Lip Service
M. J. Rose
(Lady Chatterley's Library)


The success of Vox --- that tiny, sassy novel of telephone sex --- has obviously opened the flood-gates, and Lip Service is one of the driblets we have to put up with. One quickly wearies of the heroine, burbling into the telephone how "wet" she is, while her caller describes in tedious detail how busy his tongue is going to be when they finally get together. He asks all sorts of questions about how she tastes, and what she does with herself when she is in the bathroom. Presumably, she has no trouble chatting idly with any anonymous passion-pot who wants to get into her ear, but all we want is to get her to put down that dratted candle (candle!) and get on with her life and stop making so many slurping, panting, squishing, wet noises.

Our suggestion: if you are one of those people who are goes gaga over anonymous voices on the telephone, let your fingers do the walking to the nearest Sex line, which will give you --- we suspect --- a bit bigger bang for the buck than Lip Service.

Go to the
of the author of Lip Service

Carol E Parrish-Harra
Edited by
Maggie Webb-Adams

(Sparrow Hawk)
Sometimes, we think if we have to read yet another neo-Buddhist "let-me-comfort-you on-your-journey" tome we'll scream. Reflections is an excellent example --- an overweening mix of Lao T'se, the I Ching, Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Baba Boo Bubby.

    Master says, "Remember this, for when life is hard, you will need to know what you have seen."

Not "A Master..." or "The Master..." but just "Master." Whatever he's saying is, to put a kind face on it, totally indecipherable.

One of our friends who puts "a lot of energy" (her words) into meditation, and calming the mind, and loving the self, says that when her lungs give out on her (she has emphysema) you can throw that "now let's center ourselves" nonsense out the window (try not being able to breathe and going with the flow at the same time).

She says, too, that she's damn sick and tired of hearing that the Awfuls of Living are part of being on the path, our woes were sent along to teach us patience and humility.

    The heart of the soul emits a celestial flame.
    As holy hearts sing, tones burst into the light.
    Love flows, fervor grows, grace abounds...

Here we are with the baby screaming, the electric company about to shut off the gas, Mumsie phoning every five minutes with that "I told you so!" --- and Parrish-Hara is intoning,

    Ripples move outward, ever expanding
    taking light to dark corners awaiting, awakening...

We're thinking that if we could send the kids over to board with Parrish-Harra for a few weeks in her nunnery or ashram or bikkhu or whatever the hell they call it, then we'd have some time to work on being on the path.

    You are stubborn and must be moved through difficulties so you can be more flexible for our use...

Awk. As an old girlfriend of ours used to say when we used the first person plural in such an all-encumbering fashion, "We? We? Who 'we?' You got a frog in your pocket?"

A Fine Day
For A
Marlene Joyce Pearson
(Red Hen)

Then comes someone like Pearson, writing
    The same hour Christ died I started my period
    Friday, three o'clock, the bell rang
    I ran home from school. Just enough time to down
    a glass of milk and go to the bathroom before Mr. Flores knocked
    at the door for my piano lesson.

Here's someone whose life is just as chaotic as those of the rest of us --- and so she sticks it in a poem, poems that are funny and alive and sad and wistful and hurting and wise and agonizing:

    My friend says her teeth hurt, needs to see
    a dentist but her insurance agent says, "no, no,"
    and she worries she will lose her toothbrush.

    Is this what it all struggles down to finally?
    Just us humans wishing some control,
    some power, to matter somehow?
    We humans have power to blast bombs
    over Nevada, over Nagasaki. But in the end
    we don't know much --- this thrusting,
    this holding on.

I suppose, if you wanted to pin Pearson on the wall, to figure out where she's coming from, you might say she's a bit dada-imagist, with a good dose of reality, and maybe a tad of Eliot and Lawrence to top it off. Her words reflect a childhood filled with the harsh world of Bible and poverty and beatings and love-hunger --- but all leavened (as it always must be) with a wry sense of the ridiculousness. She defines life as "a bowling alley," St. Christopher's halo slips down his neck "like a hangman's noose," and her father thinks if he builds coops for chinchillas he'll "make millions."

As for her piano lesson, she had to stick a cotton wad "inside my pants and held my legs together," and isn't that the way it's always going to be, always? They push through the door just when your world is falling apart --- and you have to pretend that it is not so. Just for protection.


Go to
more poems
of Marlene Joyce Pearson.

Writing in
Academic Life
in Subordination

Terry Caesar

Evidently Caesar wants to tell us how terrible it is in academia, what with bureaucracy and petty power struggles and the memos, and the pain of teaching students who'd rather be at home watching "The X-Files." But our reading is that he's been in the mix of it too long: his passion is blunted by his own slightly fey presentation. In other words, his words are just a bit too collegiate to complain about life in the collegiate world.

When he gets on his favorite beef --- the Kafkaesque world of dissertations and the strange relationship between advisor and student --- our reaction is, "If it's so stupid, get out of it, stupid." But evidently Caesar can't leave it alone (his biographical notes tell us that he's still a Professor of English at Clarion University, wherever that is).

Writing in Disguise comes across as no more nor less than an extended whine. It's very ivy-league, all very elevated --- with appropriate detail, structure, and language --- but it's a whine, just the same. It's hard to be touched by someone who doesn't want to be bothered to get up and out of the burning building.

The author should consider changing the name to Whining in Disguise.

The Rise and
Fall of Gay
Daniel Harris

Lest readers think that Harris is coming off as the Robespierre of the gay world, he hastens, in the Introduction, to present us with his credentials: that he is gay, and that he is not to destroy "gay culture" but to glorify what it used to be. His thesis is that, with the business world recognizing the immense spending power of gays, the old customs and rituals are disappearing, "...our involvement with the arts and camp, our highly mannered style of humor..." is threatened with extinction. It's an interesting thesis, for Harris is no dummy, and he's good with the insights and the historical facts.

One of Harris' most controversial articles has been "The Kitschification of AIDS" --- which first appeared in Harpers. He refers to it as "the marketing of a disease," says that the Quilt "exudes a spurious aura...of kindly old grannies in bifocals and bonnets stitching up a storm," although he admits that this "folk art" is necessary for the politics of AIDS, "a convenient substitute for the iconography of the Christian church."

The author is at his best when he is telling of the good old days --- good old days being a half-a-century ago. He has special fondness for the comic books that came out of Tijuana in the 40s and 50s, replete with hitchhikers, farm boys, and sailors on leave. Although filled with misspellings and typos, there was a quaintness that he admires --- not merely an affection for the euphemisms ("love muscle," "ding-donger," and "that little thing-a-jig,") but what he senses as the pure guiltlessness of it, an "exuberant which gay and straight sex exist side by side...exhibiting an enlightened sexual tolerance that seems well in advance of its time."

Those who care about the gay world, and its evolution, could do no better than The Rise and Fall --- especially with its fascinating asides: that the first gay personals appeared in a magazine called The Hobby Directory --- being the house organ of the National Association of Hobbyists for Men and Boys; that pornography shows us "how sex should look" and thus is "prescriptive and judgmental;" that Judy Garland concerts were a place where homosexuals could be themselves, with the singer merely acting as "hostess;" (the concerts, he says, were a "contemporary be-in," perhaps even "a dry run for Stonewall;") that the commercialization of homosexuality has divested the gay world of a fine --- even pure --- identity.

In truth, Harris is a romantic Marxist, one who sees the villain as untrammeled capitalism, running roughshod over the gay innocence of the 40s and 50s --- where all was hidden, except from those who were looking.

--- Lolita Lark

Go Home     Subscribe to RALPH     Go Up