PAGE’S PAGES: Eric Page reviews the best queer lit

February 25, 2022

Writing Our Space: An LGBTQ+ Anthology (out now, £9.95, published by Arkbound Press) is a marvellous anthology offering up to you, Dear Reader, an assured collection of layered experience, delicate, firm, contrasting in flavour, substance, perspective and taste. It’s like a queer mille-feuille, sumptuously constructed so the contrasting tiers combine into something outweighing its constituent parts. With sweet empathic poems, buoyant pose, stark essays of searing truth, all baked in with an editor’s eye for combinations which set off and foil the wider collection.

As an anthology it works, as a compendium of queer voices, gently roaring of lived experience it’s a decadent delight. Its foundation is intersectional, that of the true identity, of us, being each one to ourselves our own infinite variety, depending on where the light falls that day, brining one facet of our multitude of experiences into full furious focus.

The book jumps around, from pain to sardonic observation from the roar of full powered empowerment to a scream of a new life just born, it writhes with potential, but each segment is just a taste of that writer, the windows thrown wide open onto their world. Flung wide we breath in the winds of their change, sail across oceans of possibility in a few short paragraphs and have our hands held in the caverns of endless grief.

Its many voices, each given equal space and time to capture and keep our interest. It’s written by us, for us, with us, to us.  The very paper it’s printed on is queer, it has to be, for it honours the intention of the ink to express personal gospels which contain enchantment.

Writing our Space, with a foreword from editors Eilidh Akilade and Ross Tanner, which explores the genesis of the book and the collection of short pieces elicited from a wide LGBTQ+ pool of writers, is wonderful. I could gush about it, but I’ll say buy it, read it, enjoy it for yourself, then gush.

Supporting publishers which support our community is key to getting our own stories in print and reading about others who share our outlooks and hopes for a better future.

To learn more about Arkbound and order Writing Our Space CLICK HERE

The Chip Shop Wars by Terry Sanderson is book three of the Doreen Potts saga! Older readers may remember Doreen and the Potts family from Gay Times and Sanderson has continued his delightfully comic character and their extraordinary family. Imagine Doncaster of the 1990s, yeah grim! Equal parts comedy, biting social satire and examination of small-town snobbery, the failed dreams of romantics and the ability of a family to pull together in hard times to find new ways of being and belonging.

It’s a fun, light read, tooted in a gritty reality of repossession, rehousing and the struggle to claw yourself back into the place in society you think you deserve. The book allows Doreen and the rest of the Potts family free rein in the world they find themselves cast into and when eventually re-establishing themselves, quite how out of depth they really are.

Using the battle of established against new chip shop, Sanderson spears his favoured subjects, he’s a queer expert on the UK national press and they get a marvellous kicking here, he drags a sacred cow or two on to religious alters and sacrifices them for our pleasure, and turns his rapier eye on the way television likes a willing working-class family to exploit, but amongst all the hard satire and cynical spot on observations of the contradictions of English social climbing there’s a heart of gold. It’s here that Sanderson keeps the Chip Shop Wars on track, by giving this monstrous matriarch unconditional love which gets her and the rest of her brood though the roughest of times. Love them or loath them you root for them to the very last page. Sanderson is our very own queer Tom Sharpe, and serves up thick, deep fried and pure Northern farce with a generous sprinkling of his tart vinegar wit.

Edward Carpenter: A Victorian Rebel Fighting for Gay Rights (Out now, published by Matador) is an excellent look at the life of Carpenter from Hove-based author Brian Anderson, who uses previously unpublished material and personal letters from his lovers and friends to shine a bold new light over the contributions to developments around sexuality and identify that Carpenter gave with his early writings on homosexuality.

Carpenter was embedded in the fabric of Victorian society, privileged in many ways, but struggling with his knowledge of being an outsider. This drive to be honest to his feelings for other men made him an outspoken critic of the society he was part of. His impressive achievement in the way he used his extraordinary writing skills and ability to influence people to gain a foothold and get published during the intense social panics and sexual repressions of the Oscar Wilde ‘scandal’.

Anderson examines the influence and effects of Carpenter’s time at university and his early, fumbling sexually experiences and how they combine to fire up a mind which churns out thought and ideas truly transformative for the times. Carpenter is a rather neglected writer in the annuals of queer libraries familiar to academics and people interested in societal change, but he was a passionate writer and individual.

In this engaging book Anderson holds him up, flaws and all, so everyone can really appreciate the struggles of the man, his quest for authentic living and his passion to tool up and share these freedoms with other people across the world.

I really got a feel for Carpenter as a gay man, living his life, finding his loves and lovers, with daring, passion and pain, carving out a path for us to follow and using his intellect to lay down some seriously ground-breaking writing on sex.

Power Bear by Łukasz Majcher is the all new queer superhero comix with its interwoven stories covering the alien creation of life on earth; a German bear couple who wrestle with the challenges of everyday life and a secret life of superhero adventures is a fun treat.

This first instalment of Łukasz Majcher Power Bear sets up the narrative and back story well.  From overarching threat of apocalyptic alien cancellation of the Earth to the niggles of plus size male relationships the artwork is colourful, engaging and using a subtle queer colour palate to keep the readers attention.

The male couple at the centre of the action are likable with our protagonist Max, who feels trapped in a never-ending cycle of meaninglessness and struggles with his lack of energy or passion for life impacting negatively on his mental health, depleted after emotional exhaustion takes its toll on him.

It’s here that the comic book comes into its own, swerving up a queer centric story of a super hero struggling with the impact of their own traumas whilst being a hero for the LGBTQ+ community around them.

Set in a vividly familiar Berlin, with a tender domestic narrative wrapped in amongst the super powered antics and quirky alien omnipotent, Power Bear sets itself up for an interesting ride. It would have been good to learn more of Max’s story in the first issue.

To order and learn more about  the authors CLICK HERE