Auckland Central Library, Tuesday 17 February
Part of the Alternative Bindings events for Auckland Pride Festival 2015
In essence a passing parade of literary aficionados or enthusiasts who each have eight minutes to introduce the audience to a book or related work of their own choosing, the mood was friendly, almost clubby in a companionable way.
First up was Artist Sam Orchard who introduced us to queer porn comics and in particular those written by women for women. He focused on the latest edition of the Smut Peddler anthologies, praising it for blowing the usual myths of male-centric representations of women's erotic sensibility. Orchard noted the diversity of characters and experiences reflected in the anthology, the quality of the writing and the high profile of queer, lesbian and bi material. Sexuality is an important part of our sexual diversity he observed.
Performer and writer Michael Giacon featured "a phenomenal book," Letters To The End Of Love by Yvette Walker. Three fictional stories are progressively told throughout the book. The first, set around 1968, is in the form of letters written by an exiled Russian painter and his wife as they try to come to terms with a fatal illness. The second, set in West Australia in 2011 are letters from a Perth bookseller to her estranged partner on the other side of the world. The third is set in post-war England with a man writing to the lost love of his live, a gay German artist. While Giacon was impressed by the "superb writing" of the stories he found the format, with the three story threads intertwined throughout the book, difficult and plans to re-read it one story at a time.
Erin Fae somewhat sabotaged her presentation by deciding to talk about seven books in eight minutes and going overtime with the first few leaving only moments to rattle through the final three as the timekeeper's hand hovered over the bell. Some she felt were good, some bad. By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham she felt was only saved from being unbearable by Cunningham's skill with words. Beyond Magenta, a collection of writing about the lives, loves and struggles of transgender teens she felt was let down by poor writing and editing.
Faye felt it is sad that more queers are unlikely to read Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, who she lauds as telling "a great story." Tomboy, by Liz Prince, is an "awesome" graphic novel about gender that is not anchored in one gender.
By fraenetically rushing through her last three books, Faye didn't really give us much about them to go on.
Next speaker was gay community broadcaster and DJ Steven Oates who subverted the format of the evening to make a plea for the gay communities to encourage and support writing by and for glbtift people of the Pacific. As an aspirational piece he chose to end by reading a rather long passage - which he got away with reading in its entirety only due to the extremely forgiving nature of the timekeeper - by lesbian Samoan writer Sia Figiel.
In a light and delicate voice which was difficult to hear even with amplification, art curator Ron Brownson used his time to remember, and out, a close friend, artist and beautiful man, Malcolm Ross who passed away in 2003. Brownson illustrated his talk with three moody yet engaging self portraits photographs by Ross and a painting featuring an extremely well-hung tiki. He lamented that Ross's works have never been exhibited.
Author and reviewer Craig Ranapia paid homage to a gay British playwright of early last century, Terrance Rattigan, and in particular his final play, The Deep Blue Sea. Ranapia feels that that the play, despite Rattigan's being characterised later in his career as out of date and facile, is in fact a socially challenging work and shows a clear reflection of queer lives.
Closing the evening Alex Wild Jespersen read a poem by American poet, writer and art critic Frank O'Hara.
The most grating flaw in the evening was the less than clear presentations by several of the reviewers. It's good to have passion about a piece but anyone who reads it, or talks about it, in an inaudible mumble, or too fast to easily comprehend or in a halting delivery is just not doing the piece or their passions justice.
That aside, Review Revue was a convivial evening, occasionally bumbling, often warmly funny and an altogether pleasant way of extending yourself beyond your usual authors and genres.
- Jay Bennie