I’ve written two novels, one a very old project and one only recently completed.
THE TRAVELER’S COMPANION, now available as an e-book, tells the story of Mark Dearborn who, just out of college and not quite out of the closet, takes off across Europe in the dollar-high summer of 1985, with his much more freewheeling friend Lint. They travel to London, Amsterdam, and Paris, before getting stuck in Venice, where Mark finds himself torn between a sexy older American and a young Italian. But his most complicated entanglement is with Ricka, an erratic American girl who falls spectacularly apart on a trip to Rome. This excerpt introduces the young Italian.
In the first chapter of THE HOUNDS OF HEAVEN, the narrator, who has recently moved to L.A. with his boyfriend, spots a man reading a Bible in a cafe and follows him to a bathhouse. This chance encounter spreads into John’s life, enmeshing him with the man himself (a Pentecostal preacher), a young Sufi postulant, a dying co-worker, and his own nephew, a born-again Christian recently returned from Iraq. This excerpt is from the opening.
A long time a go, I wrote a lot of short stories, but now I almost never do. Here’s an old one that was published in a now-defunct gay weekly, The New York Native. It’s about a custody battle over a cat. Here’s one that I wrote in a Master Class in Short Fiction I took with E.L. Doctorow at NYU’s Florence campus.
Now that I teach essay-writing I’m more inclined to write essays or (more accurately) more inclined to finish the ones I start. I still write them mostly for myself, though on occasion something rough-and-ready ends up on my blog.
Here’s a short essay on stage directions, and a couple of longer ones: on Beirut, where I spent some time over a period of two years, and on the Bernard Baran case, about which for several years I tried to write a screenplay. (See below.)
Like most playwrights, I’ve been asked from time to time to write screenplays. None of them made it within spitting distance of actually being filmed, but here are two of the projects that most interested me:
THE BIRD’S NEST GAME was a project that was close, probably too close, to my heart. It’s based on the horrifying story of Bernard Baran who, as a gay working-class teenager, became the first person actually convicted in the day-care scandals that swept the country in the 80’s. Researching the project, I visited Bee, as he likes to be called, several times in prison, met with his family, and he became a friend. I rewrote the screenplay many times over but never got it right. This excerpt illustrates as well as anything the problems I ran into: trying to make dramatic what I felt so didactically passionate about.
DISCONFIRMED. A long time ago my friend Gwen lent me her battered copy (damaged, significantly, in a flood) of an out-of-print sociology text from the fifties, WHEN PROPHECY FAILS. She knew, I think, that it would feed into all my obsessions about belief and disbelief and the power of irrationality. The book follows a study in which a group of sociology students infiltrate a tiny doomsday cult to learn what happens when a strongly held belief is dramatically disconfirmed. In this case, the cult leader, Marian, has been told through automatic writing that a great flood will destroy the United States but that the faithful will be snatched away by Guardians in spaceships before the terrible day. The screenplay follows one of the students, Caroline, who finds her scientific objectivity undermined by her compassion for Marian and her own unresolved desire to believe in something. Here’s the ending, which I kind of like. The cult has disbanded and Marian has gone into hiding but is still a true believer.