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04/19/2007


Jason K. Friedman's 'Fire Year': Book Review

BY GARTH GREENWELL

Fire YearIt’s not surprising that a collection centered on gay Jewish experience in the American South would be filled with outsiders. The seven stories in Jason K. Friedman’s rich, funny and finally very moving debut all feature characters who feel like transplants in a strange land, even though often enough it’s the land to which they were born.

In several of these stories, sexuality is among the reasons for this sense of displacement. In “Blue,” the opening piece, a boy takes refuge in religion after a night watching hotel porn, when he realizes his excitements are different from those of his classmates. In “Reunion,” a forty-year-old gay man returns home from New York to find himself embroiled in a brief and bewildering affair with the star athlete of his class, now married with kids. “A little air started to leak in around the edges of the me who was filling the space of my body,” the narrator says, “the confident new me I was presenting." 

But these characters’ sense of apartness persists even when sexuality in itself is no longer a source of conflict. In “There’s Hope for Us All,” the book’s longest story and also one of its best, a young art historian finds himself working at a small museum in Atlanta, having failed to find an academic job after earning his Ph.D. from Yale. Adrift in the sprawling urban landscape of the New South, “a city of suburbs and ring roads,” and estranged from his Guyanese boyfriend, he makes a discovery that will bring him sudden fame and also a fuller sense of his own isolation. 

Friedman has already been compared to Philip Roth, and the first two stories here have something of Roth’s erotic comedy and brilliant sense of Jewish life in the suburbs. Salvatore Scibona, who selected Fire Year for the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, also invokes Saul Bellow in characterizing Friedman’s work. But as I read this collection, I found myself thinking most often of the third in that trio of 20th-century Jewish American greats, Bernard Malamud, whose stories and novels are sriking, like Friedman's stories, both for their elegance and for the extraordinary compassion they show for their characters. 

Jason_Friedman_Photo This compassion is most evident in the book’s tremendously good title story, the last piece in the collection and the only one that takes place outside of America. In an unspecified country in an unspecified time, a boy comes of age in a Jewish town cursed to burn every seven years. The son of a great Rabbi, feared for his mysterious tie to the fires that plague the town, Zev’s own fears center on the desire that seems to blight his life, separating him both from his father and from the brother he loves, making him “a sapless tree, a dry well.” With its gorgeous, surprisingly redemptive end, “Fire Year” is among the best stories I’ve read all year.

Having recently published Caitlin Horrocks’s tremendous first collection of stories, and with Kyle Minor’s much anticipated second collection out in February, Sarabande Books is cornering the market on exciting young writers of short fiction. Fire Year is an excellent addition to their list. Friedman’s bio suggests that he may have a novel in the works; if it’s anything like these terrific stories, I can’t wait.

Previous reviews...
David Levithan’s ‘Two Boys Kissing’
Thomas Glave’s ‘Among the Bloodpeople: Politics and Flesh’
Duncan Fallowell’s ‘How to Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits’
Frank Bidart’s ‘Metaphysical Dog’



Garth Greenwell is the author of Mitko, which won the 2010 Miami University Press Novella Prize and was a finalist for both the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award and a Lambda Award. He is currently an Arts Fellow at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.


Gay Rights Activists to Protest Coca-Cola Headquarters Today Over Sochi 2014 Olympics

Sochiallout

The activist group AllOut is planning a protest at Coca-Cola's headquarters in Atlanta today at 12:30 pm, Atlanta INtown reports:

 The organization is asking for the soft drink giant to call for a repeal of Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Coke is one of the largest sponsors of the Olympic games.

AllOut has been pressuring Coca-Cola executives to speak out against Russia's anti-gay laws and a petition has received more than 350,000 signatures urging the company to do so.


Gay, African-American City Council Candidate Drops Out Of Race In Atlanta, Endorses Incumbent

Jon Jones reportedly dropped out of the Atlanta City Council race, according to Atlanta Progressive News. As Towleroad reported less than a month ago, Jones would have been the first openly gay, African-American man elected to the city council. Jones cited fracturing votes in a competitive race as the impetus for his removal, and he is now backing the incumbent candidate for District 5, Natalyn Archibong.

JonjonesGA Voice reports:

Before Jones dropped out, there were four opponents trying to unseat Archibong, who has held the District 5 seat since 2001. 

The three remaining candidates are Matt Rinker and Christine Enterkin, both openly gay; and John Paul Michalik. 

...

"If I stay in the race, it could fracture the vote. It could lead to District 5 losing… someone who’s genuinely worked on their behalf, and replaced with a candidate that’s unknown, Matt Rinker or Christian Enterkin. They stand on their promises, but they don’t come close to the record that Natalyn has,” Jones told APN.

Archibong told APN she was "humbled" by Jones backing her.

Jones will be missed in what could have been a historic election.  

For her part, Archibong has been embroiled in controversy after reports came out regarding an $11,000 sum she paid to her brother's company between 2007 and 2008. She has settled with the Board of Ethics to pay a $250 fine.  


Atlanta May Get Its First Gay Black City Councilman

Jon jones web story

Jon Jones is seeking to make history is Atlanta, a city with a strong LGBT population of color, by becoming the first black gay man elected to the Atlanta City Council.  He's up against two other openly gay candidates--Matt Rinker, who's won the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans, and Christine Enterkin--in his campaign the for the District 5 seat on the Council, and as the GA Voice reports, Jones hopes to put more of the power in Atlanta in the hands of the people:

Jones said he wants to implement "direct democracy" into the Atlanta City Council — a way to allow residents to actually vote, through their computers or smart phones — on legislative issues.

"This is a way to allow technology to play a role in the decision making process," he said. "Under my plan of direct democracy, you choose for yourself. People log in anytime there is an initiative up for a vote and each person gets to vote," he said.

And what the majority decides is what Jones will vote for. This way, he said. it's not only one person representing thousands of people.

"Each person is getting an equal seat at the table," he said.

Jones also told the GA Voice that he would decline a raise that the city council members had given themselves and would instead redirect that money back to taxpayers.

Last December, the Atlanta City Council approved a resolution supporting marriage equality, although Mayor Kasim Reed declined to express his own support.

While Jones would be the first gay person of color on the council, he would not be its first out member. Alex Wan, who is running for reelection to the District 6 seat, and two past members, Cathy Woolard and Anne Fauver, are all gay.


NEWS: Turner Field, Drug Sentences, The Deficit, Clinton 2016, Musicians, and Superheroes

 Road President Obama has announced the leader of its new independent committee that will be investigating potential ethics violations by the nation's surveillance programs. At the head of the committee is James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence who has already previously misled Congress. Turnerfield

Road A Georgia man fell to his death last night at Atlanta's Turner Field during a match-up between the Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Road US Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that he will work to cut mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses, stating that "too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long."

Road Current peace talks taking place between Israel and Palestine are facing potential problems as 26 long-term prisoners were moved by Israeli officials shortly before their release.

 Road North Dakota's U.S. attorney Timothy Purdon addressed a crowd of hundreds during a recent joint Pride Celebration hosted by Fargo and Moorhead, MN. During his impassioned speech, he told the state's LGBT citizens point-blank: "you have an ally". 

Road The U.S. Government announced yesterday that its budget deficit through July of next year will be 37.6 percent, and that the budget starting in September 2014 is on its way to having the smallest deficit in five years. 

Road Rihanna and Katy Perry recently reunited during a restaurant opening in NYC. No word yet as to whether there were any more "quasi-bi" antics this time around. 

Road Anthony Weiner, intentionally or not, teased a 2016 bid by Hillary Clinton for President of the United States, telling Buzzfeed that he "knows his wife's role" in the upcoming campaign. 

Road Adele is currently in talks to make a cameo appearance in Mathew Vaughn's upcoming film The Secret Service. If successful, she will be appearing in the film alongside David Beckham and Elton John. 

Road Those wishing to partake of fried food without the sting of racism can breathe a little easier

Road The Wanted released a new music video. Apparently, they also own the night. Who knew? Batman Wedding

Road Lady Gaga committed another possible fashion faux-pas in her quest to obtain even more "Applause". 

Road Meanwhile, Madonna was possibly channelling her uber-butch self a little too much during a recent paintball game. 

Road Breaking Bad continues with its ultra-violent final season.

Road Robert Downey, Jr continues to roll in it after new endorsement deals follow him after his successes with The Avengers and Iron Man 3

Road Torn between you love for your hubby and your love for Batman? Can't decide how to properly honor them both. Just do what these two guys did!


Georgia Pastor Gets Standing Ovation for Kicking Boy Scouts Out of Church: VIDEO

Easley

A Marietta, Georgia church kicked out Boy Scouts Troop 204 after the organization said they were accepting gay scouts and Roswell Street Baptist Church Senior Pastor Ernest Easley said he got a standing ovation from his congregation when he made the announcement, WSBTV reports:

Easley said his congregation gave him a standing ovation when he announced his decision to no longer sponsor the troop, which has been meeting at the church for 68 years. He said the stance the Boy Scouts has taken is not only contrary to the word of God, but it puts young people at risk.

"You've got boys in there in a tent that are sexually attractive to other boys, whose hormones are going off the wall. Something is going to happen," Easley said.

Another church, Unity North Atlanta Church in Marietta, has already offered the evicted scout troop a home.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Georgia Pastor Gets Standing Ovation for Kicking Boy Scouts Out of Church: VIDEO" »


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