Christmas – I Like It

I do like Christmas, it’s the hassles beforehand that I can’t stand. I like it in spite of Christmas cards from people I hate and had hoped didn’t have my address. I hate the frightening possibility that they might be silly enough to arrive unannounced and expect drinks, mixed nuts and good will. I resent having to lay in a bottle of cheap sherry for the occasions.

Thank God they only last for an uneasy half-hour with nobody saying much, after the inevitable joke about the turkey has been laughed at noisily, by whoever said it and his affair.

I hate the garbage in the stores which you can buy any old day of the year, suddenly masquerading in even more gaudy packaging as suitable Christmas gifts.

I loathe it when the greengrocer round the corner appears to stock only assorted citrus fruits, nuts and sprouts.

I got annoyed last year when I spent two fruitless (pardon the pun) days searching for fresh chestnuts to shove in the goddam turkey and ended up with two cans instead.

Apart from all this I do enjoy the three days of the holiday. It’s nice when everything’s well organised, lots of really good food the superior booze the guests didn’t get, presents, some of them deliberately silly, most good although I generally spend Christmas only with the people I really like who know me very well.

And it is nice to be properly indulgent and lazy, forgetting all your problems for a few days in being piggy. It’s really pleasant to sit in front of the colour telly (I do love colour, it makes the bad programmes really hysterical) and get stewed.

People do get a great deal more relaxed and therefore pleasanter to be with, so in spite of the last minute panics, the high pressure sales displays, it’s a nice comforting time. I like it – so there, David Seligman!

Tecs Really Pack A Rod

A QUEER KIND OF DEATH; A PARADE OF COCKEYED CREATURES; I, SAID THE DEMONall written by George Baxt, Jonathan Cape, at £1.05 each.

The above three books are not new publications but I like them so much I feel they are well worth bringing attention to. All are detective novels, the first A Queer Kind Of Death is, strictly speaking, the only gay one of the three. This concerns the departure by electrocution of one Ben Bentley, actor and model, from the world of the living. What a world it is as well, slick, bitchy, homosexual Americana, it positively glitters with decadent (in the best sense) wit.

The main suspect of Ben’s murder is his ‘room mate’ Seth Piro hotly pursued in more ways than one, by the best kind of gay detective, brown and beautiful Pharoh Love. This isn’t cheap humour, this is high glorious camp satire and fun with a surprise ending to beat them all, a gem.

A Parade of Cockeyed Creatures introduces another detective, recently deprived by death of wife and son, Max van Larsen. This one concerns the disappearance of Tippy Blaney a poetic but vigorous seventeen year old with parents of doubtful character. Max is helped in his search for Tippy by one Sylvia Plotkin, twelve stone of cuddly kosher sense and sensibility. As Tippy’s schoolmistress she is everything a teacher ought to be, but never is, and a good portion of the novel is devoted to relationship with Max, which reaches a satisfying conclusion.

Lots of camp characters, a necrophile classmate, ‘The Prince of Darkness’, a dirty old man with a taste for twelve year olds, plus an assortment of thugs, kinks and general exotica. Nice.

I, Said The Demon is the last word in ‘a laugh in every line’ humour. Baxt has in this book refined the style of the earlier two into the most superslick distortion of reality. Pure celluloid fantasy most of it, I literally cried with laughter at the most amazing plot and caricatures of characters that has ever crossed my well-read path.

Max van Larsen again, cross with Sylvia Plotkin, because she has written a book on their previous case together. So had Max, and not even a love as great as Abelard and Heloise, Mark Anthony and Julius Caesar, can remain unscathed when Sylvia becomes a literary celebrity. The case this time concerns the disappearance in 1932 of crooked Judge Kramer, his mistress and forty-thousand dollars.

The craziest characters yet, Lita the Judge’s wife, a prima donna who sings in a soundproof room, Chloe and Romona, two ex-Ziegfield girls approaching ripe old age in the Gothic monstrosity of a Church they live in. Also starring a seeress from Seventh Avenue, Gypsy Marie Rachmaninoff whose son is a hunchbacked peeping Tom called Quasimodo, the divine, divine Madame Vilna ex-star of the Yiddish Theatre who delivers lines that will send you rolling over the floor.

This is the best of the bunch, a really slick piece of work, lines like…

“When did you last see your husband?”
“Half way up the Empire State Building swatting aeroplanes.”…

setting the general tone.

A great book which would make a nice present for a friend with a movie camp sense of humour.

Paper Covered Thrills

ALL IS WELL by Dick Vanden, Olympia Press, 70p.

Another gay goodie from Olympia Press, All Is Well is a much more (dare I use the word) serious book than Frost. It’s the story of a man’s long and tortuous path to reasonable honesty and his inner being. His relationships with his wife and children are vividly portrayed especially with his son Chuck, a 16-year-old sharing his bed with another boy.

Father really begins to come out after he accidentally takes some Mescaline and is saved from the horrors of a bad trip by his son. This turns into the most beautifully described acid trip I have ever read. Vanden slowly and compulsively takes us through a man’s mind as a whole new way of thought hits him with the power of a space rocket.

This is an intricate, beautiful, fantastic, red raw honest novel which at the expense of sounding trite every gay ought to have. Get it, could be good for you.

FROST by Richard Amory. Olympia Press, 70p.

The American way of life in sunny California is the background to this fast (incredibly plotted) gay thriller about a father planning to kill his son told against a landscape of black-white relationships, sexcapades and drugs.

It’s a fast moving but a complicated story. The sexual encounters are unbelievably (wow) exciting and by this I mean the sensually* sexy and not silly unbelievable porn fantasy.

I must say though I enjoyed it much more as an erotic novel than a thriller, but those who like the author’s ‘Loon Trilogy’ will find it well worth reading.

Oh, Oh Susanah

IMAGES, directed by Robert Altman. Starring Susanah York. Released by Hemdale

IMAGES is a wow, a really good movie. Its main theme (in spite of what some bad advertising says) is madness. This subject is normally looked at in the cinema from the viewpoint of the sane, observing the actions of the insane, and rarely therefore, does it ever seem very real. We never get told what it is like to be mad.

Images is the second movie I’ve seen giving a view of the world from inside the mind of someone slipping into complete insanity. The other film was Polanski’s cruder attempt in ‘Repulsion’. There are a few superficial similarities, sexual fantasy and sinister telephone calls, violence real or imagined and a wealth of domestic detail.

Images is more subtle (less of a horror flic) infinitely more credible but still visually and emotionally shocking.

The central figure is Kathryn (beautifully underplayed by Susanah York) a dreamy looking creature, whose voice we hear in the background endlessly composing a fantasy story. Most of the action takes place when she and her husband, who provides the comic relief, come down to their country house for a stay. Too little of the countryside is shown, but enough to suggest the primitive aspect and isolation of the area, it’s not Cotswold’s coach trip country.

Kathryn begins to see things and people that aren’t there, ie her husband reaching to embrace her turns into someone else, a randy neighbour turns into her husband, and a camera into an old lover.

The most frightening part of the fantasy is rather like the Doppleganger legend, walking down a road on a hazy day you see someone in the distance approaching, as he or she comes nearer you realise it’s yourself. Then, the legend has it, you die.

Kathryn does not die, but certainly comes face to face with herself on a few frightening occasions in the movie. The film is often confusing, the difference between reality and fantasy becomes less marked. We are forced to change our minds again and again about whether or not some things (the stabbing of her neighbour) did or didn’t happen.

In spite of some flaws, it’s a beautifully made, very personal film and needs to be seen more than once, I feel. Otherwise one might share to a greater or lesser degree the feeling of a lady in front of me who said, as we got up to leave, “What happened?”

Goblins & Faeries

THE EROTIC WORLD OF FAERY by Maureen Duffy. Published by Hodder and Stoughton, £3.50

The title is possibly misleading, the book is not a collection of erotic faery stories, but a serious study of the development of the faery/folk mythology. More deeply it examines how each successive stage of folk culture was influenced and often brought into being by the various societies that have existed in Britain for the past 1,500 years.

The book begins with the contrast between the great cauldron of myths and religions which spread from country to country in pre-Christian times and the intolerance of other religions and suppression of folk culture by the ever powerful Christian Church.

From the new and frowned upon folk mythology which came out of this supression, Miss Duffy takes us on an interesting century-by-century trip through faeryland. She discusses very lucidly Shakespeare’s plays. King Arthur, the Renaissance, English painting, the Gothic creepy stories, bringing us right up to Arthur C Clarke, James Blish and modern sci-fi fantasy.

Although the author at the beginning apologises for the book being “necessarily superficial” I did not find it so, and the range of legends, plays, paintings and poems it examines is considerable. One of my favourite poems as a schoolboy was Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” but now its real sexual content has been brought to my attention I shan’t ever be able to read it in the same light again.

To sum it up this is a very well researched, constructed and thoroughly enjoyable book.