Friday Fiction: PRIDE! by Alex Snider

It's the first day of Pride here in Toronto, one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world, with 1.2 million people participating. Although some think it's a dirty and archaic event (*cough* The Grid) and others will be up at their family cottages (*cough* Mayor Rob Ford), 1.2 million people, including myself are pretty frakking excited for ten days to celebrate LGBT culture, identity and history!

Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall -- I HAVEN'T READ THIS YET. But I've just started! So far so good! I'm pretty excited, I've heard lots of good things! And, what's better than reading a Canadian novel that doesn't centre around man vs. nature, nature wins (not that there's anything wrong with that, I love me some Ross Sinclair) but is about a young woman moving to the big city and trying to find a girl to kiss. Scandalous! Haha, I kid, I kid, some of my best friends are gay!

Choir Boy by Charlie Jane Anders -- Why should you read Choir Boy? Um, she has a flow chart on her website? And, because the story is about a young boy going through puberty and struggling to come to terms with his possible identity as transgendered. Kinda expands our understanding of the coming of age story.

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin -- Mmmmmm, James Baldwin, mmmmmmm *wipes drool away and tries to play it cool* I kinda dig James Baldwin. He's ok. It's not like I'd marry any of his books or anything. Or weep from the perfection of his prose and characters and turns of phrase and, oh god, everything! Yeah, he's alright.

Plain Pleasures by Jane Bowles -- I love her writing so much I would walk on hot coals if it meant I could read just one more sentence. Especially if it was half as good as this one: "He disliked Lilina; probably because he suspected intuitively that she was a person who could fall over and over again into the same pile of broken glass and scream just as loudly the last time as the first". I've used this quote before when pleading Jane Bowles' case here at Friday Fiction and I won't stop until, well, I probably won't stop so get used to it and go the fuck to sleep.

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles -- You know how sometimes you're walking home late at night, maybe you're a bit drunk, maybe a bit you know, "feverish", and all of a sudden you are remembering that episode of Criminal Minds where that girl was attacked and then you remember that that's most episodes of Criminal Minds (I love you, CM. Just kidding! No, I'm not.) and then you get a little panicky and your heart is beating a bit faster and your pace quickens but then you get home and it's all ok...but then your roommate is actually a ZOMBIE! Hahaha! I just made that last part up! What fun for all of us! Sheltering Sky is like that minus the zombie part and the part where it's all ok. But, it's really well-written! Pay-off!

I'm a Registered Nurse, Not a Whore by Anne Purdue -- Fun fact: Purdue's writing teacher and future editor met at a party of mine. Do I feel like in throwing the party and inviting two friends who would meet and that meeting that would eventually lead to this amazing collection of short stories, that I had a hand in her success? I don't think so. But if she becomes super famous then I might take more bragging rights because smoke 'em if you got 'em, right (is that how that goes? I don't actually know what that means?)? The stories are all really raw and funny and beautiful in that way that only Canadian small towns can be. And, can we just talk about how awesome the title is? It's pretty awesome.

Close to Spiderman by Ivan E. Coyote -- This lil' (and, I do mean lil', I finished it in about an hour and a half yesterday) collection was a really unexpected delight (gah, I hate myself right now). I really love simple stories that pull no punches and don't have any big reveals at the end like, "and that little girl, the one could never stay over for dinner... she was a GHOST!" Cue the theremin. Coyote really nails everything so perfectly, there is this one part where she writes about a little girl who decides for her swimming lessons to forgo her bikini top and everyone thinks she's a boy and immediately she's treated differently, more capable. And another part where Coyote tells a story about an almost romance between two young women and at one point they're sunbathing naked when one reads aloud from a Cosmo about how most women fantasize about having sex with another woman and then she expresses her disgust. Coyote doesn't dwell much on the other woman's (a lesbian) reaction (each story is three-four pages max) but the pain is there and palpable in the stinging rejection.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith -- I really enjoyed The Talented Mr. Ripley: The Movie especially the part where Gwyneth Paltrow pretends to be a rich person. Someone get her a handful of low-fat vegan granola and draw her a bath of unicorn tears! She is this generation's Very Amazing Person. Where was I? Right, I did really enjoy the Matt Damon Ripley movie version when I saw it at the super cheap ($2.25?!) theatre where incidentally I also made it to first base (Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet) and rounded to second (Seven Years in Tibet -- I think I actually dozed off just while typing that). Then I read Highsmith's original and, hot damn, that is a fine book! There is so much more to Tom and the struggle of class and identity. In the movie, Tom is always really kind of pathetic but the book Tom is this magnificent calculating yet sympathetic creature backed into a corner. Patricia Highsmith is a god. The only problem with the book is that there is no Gwyneth Paltrow.

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea by Yukio Mishima -- Just like the Lil' Rascals! If they were sociopathic murderers who tortured animals (to be fair, I feel like the Lil' Rascals did torture animals at some point -- the paint on that dog's eye was probably lead-based at least -- and if Alfalfa wasn't a sociopath then everything I know to be up is, in fact, down -- dead shark eyes, that one, dead shark eyes)! Christian Science Monitor called it "a summer romp for the whole hell!" Just kidding, they didn't review it!

Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison -- Who doesn't love a family epic?? Me! Sometimes! But sometimes I do and Cavedweller is one of those times! I'm really giving it the ol' hard sell, huh? It's no Bastard Out of Carolina but I feel like maybe I should try going at least one Friday Fiction without mentioning Bastard Out of Carolina. Oh fuck. Dorothy Allison is wicked awesome. That's really all that you should be taking away here.

Bang Crunch by Neil Smith -- I used to work at an evil mega bookstore, the kind that Tom Hanks worked for in You Got Mail (You've Got Mail? That sounds more correct but less threatening) and when we got in this collection by first time Montreal author Smith, literally eight of us had it as a staff pick. Then the CEO of the company decided ze also loved it and made it zir pick and the GM of our store asked all of us to write us each to write little reviews of Bang Crunch to I guess enhance zir's own review. Being the patsy I am and given the fact I was given time off the floor to write it, I set to work and poured myself into that damned review. Aching with pride, I posted it to the companies website and waited for the accolades to rain upon me. A single cricket rode past on a tumbleweed. Nothing. Nobody ever said anything. No one else ever wrote a review (well except the CEO's ghost-writer, I assume) and no one ever thanked me for following through with the assignment. #whitewhine. Really, though, deliriously awesome read. My review is still up and my eyes still shine with pride (hey that's the title of this post!) reading it. And I still stand by it as a staff pick.

The Lipshitz 6 or Two Angry Blonds by T Cooper -- Historical fiction and family epic! It's like War and Peace without Tolstoy's fifty page "I'm the greatest historian in the world" rant! I haven't read this one, and from what I can tell it's a pretty ambitious novel but also from what I can tell, Cooper was successful so if you like your novels to have a healthy dose of Lindbergh and Eminem, well, then this truly is the only novel for you!

Happy Friday everyone and a super happy Pride to Derek, Kevin, Vida, John, Geoff, Jess, Andrew, Lesley, Jeff, Emily, Brett, Amy and Gillian. Happy Pride to the 1.2 million people who will be celebrating in Toronto this year and to the other millions of people who will be celebrating in other cities across the world.

And, to the millions of people worldwide who are still fighting to have the basic right to be who you are freely and safely, to love who you love freely and safely and to be granted all the same rights and protections that straight people enjoy everyday, we stand with you and will not back down until human rights means everyone.

Alex Snider is a Toronto-based writer, a Contributing Editor for the Little Red Umbrella and the co-creator of the Once Again, To Zelda blog, which is where a version of this post originally appeared. You can read the rest of her posts here.


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