With my (current) partner’s children running around, it’s been difficult to write anything. Between the noise of absurd fights over nothing (as an only child, I honestly don’t think I’ll ever understand sibling fights over trivial nonsense) and just feeling generally uncomfortable because of a severe lack of time alone, I pretty much gave up writing anything; I couldn’t hear myself think most days. So I’m going to do a quick round-up of some of the books I’ve read. It might take a while!
The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox
Knox’s novel has an interesting concept that is poorly executed: The story is about a man, a vintner named Sobran, who meets an angel called Xas who changes his luck. He leads a prosperous life that is helped by this angel’s intervention, but he ends up falling in love with him. Throughout the course of their friendship, Sobran learns that Xas is not a heavenly angel but one from hell and is thrown into a state of grieving and confusion. Some of this is related to the views on queerness and the struggle to understand both their mutual and individual feelings for each other.
The first half of that is interesting; I was expecting the novel to be much more intriguing, but it started off far too slowly and tries far too hard to do … well, anything at all. It’s as if the author is trying their best to do something different and ‘more elegant’ than other stories in the same genre. Most of the characters are entirely forgettable, which sadly applies to every single person who isn’t either Sobran or Xas; I often found myself confusing some people for others, either having to search for them in prior pages to remember what their role was or hoping there would be a reminder somewhere in future passages. There is such a lack of depth for the stories that weave the characters together that you could delete much of this novel and be left with a short story that achieves the same goal.
Regarding the queer relationship, I was initially excited about it. I’d read multiple reviews that described the ‘gay’ relationship, but it seems that every single person who described the relationship as gay is from a world where Bisexuality Isn’t A Thing. As a bisexual woman, that is entirely frustrating. It’s quite clear that Sobran is not a gay man, especially with regards to modern terminology. He’d once been happily engaged in a relationship with his wife Celeste, producing multiple children (which the reader has to keep straight or just shrug off because none of them have personalities), but his history with another man known as Baptiste Kalmann is sometimes mentioned; though he was engaged in a relationship with Xas, it was later shown that Sobran had a deep relationship with a Aurora, a woman for whom he worked.
But these relationships lack depth, especially that of Xas and Sobran. There are far too many things that are completely glossed over, which leaves a lot of it feeling completely unfinished and needlessly confusing. I can’t say that I’d recommend it happily, even with the complete dearth of novels specifically about bisexual people.
The Accidental After Life of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne
I was so looking forward to reading this novel after having finished Coda; I loved the way that Trevayne had written that novel so much that I was expecting something similar from this one. I was rather let down.
This novel is about a boy, Thomas, who finds a corpse that looks a lot like him while he’s looting graves searching for valuables with his family to hock in order to survive. During that time, he learns that he’s actually a faery with a special power that could potentially save all of the others. It’s a story concept that I was rather intrigued by, as I thought it would deal quite a bit with minor areas of classism; it would’ve been nice to see that, especially as it’s written for a younger teenage audience, and that seems to be a theme that’s often overlooked for that particular demographic.
The biggest let down was that it was such a slow story and so repetitive. It often felt as if Trevayne believed her readers have the memory of a goldfish with the amount of times she reminded us of what she’d written merely pages before. I couldn’t forget Thomas’s fear of helping the faeries and losing himself because she kept giving me slightly reworded complaints about how he didn’t know if he’d die; I couldn’t forget the faeries being hurt by metal because it seemed that one would flinch away from the ‘feeling’ of iron every other sentence.
It was just… boring, which is unfortunate because there was a nice backbone that could’ve been better utilised.
American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men by David McConnell
I was looking forward to reading this particular book, especially since I received it after the news broke about the Pulse Night Club Shooting in Orlando. It seemed strangely appropriate because of the amount of homophobic sentiment that was taking place (not to mention the amount of racist rhetoric that was simultaneously occurring), and I was hoping there would be adequate discussion about toxic masculinity and how it often results in what we’ve annoyingly termed as Gay Panic.
It didn’t do that at all, and there were far too many questionable elements to even make it feel like a decent discussion regarding how sexuality and masculinity interact.
In particular, there was the discussion of Steven “Scooby” Parrish‘s murder, which took place because he was believed to be ‘gay’ after his murderers discovered ‘gay’ text messages on his phone. The biggest problematic aspect of McConnell’s retelling of that story is that he’s neglecting the intersections with race; he barely mentions the fact that Parrish was a Black man, and he barely touches on how queer people of colour are often treated much differently than queer white people.
That difference in treatment is made even more clear when Deray Mckesson, known for his activism with Black Lives Matter and his mayoral campaign in Baltimore, came out as gay and many Black men stopped standing with him; it’s been seen with the unnecessary questioning of Odell Beckham Jr‘s sexuality. It isn’t to say that this only happens within the Black community; it doesn’t, but it does take shape in different ways that need to be discussed in order to adequately address the issue that happened in Parrish’s murder. He needed only to include someone who could provide him with first-hand information on how race and sexuality intersect to address that issue.
When it came to the other murders, they were described a lot differently. Those focused a lot more on Gay Panic, which was especially true when he discussed the murder of Scott Amedure. It felt as if there were similar messages written about the murders of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, which was slightly more awkward as the primary theme running through that story was related to how fanatical religion could potentially cause violence towards people it refuses to understand. It seemed to be a major part of Steven Domer‘s murder, even when a larger theme that kept running through his narrative was that being forced to keep your identity hidden could lead to creating potential danger without obvious motives. The same could even be said of the description of George Weber‘s murder, which also included aspects of the ‘closeted’ narrative without discussing the reasons for why a person might hide their sexuality.
Overall, there were so many aspects that could’ve been discussed about each case study that McConnell chose that he completely neglected. There are so many things about the combination of masculinity and heteronormativity that can potentially lead toward this violence, and he misses so many of them.