I’m from Driftwood: True Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Stories from All Over the World, edited by Nathan Manske. IFD, 168 pages, $15 paper.
There is profound eloquence in this first-person collection of childhood stories – first crushes, loves realized, family reactions and more – gathered by editor Manske both in the course of a 50-state tour across America and through e-mails sent to imfromdriftwood.com. Hundreds of coming-out and living-gay narratives have been winnowed down to 51 queerly compelling mini-autobiographies, some of them heart-wrenching, some of them heartwarming, all of them proclaiming a truth for LGBT youth – that they are not alone. For the most part, though New York, San Francisco and Seattle are represented, these are primarily loud and proud voices from cities and towns not rich in queer resources: Clarksville in Tennessee and Mechanicsville in Virginia, Glasgow in Kentucky and Colby in Kansas, Hollis in New Hampshire and Driftwood in Texas – where 30-year-old Manske grew up, wishing on boyhood birthdays for a 1963 copy of Uncanny X-Men #1 – and for a boyfriend. “You saved my life, literally!” one teen writes about a YouTube channel affiliated with the tour – a sentiment just as appropriate for this book.
The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol, by John Wilcock, edited by Christopher Trela. Trela Media LLC, 264 pages, $45 hardcover.
Forty years ago, Wilcock – a near-constant presence at Andy Warhol’s fabled Factory hangout – self-published a bare-bones book of 25 revealing interviews with a pantheon of the artist’s erstwhile companions and colleagues. The book is back, handsomely tarted up by editor/publisher Trela with a wealth of previously unpublished Warholian photos and prefaced with a new scene-setting remembrance by Wilcock, who co-founded Interview with Warhol before eventually leaving for the west coast – where he still lives. Wilcock conducted his interviews in the late 1960s – with Viva nude in her Chelsea Hotel room, with Brigid Polk in the back of a cab, with Gerard Malanga, Taylor Mead and Ultra Violet, performers in Warhol’s early films, and with Factory personalities Paul Morrissey, Lou Reed and Nico. Trela’s foreword notes that the book’s title is somewhat inaccurate: Warhol didn’t write it, so it’s not really an autobiography; and as several interviews reveal, he was reticent about his sex life, so it’s not that racy a tome. But as an eyewitness perspective on Warhol’s eccentricities, enthusiasms and artistic explorations, it’s a true treasure.
Best Gay Stories 2010, edited by Steve Berman. Lethe Press, 254 pages, $18 paper.
Unlike most “best stories” anthologies, the series edited by Berman for the past three years incorporates essays as well as fiction. Best Gay Writing, then, is what readers will find – and while no one book can wholly represent all of a year’s good queer prose, there aren’t any clunkers here. There are selections from blogs: “In History’s Vicinity,” Richard Bowes’ personal account from Mumpsimus of being Stonewall Riot-adjacent as a young man; from magazines: “Two Sides of a Boy,” Phillip Tang’s elegant short story from Chroma 9, about an Asian’s man’s down-low life; from non-fiction collections: “Death in Venice,” Christopher Bram’s vibrant essay extolling the novel of the same name, from 50 Gay and Lesbian Books Everyone Must Read, and “Lonnie Coleman Remembered,” Nowell Briscoe’s warm remembrance of reading – and meeting – an author who changed his life, from The Golden Age of Gay Fiction; and, of course, from fiction collections: Anthony McDonald’s jaunty “Mercutio’s Romeo,” from Boy Crazy, and Jameson Currier’s sinuous “The Theatre Bug,” from The Haunted Heart. Good reads, all.
*Richard Labonte has been reading, editing, selling, and writing about queer literature since the mid-’70s. He can be reached in care of this publication or at BookMarks@qsyndicate.com.