Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A Review of Review Revue

see article at

Review: Review Revue

Posted in:  Books
By Jay Bennie - 18th February 2015

Review Revue
Auckland Central Library, Tuesday 17 February
Part of the Alternative Bindings events for Auckland Pride Festival 2015

Last night's Review Review, part of the literature component of the Auckland Pride Festival, was - as expected - somewhat of a mixed bag.

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 Faye 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 worlds. Beyond Magenta, a collection of writing about the lives, loves and struggles of transgender teens. This 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 frantically running 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 eschew reviewing a book and instead made 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 irrelevant, is in fact a challenging work and shows a clear reflection of queer lives.

Closing the evening Alice Jespersen read a poem by American poet, writer and art critic Frank O'Hara.

The most grating flaw in the evening was in 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

Monday, 16 February 2015

And Second Place in the Short Fiction express Writing Contest is:

Steve Danby of Melrose Wellington (2nd place) with:

Aisle Altar Hymn

and a message from Steve:
"... as former editor of the long-defunct Pink Triangle magazine, I'd like to really congratulate express for SURVIVING.  I'd like to acknowledge two gay Auckland writers who mean a lot to  me:
lovely David Lyndon Brown who's funnier than I'll ever be, and that eccentric old bloke with the goatee who used to have the big vege garden in Esmonde Road..."

It always sucks when the lovely Xeon demands we get together for a coffee. “Getting together for a coffee” means yet another long monologue about Xeon’s lovelife. But Xeon’s a power bottom; resistance is futile. Wearing his usual “Freedom” t-shirt, he arrived an hour late, commandeered the seat facing the mirror, and began laying down the law.

“Eww, you can’t eat that, it’s got KALE in it. No one in Sydney eats kale any more, this place is so homophobic.”

And then he was away: celebrants and pre-nups, flatware and florists. And Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm.

We were in Dorothy’s when Xeon picked Malcolm up. Malcolm was a big buff lout with an army haircut and a Chiefs shirt and he looked totally lost. Catnip to Xeon, who loves a bit of rough. Then some Indian troll started circling for the kill. Well, Xeon’s a purebred Shore girl, no way he’d tolerate that. He modified his Facebook status to “engaged”, and stood up.

“I’m doing an intervention.” Curry-muncher bowled for a duck; within a week, Xeon had taken command at Malcolm’s flat.

Hence, “we should get together for a coffee”, and an hour-long rave about “the one” Just back from touring Afghanistan, Malcolm. Totally reveling in the freedom to finally be himself. Wanting to do yuckies all the time and the calluses on his hands drove Xeon crazy. Crippled with internalized homophobia: no skincare regime whatsoever. But Xeon was slowly sorting him. Only problem was Malcolm’s dog. Not a teacup Chihuahua or a terrier, but a revolting Staffy who ate the new throw cushions. Despite Xeon’s most ruthless tears, Malcolm utterly refused to have the dog put down. Xeon said this was practically a form of rape.

Actually, once he’d been waxed and with his eyebrows shaped and a new wardrobe, Malcolm was quite presentable. But how did Xeon put up with him? Malcolm had no conversation whatsoever. Try him on product; try him on celebrities; salons, gyms, feshunn, cafes, divas, any aspect of gay culture, Malcolm didn’t know and he didn’t care. Gay art was totally wasted on him. Came the lesbian and gay film festival. For the third successive night, the poignant story of a teen boy’s sexual awakening. The usual discreet nudity and implied underage yuckies, but this time in war-torn Andalusia.
Afterwards, Malcolm said “it’s all just softcore kiddie porn, isn’t it.”

Xeon exploded. “It’s art! It has photography! And fat chicks in headscarves! You are so homophobic!” No yuckies for Malcolm for ten days after that.

Poor Malcolm did try. I was secretly doing yuckies with a hot Indian guy, and I nearly got sprung when I bumped into Malcolm at the sauna. Was he finally getting with the programme? Some chance. Xeon had told him that he couldn’t go home until he’d done yuckies with five total strangers, to prove he wasn’t homophobic. I helped Malcolm reach his target and he actually shook hands afterwards and said thanks very much. I never saw him at the sauna again. I started suspecting that Malcolm was a lost cause.

Days later, 2 a.m., Xeon on the doorstep in tears. Malcolm wouldn’t obey his skincare regime. Malcolm actually suggested skipping day three of the Smith and Caughey’s sale to stay home and do yuckies. Malcolm just thought he could do whatever he wanted. Malcolm was a homophobic bitch.
They made up, but the inevitable end came on Malcolm’s birthday. Xeon did an intervention and had Malcolm’s dog put down, and presented him with an adorable bichon puppy. Malcolm just lost it. Nearly punched him and threw him out of the house. When Xeon showed up at 2 a.m., my Indian buddy Sanjay swore that this was the last bloody time he was climbing out my bedroom window; cheers, Xeon! The boy himself was totally incandescent with rage. Got it out of his system, though. Within a fortnight, he’d moved in with an Indian refugee from Fiji. Got Prakash right to the altar, dumped him on the day, and fucked his residency completely. Pure class, and Xeon’s still not nineteen.

And Malcolm? I’m sure he found himself eventually. A year or so later, I’d swear I saw him on the TV when they showed the marching boys in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade. All marching in perfect step in their little gold shorts, and they were gone in a flash; and maybe it wasn’t him at all.  March 2013

Really, they all looked so much alike, it was impossible to tell.

express Writing Contest Winner

We are proud to announce that Carissa Sinclair from Wellington has won the 2015 contest with her story:

Andrew Rumbles with cheque, while Peter Wells has just awarded Carissa her certificate for winning

Shedding Skin  

By Carissa Sinclair

  All her shoes were on the ground; stained boots and sandals and slippers. There were ruined white sports socks, ruined jean hems. Maybe it was walking up hills or breaking in new boots. It hurt like hellfire.  She had a spread of oversized blisters on her heels; raw bloody matter and the faint white of bone.

  It was just bleeding everywhere. One ankle had sprung out into an open faucet. She was sitting up on her bed and the blood just kept springing out. Blood on the duvet, in her underwear, on her big white t-shirt too.
  She bent one knee into her chest; held the badly bleeding heel into her hands. She wavered a large thumb over the open part of the wound. She knew what she had to do. This was the ultimate scab, she told herself. This was the ultimate thread to pull and unravel.

Photo from

  She slowly inserted her thumb into the wound. It went in a full inch before she hit the most tender flesh. She flinched. The knee jerked into her chest. She steadied herself, then continued inserting her forefinger, followed by her middle finger.

  The pain was a sick pleasure. Her eyes were smarting tears. She got a full hand inside the pocket of her skin. Blood coated her wrist. From outside her room she could hear the front door clicking open and a couple of voices from the kitchen.

  The bite had come. She clenched her teeth and pulled down. It was persistent. It wouldn't budge. Then slowly the heel bone gave way and tore through the skin. Her tarsal bones broke out. A bag of pulpy muscle burst over the duvet. She let out a cry.

  There was a knock on her door and her flatmates entered the room. It was a murder scene. Julia, peering over Todd's shoulder, broke into hysterics. What the fuck is happening, I'm calling for help, fuck I'm calling an ambulance.
    Todd was calmer though. He approached her tentatively. He sized up the skeletal system of her foot that she had started to tear free. He gently gagged before he held out a limp hand. Are you okay, Ginny? What is happening? His voice was caution and fear and repulsion. And yet, he understood her; he knew that she was up to something important.

  I'm just getting rid of all this fucking skin, she said very softly, stoically. She continued to dig with her hands to find the edge of skin sleeve behind her ankle. When she had a two-handed grip she tore the skin right up the calf muscle.

  Todd threw up.

  In the ambulance, the doctor and nurse allowed her to continue. She managed to get her two legs and pelvis structure free. Ligaments and clumps of muscle were still attached to her bones. Arteries strung around her in ribbons, well-bled and deflated. As she tore up her belly her small intestines fell out. The nurse had a huge white plastic bag to collect them. The nurse helped her deposit her stomach and kidneys and other free organs. She slid her arms out of her skin and pulled it up above her shoulders. She was able to detach her breasts from her ribcage. She was beginning to breathe a bit better now. She could even see her heart beating pathetically.

  She inspected the doctor on the other side of her. The doctor was filling out a form, occasionally asking a question. Would you like me to contact your family? Not just yet, she said and the doctor nodded. They seemed way too understanding. Why haven't you stopped me from what I'm doing? The doctor heard her whisper and looked at her somewhat sadly. You know eventually that you'll have to get back into a skin once again? She was surprised at the comment but then gave a nod. Can I choose a skin that fits me better? The doctor gave a nod back.

  She finally removed her scalp and shed herself completely. Her skin looked sad and grey on the plastic floor. Something to be placed in the ‘Lost and Found’. It felt nice sitting in the back of the ambulance with the nice doctor and nurse. She gently rapped the tips of her phalanges against her cranium. Then she opened her lower jaw and her tongue slid out. It bounced along the floor like a dumb goldfish. Good riddance. She stuck her fingers in her rib cage and relieved an awkward itch.

express Writing Contest Results

The winners were announced at Review Revue, an Auckland Pride Festival event hosted by the wonderful Auckland Libraries and organised in conjunction with Alternative Bindings.

The stories entered all demanded to be read, with recurrent themes of love in its many forms along with beaches and dogs. The stories ranged from simple narrative to philosophical and lyrical mysticism. The 36 Entries came from around the country and I think 22 were from men and 14 from women. We didn't ask the question so can't say if any entry is trans representative.

Every entry came with an eager and excited covering note. Having the opportunity to create something specific and participate in the contest seems to resonate with our community as an exciting thing to do. Thank you and congratulations to all who entered.

Thank you to GABA charitable trust, our judges Gina Cole, Julie Helean, Stevan Eldred Grigg and Peter Wells. Thank you to Ollie at express magazine for publishing the winner and publicising the contest. Many thanks to Auckland council and the Waitemata Local Board and Auckland Libraries for supporting our events. Thank you specifically to Karen Craig, Ana Worner, Andrew Rumbles, Gina Cole, Rachel, Micheal Giacon and Richard Galloway.

The Winner who recieves fame and $500 is Carissa Sinclair with Shedding Skin.

Second place wins $200 and is awarded to Steve Danby with Aisle Altar Hymn.

Commended were:

Geum Hye Kim with Changing Room
Shane Crook with The Wrath of the Penates
Elysia Rose Jensen with Escharotomy
Sandi Hall with Knife's Edge
Val Prozorova with Lost And Found