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Book Marks

by Richard Labonte - SGN Contributing Writer Sordid Truths: Selling My Innocence For a Taste of Stardom
by Aiden Shaw
(Alyson Books, $15.95)

Can a book about compulsive sex for pay and unceasing drugged-out nights and days be charming? Yes it can. Shaw is a 21-year-old college dropout with "massive boy meat" - in the panted words of his first-ever trick, a porcine mincer with overbearing airs - as this memoir of his pre-porn film fame opens. It closes with Shaw stripping while acclaimed porn director Chi Chi Larue snaps Polaroid pics of his hard body and that massive member - which is where an earlier memoir, My Undoing, picks up. Between these scenes, the one-time hustler relates with good humor, engaging self-reflection and disarming niceness - no matter how unattractive his clients are, he's always an amiable object of desire - about a near-decade of turning tricks in London's finer hotels and sleazier sex clubs, with a few boyfriends along the way. There's no doubt that in the minds of some, what Shaw was doing in his 20s can certainly be classified as sordid. But the author's truth-telling about desire, lust and even love, with such clarity, is a gift for readers to celebrate.

The Remarkable Journey of Tranby Quirke
by Elizabeth Ridley
(Bold Strokes, $16.95)

In her 30s, a spinster, quietly lecturing young women about "Domestic Health and Hygiene" at a fussy school for girls, Tranby Quirke is a self-described "invisible woman." To her colleagues, she's a model of temperance and rectitude. But she holds two secrets close. It's 1909 in London, and she's a suffragette, not given to marching for rights or chaining herself to fences, but quietly supporting the vote for women. And she's a Lesbian, though Queen Victoria has decreed no such beings exist. Her life is placid but lonely - until she locks eyes with 19-year-old student Lysette McDonald, who comes to her, tremulously, for advice on how to handle the daily physical and sexual abuse of her hard-fisted husband, who wants a child she cannot conceive. Ridley's focus in this unsentimental but gracious love story is on the burgeoning relationship between student and teacher, but their forbidden romance acquires historical resonance through the depiction of Tranby's friendship with her mentor, a fierce older woman on her deathbed who gave a lifetime to fighting for women's rights.

Lynnee Breedlove's One Freak Show
by Lynn Breedlove
(Manic D Press, $14.95)

Which washroom to use? How might a woman pee like a man? To transition or not to transition? And what exactly does LGBTIQQ stand for? These and other not-quite-universal questions (though, in Breedlove's world, they ought to be) are considered with comic prowess in this uninhibited hybrid of stand-up comedy and thoughtful essays about issues transgender and otherwise. Much of the collection is based on Breedlove's performance tour, One Freak Show, with bits from Confessions of a Poser; some spoken-word chapters don't translate with their implied energy onto the printed page. But Breedlove's essays on hiking with his father, and on the lives (and late-in-life marriage) of Lesbian pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, are perfect in pitch and emotional in content. As for those questions: any bathroom you want; with something called a Freelax (more poetically, in French, a pisse debout); about transitioning, (FTM) one reason against is "crying," one reason for is "same job, better pay." As for LGBT ... etc.? It's a Queer theory exegesis as witty and smart as the rest of this sweetly defiant collection.

Steve McQueen, King of Cool: Tales of a Sordid Life
by Darwin Porter
(Blood Moon Productions, $26.95)

Gay-run Blood Moon continues its series of meaty queer-interest movie star and entertainer biographies by Porter (Paul Newman, Merv Griffin and Marlon Brando among them) with this impeccably researched, tabloid-tinged plunge into the life of McQueen. The James Dean-like actor, who died of cancer at age 50, was undeniably and enthusiastically heterosexual, counting most of his leading ladies, as well as three wives, among his many boudoir conquests. But Porter more than makes a solid case for a potent gay connection, including McQueen's enduring friendship - and sometimes nonsexual shared beds and dick-measuring circle jerks - with comrades Casey Perkins and Darron McDonald, both of whom died of AIDS; his early Manhattan years hustling rich homosexuals for money while also being a "gentleman for rent" by the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Lana Turner; and his days as a Marine, when "grab-ass" in the showers was an accepted way of life. As with his previous bios, Porter integrates his subject's queer bent - even the late Newman's - with a titillating panache that is refreshingly on the measured side of lurid.

Featured Excerpt
Queers. We love each other. And we ask better questions. We would never be so gauche as to ask if you are a man or a woman. No, we ask, "Which pronoun do you prefer?" "Why, thanks for asking. Shim and herm." Then use it in a sentence. "Is shim going on a hot date with that babe? Shim better bring herm's rubber dick."
-from Lynnee Breedlove's One Freak Show

Footnotes
BOOKS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Meredith Baxter, the Mom on the TV sitcom Family Ties who recently came out at 62, is writing a memoir for Broadway Books about coming late to Lesbianism, her acting years, her two decades of sobriety, her battle with breast cancer, her several marriages and what it's like to be a Queer grandmother... DEACON MCCUBBIN, who with his husband Jim Bennett founded Washington's Lambda Rising Bookstore 35 years ago (and the Lambda Literary Awards 22 years ago), plans to start work on a bookselling and gay activism memoir now that his last two stores, in D.C. and in Rehoboth Beach, have closed... BOOKSTORES TO WATCH OUT FOR: The Toronto Women's Bookstore, founded as a collective in 1973 and still run as a non-profit, is attempting to raise $40,000 by the end of January to stay open. One of just three feminist bookstores left in Canada, its staff recently tweeted, "Wonder if we're the only bookstore in existence to sell fewer than five copies of Twilight?" Lagging sales and the economic downturn have already forced the store to trim its cultural and political programming, said spokesperson Robyn Bourgeois. "It really hit us in the last couple of months that we are not going to be able to pay our bills."... COMMON LANGUAGE Bookstore, Ann Arbor's LGBT shop for books and Pride merchandise since 1991, is also holding on by a thread, according to owners Keith Orr and Martin Contreras, who subsidize the Queer book sales with profits from another business, a local bar.

Richard Labonte has been reading, editing, selling, and writing about Queer literature since the mid-'70s. He can be reached in care of this publication or at BookMarks@qsyndicate.com.

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