Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Case of Bambi Stern - Real vs. Stereotype

Lately, there has been some discussion on the character of Bambi Stern in my novel Cutting the Cheese. Bambi is a hefty Lesbian, who smokes cigars, wears a man's suit and fedora, and is motivated by cocktail weenies. She is also the president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists of New Birch and Sipsboro. The character has caused some anxiety (not to say, resentment) in some quarters of the Gay Community. Of course, the novel is my "bad boy" work, which goes out of its way to highlight many of the more outrageous foibles found in the Gay Social order. Without doubt, the various characters are based on people I met when I first emerged from the closet. The community, being mapless otherwise, has created its own clue set for any newbie on the scene, who would need a pink compass for navigation otherwise. So, while some characters like Kelly Rodriguez, the snippy hustler or the even cringing Paddy can be received with wicked laughter, when some confront Bambi Stern, the portrayal cuts just too close to the bone. Harumph. Stereotypes. Truth be told, of all the characters in Cutting the Cheese, Bambi Stern is closest to the real life Lesbian she is based upon.

When I first came out of the closet and took up the mantle of Gay Activism, I was set to my first important task - cutting blocks of cheese into small cubes to be served at an executive board meeting. It was an important task, because it tapped into the heart of gossip and provided my first glimpse into the nelly, campy world. It scared the bejeebers out of me. Then I was comfronted by the president of the group, who roared with her bull-moose voice, slapped all the fairy backs and was famous for having made an entrance at a fabled party by strutting down a staircase wrapped in naught but cellophane. If I left Bambi Stern out of Cutting the Cheese, I might as well scrapped the book. Of course, while most readers find outrageous humor by looking in the mirror, some do not, and had even suggested I withdraw the work from review. One reviewer stated (code) "there were issues with this story that took away from my complete enjoyment." Such reaction only encourages me to step up to the plate and dish out some more. Thin skins beware.

The question here is "what is a stereotype?" I often wonder about this. Is a stereotype a cruel set of crude and rude attributes grafted on scapegoats to make them bigger targets, or are they a collection of traits that communities adopt for identity? It's a fine line, but having caroused at Gay Activist meetings and at the general mayhem of a Gay Pride celebration, my observations record that members of the gay community tend to slip into camp whenever they feel the need. It's the yellow brick road to our own private OZ. Therefore, Bambi Stern and her Edward G. Robinson cigar manner is a living, breathing reminder to my gay friends (and enemies) that we haven't cornered the market on self-righteousness. We need to be proud of identities no matter how much cellophane we wear. 'Nuff said? Not nearly.

Edward C. Patterson

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In the Works - Turning Idolater (a Snippet)

For my readers (and, of course, potential readers), I am hard at work on my next offering - Turning Idolater, a mystery novel inspired by Melville's Moby Dick about Gay Internet Twink Strippers and . . . well, there hangs a tale. However, let me share a pargraph from the opening of Chapter Four, where I describe (or rather intone) Greenwich Village at night so you may get the flavor of this stew.

"The early spring chill clung to the evening soul of the East Village, much like a cold harbor waiting for its crew to ring the night bell and slurry out to sea. Never slumbering, the crisscrossed lanes and by-ways sang the song of the alive and the free; of the adrift and the wandering. These were the carols awake and acceptable, no map needed to understand the tidal pull; no liturgy wanted to keep us holy and safe from shoals. Here unfurled art and tangents, fostering fireworks and introspection in the same flare - a place in the sun at midnight, where no clock holds our course to the hour, the month or the year. Only the barkeeps and drag queens parry regulation, keeping such lore under lock and key - hymnals emblematic to sailors holding hands in their hammocks strung by night, never slumbering to the buzz-saw snoring liturgy held fast within the barkeep's ring."

- Turning Idolater

Edward C. Patterson
Dancaster Creative

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Surviving an American Gulag - Deep, Dark Secrets

Just why I want to promote or even sell a book that holds some of my deepest, darkest secrets - things that I thought would be interred with my bones, is beyond my understanding. Still, the army experience of a gay man in 1967 is too important to shut away and be lost. Surviving an American Gulag was originally penned as a play in 2000 - a rather curious drama with moving sets and a limited cast. When I approached the material as a novel, I immediately found that I wasn't telling my own story, but fostering a point of view. The first draft was in the 1st person and began with a harangue against the military and five yards of gays in the military history. After several false starts at revision, I decided to get out of the way of my own story, cut the preachy crap and just delve into the deepest pit of recollection. I remembered many more souls - lost ones, and many other incidents. The result was satisfactory to me. So much so, I should have burned it as a catalystic excercise - the kind you expunge to lose weight or to stop bed-wetting. Then I thought about the lack of work revealing just how the military handled its "gay problem," before they opted for that lame don't ask, don't tell business. The publication matter was settled. No matter how poorly you judge me as a person after reading Surviving an American Gulag, the record will stand and no one can ever sweep it under the rug or back to the grave where I had intended it.

Edward C. Patterson