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The next Brokeback.

Here's my advice to all of you who are still broken up about Brokeback Mountain's loss at the Oscars. Head to your local gay bookstore and shell out a few bucks for something besides porn. As it turns out, Jack and Ennis weren't hatched during a pitch meeting at the Ivy. They first came to life in the pages of The New Yorker, a magazine driven almost entirely by words alone.

In some sense, the literary origin of Brokeback--and the highly visible marketing of Annie Proulx's short story, on which it is based--has masked a spreading indifference to the written word among gay men. Gay op-ed pages abound with condemnations of the formulaic treatment we receive on television sitcoms, but any defense of the gay bookstore and the much wider array of representations it offers is weak at best. At worst, we get dismissive essays from successful gay authors who seem determined to disregard the bookstores that helped give them their start.

Rather than spending all of our energy trying to guilt-trip the media into representing us more diversely, it's time we put our passion and our dollars behind the nuanced representations of gay men that have already been written.

Don't think you're part of the problem? Here's a test. Which of the following do you recognize? Mack Friedman, Richard McCann, Barry McCrea, Vestal McIntyre, Sulayman X, Aaron Hamburger, Dennis Cooper, Harlan Greene, Thorn Kief Hillsbery, Keith McDermott, Patrick Ryan, Blair Mastbaum, Bart Yates, K.M. Soehnlein, Michael Lowenthal, Eric Shaw Quinn, John Morgan Wilson. This is but a small sampling of current writers whose work collapses stereotypes of gay men. (Here's hoping you're already familiar with living gay literary lions such as Alan Hollinghurst, Felice Picano, Andrew Holleran, Edmund White and others.)

If big gestures are more your style, get out your checkbook and spend a paltry $25 to join the struggling Lambda Literary Foundation--sponsor of the Lammy awards--the only organization dedicated to increasing the visibility of LGBT writers.

All of that's pretty easy. The hard part will be letting go of excuses like "I try to read before bed but I fall asleep" to which I'm always tempted to reply that I hope you don't read the CNN news ticker while on the treadmill. Patronizing your local gay bookstore and setting aside 20 minutes each night to read is not too much to ask when the next gay-themed film to take American culture by storm may be at stake.

Otherwise, we had better prepare ourselves for an endless slate of happy-go-lucky sex comedies firmly rooted in the "taming the go-go boy" school of storytelling.

Brokeback is just one of many recent successful films that are faithful adaptations of written source material. In Brokeback's case, it was the short story's impact on several well-placed straight filmmakers that ultimately carried it toward the big screen.

That's because gay men have been remiss in forming a potent segment of the book-buying public with the power to nudge gay titles into the Hollywood pipeline. If we truly want Hollywood to present us with representations of gay men that challenge and even devastate us, this situation needs to change. And why shouldn't it? After all, we each have the power to change it before bedtime tonight.
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Title Annotation:COASTAL DISTURBANCES; gay literature
Author:Rice, Christopher
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 9, 2006
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