Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

Paths through pages

Kindle or ink and paper, this spring’s books will take you places



Out in the Army, books, gay news, Washington Blade
Frog Music, books, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Frog Music’ (Image courtesy Little, Brown and Company)

Whether you’re looking for a fabulous read for a spring fling/getaway or you’re hoarding books for that long-anticipated summer vacation, there are lots of books to look for this spring and events you’ll want to attend.

Let’s start this trip with books.

It’s practically an Emma Donoghue signature: take one obscure historical event and wrap a “what if?” story around it — which is exactly what you get in “Frog Music,” due next month.

It’s 1876 and Blanche Beunon is nearly run over by a strange man on a penny farthing. When the man stops to make sure Blanche is OK, she learns that the man is actually a woman in men’s clothing. Jenny Bonnet knows who Blanche is; she’s seen Blanche dance and she knows that Blanche sleeps with men for money. Still, the two become friends — that is, until the night Jenny is murdered.

This imagined tale based on a real murder takes us on a trance-like journey from France to San Francisco.

Out in the Army, books, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Out in the Army’ (Image courtesy Biteback Publishing)

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t just something our military personnel know and have lived with. It happens in Great Britain, too, and in “Out in the Army: My Life as a Gay Soldier” by James Wharton (June), you’ll read about a boy who wanted adventure. To find it, he joined the Army and there, he became a man who struggled with disclosure: how to tell his loved ones and colleagues that he’s gay. This is one of those action-packed memoirs with pockets of truth and strength.

Moving on in this trip filled with books, you’ll want to read “Lost and Found in Johannesburg” by Mark Gevisser (April). It’s the story of apartheid, maps and how one led to an understanding of the other. You may find it fascinating that the author is a gay Jewish white born-and-raised South African married to a man of another race.

Then, landing back home, how about a trip to New York with “Nothing Like a Dame” by Eddie Shapiro, (February) a book of conversations with some of Broadway’s leading ladies. Peek in on Carol Channing, Chita Rivera, Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth, Bebe Neuwirth and others. It’s almost like being there.


Also just out is “Christ-Centered Consciousness” in which author John Ryan writes a meditation on how he found peace with being a gay believer.

Out novelist (and Washingtonian) Louis Bayard’s new book “Roosevelt’s Beast” tells of an action adventure involving Theodore Roosevelt and his son, Kermit, through Brazil’s Rio da Duvida circa 1914. It’s out March 18. Look for an interview with Bayard in next week’s Blade.

And then there are trips you can physically take this spring.

If you’re a book lover, make plans to attend BOOKS ALIVE! 2014 on March 29 at the Bethesda Marriott on Pook’s Hill. This event offers a chance to meet big-name authors and journalists, but aspiring authors will also have a chance to meet with literary agents at pitch sessions. Doors are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., early registration is $220 or $240 at the door, which includes morning coffee and a box lunch. For more information, call Deborah Gelin at 202-223-6161.

And before the spring’s over, be sure to attend the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 17. Meet authors, find your next best read and get it signed.

Oh, and just in case you missed it in January, fans of legendary gay author Armistead Maupin will definitely want to check out his latest — “The Days of Anna Madrigal,” the end of the 40-year, nine-volume “Tales of the City” series that’s let us all get a surprisingly resonating taste of San Francisco’s LGBT community over the decades.



Gender expression is fluid in captivating ‘Paul & Trisha’ doc

Exploring what’s possible when you allow yourself to become who you truly are



Paul Whitehead and Trisha van Cleef in ‘Paul & Trisha.’ (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Given the polarizing controversies surrounding the subject of gender in today’s world, it might feel as if challenges to the conventional “norms” around the way we understand it were a product of the modern age. They’re not, of course; artists have been exploring the boundaries of gender  – both its presentation and its perception – since long before the language we use to discuss the topic today was ever developed. After all, gender is a universal experience, and isn’t art, ultimately, meant to be about the sharing of universal experiences in a way that bypasses, or at least overcomes, the limitations of language?

We know, we know; debate about the “purpose” of art is almost as fraught with controversy as the one about gender identity, but it’s still undeniable that art has always been the place to find ideas that contradict or question conventional ways of viewing the world. Thanks to the heavy expectation of conformity to society’s comfortable “norms”  in our relationship with gender, it’s inevitable that artists might chafe at such restrictive assumptions enough to challenge them – and few have committed quite so completely to doing so as Paul Whitehead, the focus of “Paul & Trisha: The Art of Fluidity,” a new documentary from filmmaker Fia Perera which enjoyed a successful run on the festival circuit and is now available for pre-order on iTunes and Apple TV ahead of a VOD/streaming release on July 9.

Whitehead, who first gained attention and found success in London’s fertile art-and-fashion scene of the mid 1960s, might not be a household name, but he has worked closely with many people who are. A job as an in-house illustrator at a record company led to his hiring as the first art director for the UK Magazine Time Out, which opened the door for even more prominent commissions for album art – including a series of iconic covers for Genesis, Van der Graaf, Generator, and Peter Hammill, which helped to shape the visual aesthetic of the Progressive Rock movement with his bold, surrealistic pop aesthetic, and worked as an art director for John Lennon for a time. Moving to Los Angeles in 1973, his continuing work in the music industry expanded to encompass a wide variety of commercial art and landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records as painter of the largest indoor mural in the world inside the now-demolished Vegas World Casino in Las Vegas. As a founder of the Eyes and Ears Foundation, he conceived and organized the “Artboard Festival”, which turned a stretch of L.A. roadway into a “drive-through art gallery” with donated billboards painted by participating artists.

Perera’s film catches up with Whitehead in the relatively low-profile city of Ventura, Calif., where the globally renowned visual artist now operates from a combination studio and gallery in a strip mall storefront. Still prolific and producing striking artworks (many of them influenced and inspired by his self-described “closet Hinduism”), the film reveals a man who, far from coming off as elderly, seems ageless; possessed of a rare mix of spiritual insight and worldly wisdom, he is left by the filmmaker to tell his own story by himself, and he embraces the task with the effortless verve of a seasoned raconteur. For roughly the first half of the film, we are treated to the chronicle of his early career provided straight from the source, without “talking head” commentaries or interview footage culled from entertainment news archives, and laced with anecdotes and observations that reveal a clear-headedness, along with a remarkable sense of self-knowledge and an inspiring freedom of thought, that makes his observations feel like deep wisdom. He’s a fascinating host, taking us on a tour of the life he has lived so far, and it’s like spending time with the most interesting guy at the party.

It’s when “Art of Fluidity” introduces its second subject, however, that things really begin to get interesting, because as Whitehead was pushing boundaries as an in-demand artist, he was also pushing boundaries in other parts of his life. Experimenting with his gender identity through cross-dressing since the 1960s, what began tentatively as an “in the bedroom” fetish became a long-term process of self-discovery that resulted in the emergence of “converged artist” Trisha Van Cleef, a feminine manifestation of Whitehead’s persona who has been creating art of her own since 2004. Neither dissociated “alter ego” nor performative character, Trisha might be a conceptual construct, in some ways, but she’s also a very authentic expression of personal gender perception who exists just as definitively as Paul Whitehead. They are, like the seeming opposites of yin and yang, two sides of the same fundamental and united nature.

Naturally, the bold process of redefining one’s personal relationship with gender is not an easy one, and part of what makes Trisha so compelling is the challenge she represents to Paul – and, by extension, the audience – by co-existing with him in his own life. She pushes him to step beyond his fears – such as his concerns about the hostile attitude of the shopkeeper next door and the danger of bullying, brutality, and worse when Trisha goes out in public – and embrace both sides of his nature instead of trying to force himself to be one or the other alone. And while the film doesn’t shy away from addressing the brutal reality about the risk of violence against non-gender-conforming people in our culture, it also highlights what is possible when you choose to allow yourself to become who you truly are.

As a sort of disclaimer, it must be acknowledged that some viewers may take issue with some of Whitehead’s personal beliefs about gender identity, which might not quite mesh with prevailing ideas and could be perceived as “problematic” within certain perspectives. Similarly, the depth of his engagement with Hindu cosmology might be off-putting to audiences geared toward skepticism around any spiritually inspired outlook on the world. However, it’s clear within the larger context of the documentary that both Paul and Trisha speak only for themselves, expressing a personal truth that does not nullify or deny the personal truth of anyone else. Further, one of the facets that gives “Art of Fluidity” its mesmerizing, upbeat charm is the sense that we are watching an ongoing evolution, a work in progress in which an artist is still discovering the way forward. There’s no insinuation that any aspect of Paul or Trisha’s shared life is definitive, rather we come to see them as a united pair, in constant flux, moving through the world together, as one, and becoming more like themselves every step of the way.

That’s something toward which we all would be wise to aspire; the acceptance of all of our parts and the understanding that we are always in the process of becoming something else would certainly go a long way toward making a happier, friendlier world.

Continue Reading


PHOTOS: Pride Rewind

Official Sapphic Queer Dance Party held at The Square



(Washington Blade photo by Emily Hanna)

The Capital Pride Alliance held its “Pride Rewind: Official Sapphic Queer Dance Party” at The Square (1850 K Street, N.W.) on Saturday, June 8.

(Washington Blade photos by Emily Hanna)

Continue Reading


PHOTOS: Pride on the Pier and Fireworks Show

Washington Blade holds annual event at The Wharf



2024 Pride on the Pier (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade and the Ladies of LURe held the Pride on the Pier and Fireworks Show at The Wharf on Saturday, June 8. The fireworks were presented by the Leonard-Litz LGBTQ Foundation.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key and Emily Hanna; Wildside Media photos used with permission; @marvimage photo used with permission)

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade