Can a woman, straight or lesbian, write male/male romance? What about the sex scenes?
Coming out is a central part of LGBTQ lore, almost mythical, a rite of passage, often high risk, about revealing your secret inner core to those you care about, that you are different, perhaps that you are part of the dreaded “other,” and the risk of being rejected, ejected, mocked or worse, depending on where you live and the mindset of of your family and friends. The fear of seeing your parents look hurt, disappointed, like they have somehow failed, often hangs heavy in the decision making. It is different for everyone, and living through it is intensely personal. Every LGBTQ person has their own story. Given the growing acceptance of homosexuality now in the U.S., it is a far more positive environment than it was thirty years ago. For myself, I never had the conversation with my parents; they died young and I was convinced they had to know but never seemed to find the right time to talk. I regret not having the conversation.
In today’s musings, I will deal with the baseball book. Another time I’ll look at M/M romance, as it is known as. Fascinatingly, the majority of M/M romance authors appear to be women. And the sex scenes can be a little intense and humorous at times as the author imagines what the guy feels and, indeed, the limits of male sexual capacity. But another time.
I recently came across a fascinating gay sports book called: Baseball Comes Out, A Revolutionary Novel. By Jack Saunders.
I know Jack and worked with him at Pacific Bell many years ago. He was a brilliant speech writer for the senior officers. His prose was so good it often outmatched the capacity of our leadership to deliver it. CEOs are not always effective public speakers, and sometimes, not very good managers. He also wrote several speeches for Michael Dukakis late in the presidential campaign when the Democrat was rising in the polls. Jack’s powerful, populist rhetoric was inspiring and, unfortunately, too late in the campaign.
Baseball Comes Out is written in noir style—I hear a bit of Sam Spade—almost historical in scope, a great fantasy tale that never happened but could have, set a few years back in time, before gay marriage, yet still contemporary, about the first major league baseball star getting outed. And his sexual interests are on the kinky side of gay.
It is told mostly in the voice of a 70-year-old straight San Francisco Chronicle reporter and the old-style public relations leader of the San Francisco Giants. Thus, unlike many “gay” books, the narrator is not the gay man who is the focus of the novel. It’s about how a team, the players, the league, the PR pros, and the rich owners operate in private. It is about manipulating the public and the cynicism/idealism that is central to their work. It’s about using the coming out of one handsome and talented player for mixed purposes. One to destroy him (led by the uber-Christian owner of another team). The other is to use him for the good of the team, expanding paid attendance through myth building. As a gay man who has almost no interest in sports, particularly baseball (and golf), I liked this book. As a former PR executive myself, I understand the unfortunate manipulation and dishonesty often involved in campaigns and advertising.
The Prologue sets the tone. Here is the voice of the Chronicle reporter, looking back, the first line in the novel.
“I got fired and won the Pulitzer Prize, all in one year. For the very same story.”
When the shock subsides (after the player is outed in a gay S&M newspaper), we eventually find sudden enlightenment meeting enlightened self-interest as the team PR man talks with the outside PR attack team led by a guy named Rita. Here’s a conversation between straight, old PR guys who focus on issues other than Billy Gallagher, the gay phenom pitcher, and his boyfriend, Munoz. One of the key men is named Curly. Perfect.
“Here’s the idea that Rita plugged into the equation, and it hit me like the sun coming up. The whole anti-gay prejudice in this country, most of it anyway, is confined to older folks. It’s a sex crime. And guess what? There are no consensual sex crime among younger people. It just doesn’t compute for them. The Grim Reaper as an agent of social change. Curly, this whole issue is going away, right now, like the morning fog, no matter what anybody does.”
Old farts. I swallowed hard, realizing he was talking about a better world to come, one without me. Annie’s world. So, good. I was all for cutting this crap out before she had to muck with it.
I spent the whole game today on the phone lining up consultants and headhunters to help me ramp up. He’s throwing numbers around—like three million Gallagher jerseys by the end of this year. Two million Munoz. Rita thinks those two jerseys will end up among the top ten Christmas gift items this year. You hit that list, man, and you make some major money.”
Gallagher is tall, handsome, aloof, rich (born that way), unlikable, intensely private, sexually provocative and emerging as both gay and possibly one of the great pitchers in baseball. His boyfriend is a catcher on the team. Use your own imagination on that.
On Amazon it is listed as a gay book. It is not and should have a broader classification, something in sports. It is an inside baseball, inside high-powered public relations, inside crisis management and about a proud and talented player who happens to be kinky gay at a time before plain vanilla gay sex was acceptable to many Americans, testosterone fueled, macho athletes and clueless team owners.
My downside criticism would be for today’s iPhone audience, the dialogue might be long at times, and the ending a bit disappointing although ironic and funny. I wanted more on Gallagher. But it is a good read. Think about Humphrey Bogart playing Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon and you get a sense of the tone. Movies and books of that 1930s era had a clipped, tough guy style. People actually talked to each other to communicate. Now there is a concept.