Time Out Reviews I
Yes, more reviews that were published in
Time Out during 1995-97. Most of them are still available in good bookshops
or bargain basements, you just have to hunt around.
IMMORTAL INVISIBLE: LESBIANS AND THE MOVING
IMAGE Edited by Tasmin Wilton (Publ. Routledge)
'Immortal Invisible' claims to be the first
book to bring together the minds and talents of film-makers, academics and
activists to mull over films 'by and for' lesbians. That must account for
the hefty price tag.
I have to stop at this juncture and make
a point. The majority of this collection concerns itself with a handful of
lesbian-orientated films that have been analysed to death, although I admit
the authors try to take a different tack. Hilary Hinds tackles the tabloid
and broadsheet response to that old potato 'Oranges...' while Lizzie Thynne
grapples with the 'Freudian and Lancanian systems' of the 'non-phallic language'
in 'Anne Trister' (1986) and Penny Florence wrestles with the effects of
the production process on 'Portrait Of A Marriage' (1990). Of course, 'Desert
Hearts' (1985) is dissected once more, but this time from the perspective
of the rivalry between Vivian and Frances for Cay's attentions within the
framework of 'romantic convention'. Oh, there's nothing like a contemporary
Not content with still shining a torch up
our own backsides a decade on, more recent films are included, such as Louise
Allen's text on 'Salmonberries' (1991) - which over-stretches the point that
black = butch and white = femme - and 'She Must Be Seeing Things' (1988),
which describes 'brutal scenes of lesbian sadomasochism... [and] mindless
role-playing' and repeats the hypothesis of attributing roles to ethnicity
proposed by Allen. There are some heavily-worded appraisals in 'Immortal
Invisible' - particularly the essay on the truly incomprehensible Monika
Treut - but over all, it's a curiously valuable read. Gaps do appear in the
fog of time courtesy of the blazing glare cast on 'Girl's Camp', a thrilling
take on the pornographic images of 'Ripley Undressed' and the editor's own
chapter on lesbian spectatorship. I eagerly anticipate the next ten years,
when every film critique book published will contain seemingly eternal
evaluations of 'Go Fish'...
FAMILY OUTING A Guide For Parents of Gays,
Lesbians and Bisexuals Ed. Joy Dickens (Publ. Peter Owen)
Baruch Spinoza (Dutch philosopher b.1632)
has been quoted within the opening chapter as saying 'Do not weep. Do not
wax indignant. Understand.' To that end, Joy Dickens (a co-founder of Parents'
Friend) has clumped together a heap of testimonials from parents of lesbian,
gay and bisexual offspring, to prove that they are 'much nicer than many
young people.' Well, the cover says 'lesbians, gays and bisexuals' but in
fact, 'parents with lesbian daughters were, as always, reluctant to write'
(a comment which remains sadly unclarified) and numerous parents write of
their son coming out as bisexual, not gay.
No matter. The apotheosis is a guide that
enables parents to counter the 'shock and disbelief' when their boy (or girl)
has turned out queer. And a fine effort it is too, despite the fact that
the tales of woe turned to gaiety are repetitive. The quintessential elements
in 90% of these stories are that the child comes out, the parents feel angry,
devastated or 'bereaved', the mother gets a pamphlet from Parents' Friend
which they read, and Poof! Love, understanding and acceptance. There is a
strand of religious fervour woven throughout the book (readers are blessed
and prayed for) which seemed a trifle erm... 'queer' unless you notice the
reading list contains a number of books by Christians. Further, the continual
references to 'non-heterosexual children' made me feel a tad perturbed because
the term denies an identity, and the insinuation that there are 'a vast number
of opportunities... and they cost little in monetary terms' (oh goody, now
there'll be no need to fork out for that wedding frock!) grates just a little.
The clues may not add up to much, and I have no desire to belittle the work
that Parents' Friend does, but I don't believe this book would do much to
change my Mother's mind.
Love Cries, Cruel Passions, Strange Desires
Ed. P. Blazey, V. Dawson T. Herber (Publ. Angus Roberston)
Silly me! I constantly forget that lesbians
and gay men have fantasies about fucking their opposite sex! Sorry, but it
does nowt to curl my toes. Prompted by an author who claimed she was 'not
actually a lesbian but fucks women to kill time while waiting for the right
man', I flicked rapidly to 'Drosophila' - seemingly a tale of a biologist
whose garden is ravished by fruit flies and whose love life is crumbling
towards acrimonious oblivion. I had a slight problem with her solution (letting
fruit flies crawl over her bits until she bursts into 'millions of multi-coloured
non-pareils'), but that was nothing. Her obsession with having sex 'stripped
of its normal ornamentation' with insects paled quick smart when she found
her 'mound of Venus' covered in maggots. Sorry again, but that's a turn off
scaling major proportions. Still, I battled on, thinking maybe I am just
too critical about what constitutes erotica.
Well, no - at least, not when it came to
'Love Cries...' You'd have to have a strong stomach to handle some of the
stories or an equally steadfast attitude to cope with the banality of the
rest. Oh, there are some gems in here such as 'Mountain Oysters' (the cautionary
tale of a knife-wielding siren) and 'Schooling' (in which a young lad is
taught how to relish sex), but on the whole, I was terribly disappointed.
What a waste of a fabulous book cover! If you really couldn't give two hoots
about what shape or style your sex appears in, then 'Love Cries...' might
just be the ticket. If you are a little more particular (not just about who
does what and how but about literary aptitude as well) then it might be advisable
to give it a wide berth.
Damn Fine Art by Cherry Smyth (Publ.
I really didn't want to read this. Art schmart
I thought. It didn't help that the review copy wasn't a book, but a huge
sheaf of A3 photocopied sheets which rendered the artwork tenebrous. Not
ideal circumstances for a fair critique but I ploughed on and was pleasantly
Smyth starts by acknowledging her own caveat,
conceding that a critique of lesbian art as 'queer' had limited vision. Instead,
she has provided a thorough interlocution on art in all of its diverse forms,
from sculpture and oils to cartoons and photography. Usually, you can take
or leave art (you either like whatever is on the wall or you reject it as
a pile of crap) but the real virtuoso here is Smyth, who has honed her
forté for art appreciation. I understand why she has been quiet for
a while now: she has obviously poured her heart into 'Damn Fine Art'. Whereas
many art critics use capricious words in sentences of 100 words or more,
Smyth makes the art truly accessible. Her superlative flair for description
is virtually flawless, so much so that you don't really need to examine the
reproductions. If you do, you'll find that her writing is constantly far
more breath-taking than the works on exhibit. It might have helped if Cassell
had not just pushed out the boat but arranged a flotilla of colour plates
and not concentrated on a fancy but almost illegible typeset for the pull-out
You may not recognise many of the artists
or the work Smyth concentrates on (Nicola Tyson, Lucinda Oestreicher, Patricia
Hurl, Leone Macdonald, Jaya Schürch, Lisa Kokin, Leslie Bostrom and
Linda Dement among them) but it proves that Smyth's research is as tight
as her writing. In addition, her grasp of the historical - whether in the
world of art, politics or literature - is reliably firm. Smyth is no longer
just a critic. She has worked her way to sovereign connoisseur and 'Damn
Fine Art' is her crowning glory.
CRAVE Laura Adele-Marsh (Publ. Wet and Wanton
Since the demise of Sheba Press, not long
after it tried to butt-plug a hole in the lesbian erotica market, there has
been a dearth of decent new material. Like the proverbial one-night stand,
the odd collection has come and gone but not left a forwarding number. Now,
a collective based in Scotland called Wet and Wanton have clutched the sheets,
arched their back and screamed out a literary orgasm. And just as with real
sex, it has unintentional humour, bad language and the odd wet patch.
Wet & Wanton want lesbians to 'enjoy
a tongue-in-cheek romp' through the world of taboo lesbian sex, to wit sex
with men and a smidgen of S&M. The books will be 'purely to entertain'
and by golly, 'Crave' certainly does that. My reservation is that the stories
of passion laid bare here have fallen into the trap of becoming a tad too
cliched to be believable. You don't have to use words like 'lust stem' or
'sex juice' to get the reader flushed or moist. Including phrases like 'I
became a river of moisture' or 'my erect clitoris is reaching for the sky'
or 'as the sexy bass pumped, so did I' may unfortunately be dismissed as
a risible attempt at erotica, and sentences such as 'I ache to bury my tongue
into the scent that is turning me into a craving she-wolf' may only cause
dykes to wet their facial cheeks rather than their buttock cheeks.
If 'Crave' fails anywhere, it is because
it is the work of a solo writer. Reading tales of passion by one person has
the drawback that you notice the same grammatical idiosyncrasies, similar
themes and uniform descriptions. There is an apparent thread of obsession
with the high life (Armani, lobster, champagne and silk) that runs through
many of the stories, a penchant for light SM and adoration for Annie Lennox.
I don't know whether it's a personal choice of Ms. Adele-Marsh to surround
so many commonly used words in quotes ('bar-dyke', 'ballet', 'rough' etc),
or combine that with italics ('handcuffs' or 'hard hat') but
it is quite irritating and unnecessary.
I think 'Crave' is a fantastic book and well
worth the money, but probably for all the wrong reasons. It's dialogue is
funny when it's meant to be sexy, the sex scenes are sometimes hilarious
when they should be horny, and the characters are two-dimensional when they
should have magnificent cleavage. I'm positive that as Wet & Wanton
commission more writers who have varied experience, vivid imagination and
a flair for dialogue and description, they will corner the market in books
that are packed with 'passionate and enthusiastic' lesbian sex. More strength
to their collective elbow.
All © 1992-2001 Megan Radclyffe
Time Out Reviews