Archives for October 2016
This post is part of an ongoing interview with author Mark John Isola about his forthcoming book Inky Flesh, so check back for more questions. Once posted, a link following the current Q&A will allow you to click through to read the next question–or begin reading from the first question: Why the title Inky Flesh? Quotes that are reasonably sized and maintain the context of the discussion are permitted for review, interview, academic, and blogging purposes—a link to the web page quoted will help maintain context.
Here is the next question:
Cal: How does the theme of rejection work in your stories?
MJ: Rejection can prompt different things in a person’s life. While it can take lives, it may also be understood through the Christian sense of “dying to the self.” Simply put, the old self dies before a new one begins. Some might call this rebirth. Here, a person takes up their personal cross as they embark on a new and higher level journey. So, rejection can prompt resurrection, or as I prefer to think about it, reincarnation.
This helps explain why the superhero story often feels just one step away from being a gay narrative. It’s this tension not the tights.
What I am talking about is close to Joyce’s sense of an epiphany, which also moves out from a spiritual model. Epiphany often features in short fiction. This transformative potential explains my preference for writing short stories to get at these themes.
Rejection is, we need to keep in mind, a serious consideration, especially for gay adolescents, who are much more likely to attempt suicide than their hetero-peers. Suicide remains a leading cause of death for gay and lesbian youth. This speaks to the durability of the gay diaspora even in the era of gay marriage.
Being yourself in a culture that disapproves of one’s sexual truth has never been easy nor safe, and this remains true.
As it goes, death and rebirth are generally significant themes that have been very productive for telling stories. Joseph Campbell has brilliantly discussed both as central components of the hero’s journey. These merely take on particular resonance within the GLBT experience. This is the gay bildungsroman. This is why rejection and reincarnation often appear in my short stories.
Here is a sneak peek excerpt from the story “Falling.” In this story, a man attends a wedding on his own, but he unexpectedly encounters someone from his past. I hope you enjoy this preview as I continue working on publishing Inky Flesh. I am on the verge of providing final approval for the cover, so we are progressively moving toward publication.
Meanwhile, here is the opening from “Falling”:
John let his eyes drift over the wedding guests like a leaf drifting across an empty city lot. He leaned against the edge of the bar. This physical support bolstered him psychologically, for he was not feeling confident. He was at a wedding he had dreaded attending for weeks. Despite his best efforts, he was alone, and he barely knew any of the guests. He did not want to come but felt obligated to be there.
The reception had begun, and everyone was drinking while the bride and groom busied themselves taking pictures at a nearby park. John knew this meant the sit down dinner would not begin for a couple hours. He would have to single-mingle until then. This awareness made him painfully conscious of his unescorted bachelor status at the wedding. Images of ex-boyfriends, fickle friends, forgotten invitations, and broken plans vexed him as he searched the room for a sympathetic face. Lost in his thoughts, he neglected to lift his elbow off the bar as he turned to scan the room, causing it to fall forcefully to his side. Luckily, no one seemed to have noticed his clumsiness. He continued looking through the crowd to detect any sign of friendliness to save him from his painfully self-conscious aloneness.
Unexpectedly, he thought he recognized another guest at the end of the bar. He tried to see the face he well-remembered through the change of so many years. He strained his eyes as his memory sharpened his vision. He stood motionless and unable to register another thought as the eye of memory morphed the face into the shape it held years prior: The firelight illuminated the masculine contours of his face and caused a flickering shadow of his cockstand to dance across his stomach as he listened to me read a Shakespeare sonnet: So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. These memories stirred within him as he realized it was Shawn.
John became uneasy when he noticed Shawn returning his studying stare. Their eye contact made him nervous. The sounds of the room receded as a single voice rose above the others: “Has anyone seen Christopher lately?” The answer was lost in the crowd’s din as the two men stood staring. In keeping with gay protocols, which require no response when publically encountering someone with whom you have had sex, neither man reacted to the presence of the other with anything more than the slightest change in the expression of their eyes, but this eye play was enough to signal mutual recognition. If there is such a thing as Hemingway cool, there is also this—gay calm, which refuses even the blink of an eye in such situations.
John wondered what Shawn saw all these years later: What do you see? Thinner hair? The appearance of gray? Shorter than you remembered? Taller? Have you thought about me before now? As they continued staring, John sensed a similar turmoil over their surprise meeting within Shawn’s eyes. Staring directly into them, he was certain Shawn was recollecting him: Firelight streaked across his face seconds before I pressed my lips to his head. His cock was hard and tight. He pressed at my ass with his fingertips. He parted it further and further with his fingers. As I slid my mouth over his cock, I felt him lick my . . . no one had ever—
The break in Shawn’s thoughts registered in his eyes as John abruptly returned to the present. He watched as Shawn nonchalantly responded to a hand placed on his shoulder by the man standing behind him. John watched the hand until it was removed from Shawn’s shoulder as the man turned to face the woman standing beside him. Apparently, Shawn had been referenced but was not a part of their rather animated conversation.
Facing John once again, Shawn waited for the man and woman to shift their attention before jerking his head in the direction of the lobby. He then stood and walked toward it. John’s eyes followed until Shawn disappeared into the lobby.
He knew he was supposed to follow, but . . . the story continues this fall with the release of Inky Flesh.