Category Archives: Reviews

WC79 – Matt Bernstein Sycamore’s So Many Ways to Sleep Badly

Rvu_sycamore So Many Ways
to Sleep Badly

By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
City Lights Publishers $15.95
ISBN-10: 0872864685,  256 pages

Reviewed by Steve Susoyev

A number of popular artists have fashioned their personal brands of neurosis into lucrative art forms. No matter how fucked up you feel on a given day, you may derive a certain comfort from the scene in Annie Hall in which Woody Allen rips up his driver’s license while explaining to a Los Angeles cop, “I have a terrific problem with authority, you know.”

In the realm of literary memoir, Anne Lamott’s agonizing descriptions of the drunken behavior with which she routinely alienated everyone in her early life who was worth caring about, and of her sometimes tortured relationship with her son Sam, now in his late teens, make me laugh so hard I have to pull off the road when I listen to her audio books in the car.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, who appears here for the first time without the now-familiar “aka Matt” designation in her name, has catapulted the whore’s memoir into the neurosis genre. No Moll Flanders-style stories of deprivation or exploitation introduce So Many Ways to Sleep Badly. The paternal incest that has been thoroughly explored in Pulling Taffy and Dangerous Families makes brief, oblique appearances here: “When my mother says you need to go to the root of your problems — get me a shovel! Lilie says: I like when you talk about incest because you can laugh about it.” And, “Why am I so fucking fragile? I’ll give you three choices: “(a) Incest. (b) Incest. (c) Incest.”

In what often feels like free-association but is in fact cleverly crafted narrative, this very savvy writer and social commentator manages, both in her novels and essay collections, to sound utterly clueless while skewering hypocrites and herself. We get earfuls about unsafe sex, sexual compulsion and meth addiction, Gay marriage and other symptoms of self-annihilating Gay assimilation, police brutality, and the outrageous prices of organic produce offered at designer supermarkets.

And so much more.

Readers who have not encountered Mattilda at her readings or read her other work may be surprised to find her unique even among gender-bending writers, displaying none of the indignation with which many M‑F trannies approach the subject of other people’s confusion concerning their sexual identities. Mattilda prefers to be called “She,” but in this volume we find frequent references to her penis, one of the chief tools of her trade as a whore: “I like the way this trick’s whole body clenches then releases every time my dick goes in and out of his ass.” Scenes from Mattilda’s sex career appear and retreat mid-paragraph, leaving the reader with the impression that tricks go and come in the slapdash way that wrestling competitions and Brazilian soap operas appear on the television screens of the late-night channel-surfer, between bites from slices of stale pizza and calls to the phone-sex lines.

Mattilda’s essays, and her introductions to the essay collections that she has edited, are incisive and focused. Her Foreword to the 2007 Lammy-nominated Nobody Passes hisses with outrage at GUPPYS in Bermuda shorts whose greatest aspiration — whose only apparent aspiration — is to assimilate utterly with their straight neighbors, preferably through the patriarchal institution of marriage. No matter where you stand on the marriage issue, this glitter-eyed, gender-bent, metallic-mesh-encased kid with the feathers in his/her hair will make you think.

If you’ve ever paid for sex, and wondered what sex workers think of their clients, after reading one of Mattilda’s novels you’ll remind yourself to be careful what you ask for:

This trick could be fun, except he’s so nervous I can’t stay hard, and his crotch smells like rotten eggs…. He’s one of those tricks who thought I was shorter, from the one-column-inch photo in the paper…. He pays me one-forty-eight plus two dollars in quarters…. Funny how the guy won’t kiss me afterwards, honey it’s your come…. It’s a good thing this guy’s dick is beautiful, because he’s — well, you know….

And so a fan of Mattilda’s politically charged essays could think we’re in some unfamiliar territory here. But politics is never far under the surface:

On my way home, the 7th and Market 24-hour check-cashing place is jammed and the cops drive up and arrest two black guys who are just standing there. The cop car drives off and then this one white guy chases after the only other white guy there with a baseball bat — racial profiling is so effective!

Despite the free-associative impression, the book has a plot, a theme, and a message. Of course it would be easy to read So Many Ways… as pure autobiography, particularly because our fictional narrator calls herself “Mattilda,” works as a whore, and has strong opinions. But in the temporally disoriented, casino-like world in which our narrator meets and dismisses tricks, haunts sex clubs, cruises parks, falls in love, tosses in bed until daybreak, frets about her digestion and other health issues, suffers heartbreak and disses hypocrites, the one thing she does not do is write. Unlike this fictional narrator, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is a prolific writer. And so, to whatever extent these vignettes from the fictional life of a neurotic, politically savvy whore are taken from the experience of the neurotic, politically savvy whore whose name appears on the title page, the thing the narrator does not share with us is her experiences as a writer and performance artist.

If City Lights Books ever releases Mattilda’s work in audio form, they surely will have the sense to make sure she reads it herself. In the meantime, catch her reading live whenever you can. She has learned much as a performer — with some tips, I think, from her friend the performance artist and whore Kirk Read. Her comic timing and the crackling intelligence of her ironic phrasing will bring you to your knees.

Steve Susoyev lives in San Francisco.

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WC78 – Review of The 99th Monkey

Rvu_sobel The 99th Monkey:
A Spiritual Journalist's Misadventures
With Gurus, Messiahs, Sex, Psychedelics,
and Other Consciousness-Raising Experiments

By Eliezer Sobel
Santa Monica Press, 2008
288 pages, $16.95
ISBN-10: 159580028X

Reviewed by Jay Michaelson

Many White Crane readers are, shall we say, veterans of the New Age. Some of us started in the 60s, some started in our 60s, but most of us, it's safe to say, have had some brush with "gurus, messiahs, sex, psychedelics, and other consciousness-raising experiments," to quote the subtitle of Eliezer Sobel's hilarious and insightful spiritual memoir, The 99th Monkey.

Sobel has done it all. As he says in the book's introduction, "I was massaged, shiatsu-ed, and Rolfed; took hundreds of consciousness workshops, human potential seminars, and self-improvement courses; sat with psychics, channels, and tarot readers; experienced Prima, Gestalt, Bioenergetics, Object Relations, generic talk therapies, and anti-depressants.  And that's the short list." In short, he writes, "I was desperately trying to cure myself of being me."

This odyssey, though perhaps longer than most, should sound familiar to all of us who have dabbled (or more than dabbled) in spirituality and personal growth work. Sobel is straight — though in emails with this reviewer he embraced the label of "queer heterosexual" — but his journey is just the kind of long, winding road to which those of us in the gay wisdom/gay spirit world can really relate.

It started, it seems, with a feeling of unsafety in childhood: Sobel's grandparents were holocaust survivors, and fear/antisemitism/enemies lurked behind every darkened door. And it ends, 307 pages later, with Sobel still as neurotic as ever, but, again like many of us spiritual seekers, a little more okay with being neurotic.

Along the way, there are hilarious encounters with gurus famous and obscure. Ram Dass has Sobel show him his penis when Sobel complains of feeling inadequate (Sobel "had no idea at the time that he… might have enjoyed having young men take their pants off for him"). He gets so raw during primal therapy that he cries when he reads Peanuts. (I do too, but only when Schroeder is in it.) He does the "Tush Push" at a sexuality workshop (you can probably figure that one out). And he does "get it" many times: during est training, at Esalen, even in a 30-second encounter with "the Godman," Adi Da.

The 99th Monkey is hilarious, and self-deprecating, but also sincere. It's not a parody of the spiritual search; Sobel is authentically moved, inspired, transformed, even if he resists it every step of the way. (The book's title comes from the 1958 paradigm shift that took place when a critical mass of Japanese monkeys learned a new way of eating potatoes. The 100th monkey is the tipping point; Sobel, as the 99th, is the one personally preventing the paradigm shift.)

And yes, it is a queer book, sexually speaking. At one point, Sobel tosses a metaphorical coin and says "Heads, I'll get married; Tails I'm gay." He is told by a medium that at the dawn of time, he was a Star Being "pushing for one androgynous human being" rather than sexual differentiation. And there is that Tush Push. But what's interesting about the way The 99th Monkey plays with sex is not that Sobel is ambiguously gay; it's that he's a straight man with a lot of gay men's problems. I felt, reading the book, that there might be real "straight allies" out there after all — as long as they're as crazy as Sobel is.

There's much more: bad mushroom trips, encounters with the Dalai Lama, nights at the tombs of mystics in Israel. But I'll leave that for you to discover. The end of the book finds Sobel again with Ram Dass, this time "sobbing, my heart weeping with a poignant joy… seeing, that in God's infinite garden, we are each a perfect flower, even me." Now that's a happy ending we can all agree about.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

WC78 – Review of When You’re Falling, Dive

Rvu_matousek When You're Falling, Dive

By Mark Matousek
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN-13: 9781596913691 320pp

How people who have suffered trauma find an upside when they've gone to the brink—and back again. Do survivors of life's greatest trials possess a secret knowledge? Is there an art to survival—a map for crossing the wilderness—or daily life? Why do some people blossom through adversity while others stop growing? Drawing on twenty years' experience in this field, using stories, parable, and scientific data, acclaimed memoirist Mark Matousek gives the first-ever comprehensive look at this mysterious phenomenon of viriditas, the power of drawing passion, beauty, and wisdom from the unlikeliest places. Matousek interviews hundreds of well-known survivors—including Joan Didion, Elie Wiesel, and Isabel Allende—and experts such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jonathan Kozol, and Sogyal Rimpoche. He includes extraordinary testimonials, from a Tibetan nun imprisoned by the Chinese at age eleven and the women of Calama, Chile, digging for their “disappeared,” among countless others. Drawing insight and advice from these many heroic individuals, Matousek presents a chorus of wisdom for how to survive our own lives—the vicissitudes of being human—and prevail.

Publishers Weekly Memoirist and editor Matousek (Sex Death Enlightenment) attempts to dissect the relationship between life's harshest tests and the gift of self-discovery and survival in this absorbing compendium of anecdotes. The author, who has AIDS, interviews many survivors of trauma and loss, including writer Joan Didion, mystic Andrew Harvey, poet Stanley Kunitz and Tibetan nun Nawang Sangdrol, among others, to inquire how deepest crisis forces us to re-examine our lives and move forward. After stating that "Transformation is in our wiring," Matousek concludes that the key to our survival is not cheating death but living as passionately, creatively and courageously as possible. Using scientific data, psychological research and his own life experiences, he uncovers the essentials of enduring against all odds while answering his chief question: "What force flips a falling person back on his feet, reconstitutes him after disaster, helps him prevail in the face of great challenges?" Matousek shows an uncanny skill for merging spirituality, science and common sense into practical answers for surviving our own lives.

Mark Matousek is the author of two memoirs, The Boy He Left Behind and Sex Death Enlightenment. He is a contributing editor for O and Tricycle and writes the “Big Idea” column for AARP. He has served as senior editor of Interview magazine and has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times magazine, Details, Harper's Bazaar, Utne, Out, Yoga Journal, and others. He lives in New York City. 

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!


WC78 – Review of Zany Mystic

Rvu_white Tales of a Zany Mystic
by L. B. White
Booksurge, 211 pages, $14.99

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

Do you have books on your shelf that practically glow and demand your attention?  These books may be a rarity, but I’d like to recommend one for your shelf that not only has a glowing cover, featuring a beautiful picture of a rainbow, but explores a heartbreaking through a personal journey that becomes surprisingly uplifting! L. B. White, also known as the Zany Mystic, shares moments from his bumpy life in his autobiographical document, Tales of a Zany Mystic. 

While White’s experiences may not be as outrageous as those which Augusten Burroughs relates in his books, there are similarities.  Born of alcoholic, bisexual bohemian parents in southern California, his parents never attempted to have typical lives, with a house and a picket fence. White’s mother was more Neely O’Hara than Harriet Nelson.  Still, like the children of many dysfunctional parents, he found a level of normalcy with his grandparents, who shared a ranch near his hometown.

Over the years, White tries to lead the life of a “normal” person, marrying, working for a living and attempting a positive relationship with his father.  This was clearly not in the stars for White. He found himself continually sinking into the world of the addict, the high points of which included dealing. Treatment programs and bouts in jail worked for a while, but before long, White was back at his old habits.

A few years ago, I reviewed Ron Nyswaner’s memoir Blue Days, Black Nights in these pages. In that volume, Nyswaner took us to the dark side, but his tome was nowhere near the whimsical, refreshing trek that White takes us on.  He shares his journey with a marvelous blend of humor, spirit and authority, as he straightens himself out. and takes control of his cosmic consciousness. Taking a Kundalini approach to his relationship with higher power, White now shares his advice as the Zany Mystic with a blogspot and a weekly radio Fireside Chat.

Uplifting, readable and inspirational, Tales of a Zany Mystic deserves a place on that shelf of glowing books!

WC78 – Music Review of Theo Bleckmann

Rvu_bleckmann-lasvegas Rvu_bleckmann-berlin Theo Bleckmann
Berlin: Songs of Love and War, Peace and Exile/Winter&Winter 910 138-2
Las Vegas Rhapsody/Winter&Winter N° 910 116-2

Reviewed by Bo Young

Genre-bending, -skipping and -skirting vocalist and composer, Theo Bleckmann has been a force in the music scene in New York for over 15 years. Since moving to Manhattan in the late 80’s from his native Germany, Bleckmann has forged a unique sound in jazz and contemporary music, drawing from jazz, ambient and electronic music, integrating extended vocal technique as well as live electronic processing and looping.

He has performed worldwide on some of the great stages including Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, the Sydney Opera House, L.A.’s Disney Hall, The Whitney Museum and the new Library in Alexandria, Egypt. The New Yorker called him a “local cult favorite”, Downbeat a “ “mad” genius”, The New York Times “excellent” and according to OUT Magazine, Bleckmann is “a singer who has only recently fallen to earth“ and indeed Bleckmann's style has something otherworldly and ethereal.

For the past two years, Bleckmann has been voted into the small group of artists called "Cultural Elite" by New York Magazine and was recently interviewed by Terry Gross for NPR’s Fresh Air. That podcast is here.

In 1989 Bleckmann moved from his native Germany to New York City after meeting legendary jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan at a workshop in Graz, Austria, who remains an influential mentor and supportive colleague to this day. Together they can be heard on Sheila Jordan's "Jazzchild" (High Note). Since his move to Manhattan (and ultimately taking on US citizenship in 2005) he has worked with such artists as Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk (whose core ensemble Bleckmann has been a member of since 1994), Michael Tilson Thomas, John Zorn and the Bang On A Can All-Stars and was a featured soloist with the Albany Symphony, San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Estonian Radio Choir, Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Mark Morris Dance. The boy moves in heady circles..

For all his vocal experimentation with electronics and ambient, his most recent recording is a virtual classic venture in tradition, again with Fumio Yasuda, Berlin: Songs of Love and War, Peace and Exile. I purchased his delightful Las Vegas Rhapsody. The name is a tad odd…the boy is queer you know…the songs are all Broadway and film classics…but the performances and the production are first rate.

I’m as enamored of the great divas (Lady Day, Sarah Vaughn, Garland, Midler, Ross, the Pattis) as the next card-carrying homosexual conspirator — but I have a preference for the male voice singing love songs. And here we have some of the most beautiful, most romantic love songs ever written, sung in Bleckmann’s Berlin insouciant alto: We Kiss in A Shadow (The King & I), Out of My Dreams (Oklahoma). The Night They Invented Champagne (Gigi) and …this is the kind of music you stay at home with someone special, draw the blinds, and cuddle up on the couch..and sip some champagne! Lush satisfying arrangements by Fumio Yasuda with the Kammerorchester Basel only add to the pleasure. There are times, he evokes Nico at her most androgynous best.

Bleckmann range, vocally, emotionally and physically (he  was once a junior ice dancing champion), inspired some of today's great composers to create pieces especially for and with him. He teaches on the jazz faculty of New York's Manhattan School of Music and has been an adjunct at New York University, The New School and Queens College and teaches voice privately and in workshops and masterclasses worldwide.

Give Berlin and Las Vegas a taste. You’ll be delighted.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

WC78 – Review of Murder Most Gay

Rvu_simpsonMurder Most Gay
by John Simpson,
Dreamspinner Press, 220 pages, $11.99
ISBN-13: 978-0981737225

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

When John Simpson contacted me about reviewing his mystery novel, Murder Most Gay, he was concerned that it wasn’t appropriate for readers of White Crane, because its an “erotic thriller.”  I assured him that I’d still like to read it, and could determine its value later. I’m glad I did, because Murder Most Gay is a delicious, entertaining contribution to the great tradition of cop and detective tomes. 

The book is told in first person by Pat St. James. Fresh out of the Academy, he finds himself sharing coffee and donuts with his superior officer on nightly patrols. That is, until evidence shows up that a serial killer is targeting gay men, attracting prey at bars and cruising areas and leaving their violated bodies all over town. Finding himself attracted to Dean, a successful investment banker, Pat finds himself in the difficult position of keeping his sexuality hidden at work. That is, until he and fellow gay rookie Hank are assigned to the case. The book draws the reader deeper into this intriguing case, as the murderous rampage reaches an almost epic nature before it’s concluded.

John Simpson has a method for storytelling that keeps the reader consistently at the edge of their seat. This is tough to put down. He even pays homage to the writers of classic thrillers, by creating descriptive sequences that are, for example, reminiscent of the manner in which, Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia, was discovered in Hollywood. When he’s writing erotic passages about the sexual relationships Pat has with three different men, he’s created a tone similar to the manner Judith Rossner took in her terrific novel, Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

Erotically charged, but absorbing as well, I think Murder Most Gay is a sexy, intelligent and thought-provoking novel about the world we live in and the difficulties the men in blue face on a daily basis. I'm certain that White Crane readers will enjoy this.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

WC78 – Review of What Becomes You

Rvu_razlink What Becomes You
By Aaron Raz Link and Hilda Link
University of Nebraska Press, 296 pages, paperback, $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-8032-1642-6

Reviewed by Chris Freeman

Sometimes the most obvious observations are the most profound. Early in his memoir What Becomes You, Aaron Raz Link writes, “Being a man, like being a woman, is something you have to learn.” Aaron was born Sarah and grew up Jewish in Nebraska, the daughter of a feminist-poet-professor, Hilda Raz, who is also the co-author of the book. Aaron’s story comprises two-thirds of the volume, an autobiographical journey told by a trained scientist. Aaron’s analytical point-of-view is at times clinical, as in a discussion of taxonomy and the way that we need categories to understand things. Of course, with transsexuality, we have a meltdown of generally accepted categories.

Aaron’s intelligence and survival instincts pay dividends. He recognizes early on that the psychiatric establishment and “caring professions” work against people like him: “I learned that real is a word that means ‘whatever the person who’s bigger than you are says is true.’ I learned that you can avoid ever having to go to the psychiatrist again if you just never tell anyone anything that matters.” Imagine the isolation and confusion that comes from such a realization. In this case, too, what we have is evidence of how our culture refuses to listen to kids, to take them seriously as individuals with sexuality and with some self-knowledge.

Community is an important aspect of the becoming and self-education that Link undergoes. Moving to Los Angeles helped: “I moved to the big city and hung out in what used to be called the bohemian district, is currently called the gay community, and will probably get another name just as soon as Socially Acceptable Homosexuals finish distinguishing themselves from the queers. From watching the queers, I knew enough about drag queens to know that some of them had surgery so they could be women.” In this statement, Link’s politics become clearer: he identifies with the queers. The socially-acceptable folks have never welcomed him, so the journey toward something like community becomes part of his new becoming.

Aaron sought out a support group at the Gay and Lesbian Center in LA. What an awakening. Everyone at the meeting “looked like men pretending to be everything I knew women were fighting against. I went in and sat down anyway, staring around at the panoply of stereotypes. What I didn’t bother to figure into my righteous indignation was that these were women who had only recently mustered the courage to walk down the street and found the whole world responding to a man in a dress. A stereotype is a kind of camouflage; the eye finds what it expects to find and passes over the details. At the time, I didn’t understand the difference between meeting someone else’s expectations and meeting your own.” And that is Aaron’s epiphany.

One of his biggest obstacles in that growth is her mother. The central tension in the book—and that seems to me to be just what it is—is the vexed relationship between the two authors. Hilda Raz is every bit Sarah’s mother, so she struggles—eloquently and emotionally and intellectually—to be Aaron’s mother without losing Sarah. Indeed, if this were Hilda’s book, a fitting title would be Losing Sarah.

Hilda has to come to terms with her own training and conviction as a feminist. She likes women more than she likes men; she likes daughters more than sons.  Her woman’s body becomes a site of crisis for her, as she battles cancer. So the surgical alteration of the body becomes a connection between mother and child: “I lost my breast to cancer. My ovaries and uterus, too, another illness nine months before cancer. The body Sarah changed was her own, is Aaron’s body now. Not mine. Not my body, even though it grew in my center like the very air. Not from the start. Never.”
Hilda Raz admits—and one has to admire her candor and courage—“For months, even years, I grieved hard for the loss of my daughter. . . .Now, looking back, I’m amazed that the one thing I wanted—more than anything else—was a daughter to carry on the next generation of my life as a woman. Women just want to have fun. I wanted brilliant Sarah to enlarge and expand my understanding of women and what we can be in the world, the best kind of fun for me. Instead I am learning from Aaron new uses for our story of power taken, earned and transferred from generation to generation.” A parent’s investment in a child, including the egomania and selfishness, is something Hilda has faced down, seemingly successfully , allowing Aaron his own self-determination and trajectory.

What Becomes You is an uneven book, to say the least, partly because it has an identity crisis as a text: two authors, three main characters (Sarah, Aaron, and Hilda), and a blend of memoir, theory, and social commentary and criticism. The bluntness of the confrontation between child and parent—and between self and world—may be the best element it has to offer. The understandings finally arrived at by Aaron and Hilda are clear to the reader and are illuminating and inspiring. The search for self becomes the search for community, connection, and understanding, a universal tale if ever there was one. In a short chapter titled “Men,” Link says, “If you want to survive, you must find a way to love what you are.” Learning how to do that is central to the “becoming” in the book’s title—and to everyone’s struggle to become our best selves.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

WC77 – Review of Sin, Sex and Democracy

Rvu_burackSin, Sex and Democracy:
Antigay Rhetoric and the Christian Right

By Cynthia Burack, SUNY Press
ISBN: 978-0-7914-7406-8
Reviewed by Bo Young

My own personal prophet, Noel Coward opined that “We have no reliable guarantee that the afterlife will be any less exasperating than this one, have we?” Well, no. Not that I’m suggesting I found it exasperating that with a title like Sin, Sex and Democracy, I half expected to see Stephen Colbert leering from the cover, clad in some a red, white and blue leather dominatrix outfit wielding a star-spangled cat-o-nine tails. No…this is a scholarly examination of the tactics and language of the Christian Right by Cynthia Burack; she’s not kidding, and neither is the Christian Right. I have to keep reminding myself: you have to take seriously the people who take this Bible thing seriously. They (and their source material) are dangerous.

Burack, an Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at Ohio State University, makes it plain that, whatever the stripe, the rising Religious Right has one goal and one goal only: theocracy in the United States. Their theocracy. She explains how, using rhetoric, they dissemble and “strive to have their political and theological beliefs misidentified by the broad public.” The frightening thing is how far along they’ve dragged us all on this road to the perdition of their own making, how effective this tactic is.

Burack maps the triumphalist path(ology) and has put together the essential reader for anyone interested in the political implications and the maniacal agenda of the religionists. Language is important, and she has the ears to decipher and is offering us all the Religious Wingnut Decoder Ring. As she warns in her introduction, “Political discourse is a form of pedagogy, and those of us who do not appreciate the complexities of conservative Christian pedagogy will have a more impoverished understanding of American politics than those who do.”  This is not theological debate. This is the unholy alliance of politics and religion met on the field of rhetoric. He who gets to the words, first, defines the word, and thereby defines the battle. Obsequious public piety crossed the lines of unseemly long ago and entered the realm of appalling. And GLBT people continue to present too tempting a target for the theocrats to pass up. There will be no Murrovian “Have you no shame?” moment in this battle. The answer is no.

Burack’s assay of the religious right is most interesting when she examines how the supposed religious movement presents itself as one thing when it is truly another. The obvious one is how they present and package themselves some “moral majority” but in fact have no claim to any measurable morality (and so long as proper public self-abasement is exhibited) like any snake oil seller, they maintain the key to their own absolution and “forgiveness”). Whatever the hypocrisy, fall in line and all is forgiven.

They present as underdogs, when they hold as much sway, now, as corporations (and with whom they are in league, of course). They cloak themselves in the sheep’s clothing of Democracy, but are hell bent on asserting a theocracy. Indeed, Burack shows that Christian conservatives “profoundly mistrust democracy, identifying liberty with license and with the satisfaction of individual interests through enslavement to selfish desires.” Which is precisely what they’d have everyone believe about Gay folk.

Professor Burack has an anthropological eye, as well as a politicians (and an ear for humor, which would seem to be indispensible when mucking around in this stuff) and discusses the La Haye’s Left Behind series and the weird world of Jack T. Chick’s comic book tracts which most of us have encountered at one point or another in some interstate highway bathroom or stuck under the windshield wiper on our car.

In the current campaign cacophony about the black Reverend Jeremiah Wright (and why has no one pointed out that he’s only living up to his biblical namesake when his speech reaches for the jeremiad heights?) when not even a sliver of the same attention is being paid to John McCain’s white Reverend Hagee and to white Pat Robertson’s blaming of all Gay people for Katrina and 9/11, it is refreshing to see Burack taking on these snake oil salesmen and holding them up to the same purifying light of day.

Burack has written a readable and fascinating appraisal and charting of our enemy within and the language they use to persuade. She asks “Do we hear what they hear? And once we listen for their vision of the good, what kind of sense can we make of it?” She makes sense of it and if you truck with these folks, you would certainly be well advised to read her assessment.

We’ll close with a reading from the prophet Noel Coward, once again: “It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.

Burack’s book is an honest appraisal of political deceit.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Bo Young is the publisher and editor of White Crane.  He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his fere and two hair children.

WC77 – Review of The Starry Dynamo

Rvu_davissonThe Starry Dynamo:
The Machinery of Night Remixed

By Sven Davisson, Rebel Satori Press
ISBN 978-0-9790838-0-8, 249 pages, pb.
Reviewed by Toby Johnson

Sven Davisson produces Ashé Journal of Experimental Spirituality, a parallel of White Crane with a Foucaultian queer post-Gay edge. He’s a creative writer, a reporter with a wry sense of storytelling, a scholar (with a degree in Queer Theory from Hampshire College) and a poet.

The Starry Dynamo is a collection of diverse writing. It opens almost like a novel with a short story, the sub-eponymous “The Machinery of Night,” that tells of two Gay teenagers  meeting for what turns out to be a sexual adventure. Davisson’s intro begins: “This work is driven by a critical analysis of love, control and control structures.” Consistently then, that budding romance  transforms into a story about accidental death.

The most interesting and experimental piece, titled “Mutilations,” involves incest and child sexuality and abuse. It’s written in a way that violates all traditional “unities,”: place, time, person. And, in doing so, poignantly and beautifully captures the feeling of being “mutilated” the author means to communicate  in the story, whether fiction or non-fiction.

Following is a series of essays about a variety of topics: the Indian guru Rajneesh and the rise and fall of his compound in Oregon, the French Symbolist poets, Oscar Wilde, the Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs and several about the ideas of the French philosopher of sexuality Michael Foucault. I want to especially recommend this book for these specific chapters. I found I understood Foucault better while reading Sven Davisson than I have ever before (i.e. that at any given time and place in human history ideas about sex—and sexual orientation—are influenced by a vast array of factors of history, politics, culture, economics, etc. and so always have to be understood in context).

This is an interesting and—to use Davisson’s own term, experimental—book that deserves to be read, written by an important character in the long term history of Gay consciousness.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Toby Johnson is the author and editor of countless fine books like Gay Spirituality, and Charmed Lives.  He is also former publisher of White Crane Journal and currently Reviews editor. He lives in San Antonio Texas.  Visit him at

WC77 – Review of Jesus in Love: At the Cross

Rvu_cherryJesus in Love: At the Cross
By Kittridge Cherry, Androgyne Press
ISBN978-1-933993-42-3, pb, 304 pages.
Reviewed by Toby Johnson

We’ve previously reviewed Kitt Cherry’s Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More and Jesus in Love, Part I. Now the second half of this mind-blowing, provocative and fascinating life of Christ has appeared, At the Cross. Like the first part of the story, it’s a first-person narrative from the point of view of a Jesus who is a modern, psychologically and sexually (and homosexually) sophisticated ego-person who is able to relate his experience in terms understandable to 21st Century readers. This approach makes Jesus much more real than the mythological character of traditional religion. But, adding to the amazing quality of this book, Cherry’s Jesus is also the very character of that mythology, the “Son of God” incarnate, who is occasionally distracted by having to hold the cosmos in existence and keep the planets spinning round the Sun. The interplay of these two portrayals makes this book ever more fascinating and insightful about the real message of Christianity.
As the subtitle indicates, the second half of the story involves Jesus’s death and resurrection and role as “world savior.” I was especially struck by Cherry’s presentation of Jesus taking on the sins of the world. She manages to make it both realistic and mystical—the way a good myth should be able to do! As he is dying, this Jesus actually reviews all the sins of humankind, both past and future, and one by one forgives them, finally even forgiving himself for the arrogance of thinking himself God.

The two books of Jesus in Love truly transcend the Christian myth. This is a way of looking at Jesus  that demonstrate the ability of Gay/lesbian consciousness to see deeper and wider into the nature of religion and spirituality. This is Jesus the way you’ve always wanted him to be. The books are very readable and entertaining. And you won’t be able to resist telling your friends about them. (I can testify to that personally.) They are so “outrageous” in the best possible sense, they need to be enjoyed and shared.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Toby Johnson is the author and editor of countless fine books like Gay Spirituality, and Charmed Lives.  He is also former publisher of White Crane Journal and currently Reviews editor. He lives in San Antonio Texas.  Visit him at