Out in Print
â€śMy Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Themâ€ť
Edited by Michael Montlack
c.2009, Terrace Books $24.95 / $29.95 Canada 304 pages
Youâ€™re not a painter.
Youâ€™ve never, in fact, had any desire to pick up a brush other than one for your hair. But still, the second you gazed upon that picture, it strangely, suddenly felt like everything in your life shifted into place.
Or maybe itâ€™s music that inspires you, or a poem or story that makes certain emotions hit you hard. Perhaps itâ€™s a film or play that you could watch over and over and over and never see the same thing. Whatever it is, there might not be anyone else who understands, but youâ€™ve found something that makes life somehow right.
Whoâ€™s your muse?
In the new book â€śMy Divaâ€ť, edited by Michael Montlack, youâ€™ll read about the women who changed the lives of 65 gay men.
In his introduction, Michael Montlack says that he always felt a book like this was waiting to be written. â€śThe book just seemed to make sense on so many levels,â€ť he writes. â€śGay men and divas â€“ like Gertrude and Alice, smoke and mirrors, Patsy and Edina. It was sure to be organicâ€¦.â€ť
So he asked around and within two weeks, forty contributors had responded. Eventually, sixty-five gay men ages â€śtwenty-something to eighty-somethingâ€ť from various places around the world shared their love; most of them, for women theyâ€™d never met.
Writer Patrick Letellier writes about his muse, Elizabeth I. â€śI told myself that if Elizabeth could withstand the Spanish invasion with grace and grit, surely I could survive the loss of a dear friend [to AIDS].â€ť
Musicians and singers are highly represented in this book, including Cher and Cyndi Lauper; Bessie Smith (â€śdefiant, strong, and dominantâ€ť); Eartha Kitt; and Montlackâ€™s own Stevie Nicks (â€śan adopted fairy godmotherâ€ť).
And then, there are the divas of TV and screen: Jessica Lange, with the laugh that poet Allen Smith can never forget; Auntie Mame, who made author Lewis DeSimone feel protected; and TVâ€™s Endora, whose witchy powers were there for a young boy who needed them.
The interesting thing about â€śMy Divaâ€ť is that, individually, the stories feel rather voyeuristically weird. Many of the authors admit to having spent all their money on music, watching movies dozens of times, never missing a TV show that starred the diva. The tales border on a fanâ€™s obsession times ten and if you were only to read one of them, you probably wouldnâ€™t much like it.
But collectively, these stories blossom into a full-fledged love letter to women who inspired, written by men who were once boys that badly needed encouragement. Filled with short chapters of thoughtful sentiment, they capture sadness and joy, confusion and wishing, friendship and adolescent longing, as well as a sort of â€śthank-youâ€ť to women who were supportive, even if they didnâ€™t know they were.
â€śMy Divaâ€ť is not the kind of book youâ€™ll want to rush through. It demands to be savored, begs to be identified with. This is the kind of book you take to the sofa with a blanket, for a quiet afternoonâ€™s worth of a-muse-ment.