there when the state was forming, and her native home, Grant-Kohrs ranch at Deer Lodge, is now a National Historic Park, preserving the history of Montana and Deer Lodge in particular, a preserving to which Patricia is contributing, with joy and great love.

It was nice to read about a young girl who was “different”, and not in a gender way: a girl who wanted to be a writer wherelse her same age friends wanted to be housewife or nurses or hostesses. A different girl who was encouraged by her family in a way that let me think that, maybe, they would have accepted her if she came out to them when she was still a teenager. But Patricia went on, and married, and maybe tried to be a little more “conservative” even if she was an editor, and later a writer, how she dreamt when she was a child. The she came out, exactly as they came out her novels, in a world where being gay, or lesbian, was still synonymous of being a stranger, someone public society thought it was right to judge and condemn. But Patricia was not condemned by her family, on the contrary those same parents who allowed her the dream to be a writer, were first in line reading her novels (very nice blog where Patricia remembers the time her mother read The Fancy Dancer, a novel who was set in a fictional Montana town that was really the picture of her own hometown).

In time Patricia arrived to rethink her imagine of Deer Lodge and of the Montana people, thanks to her parents, but also to many many friends she found in “her West” (again, wonderful blog about Jan, a gay cigar-smoking Buddhist living in Deer Lodge).

Amazon: My West: Personal Writings on the American West -- Past, Present and Future
Paperback: 422 pages
Publisher: Wildcat Press; 1st edition (June 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1889135089
ISBN-13: 978-1889135083

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle