Arts & Entertainment
1 min

Bill Brown offers up unflinching portraits of sexuality

The dark heart of gay Ottawa

The ten stories in Bill Brown’s book, When Jupiter’s Aligned with Mars, take the reader on a chaotic and often frightening journey into the world of interpersonal relationships.

Brown has no qualms about throwing readers into a world that, for some, is out of their comfort zone. Each story stands alone but the common theme is the complexity of human interaction. Brown writes about human relationships from a perspective where sex plays an integral part in each character’s life. 

In Snap, Crackle, Pop, Mandy’s reaction to her first experience with an erect penis pressing against her is recognizable to many women. Her amazement at three teenage boys locked in a sexual embrace touches the erotic vein in all of us. And elsewhere, the teenage denial of homosexuality resonates, especially for those of us who have experienced the same.

In Rachet and Bear, Brown forces the reader into a small bathroom cubicle with truckers. The stench of cum and fear fills the bathroom stalls. The story is mesmerizing; it reeks of sex, power and abuse — but also compassion. It leaves the reader tuned into of the erotic power of violence and sex.

While power is a common thread in Brown’s work, its intensity and purpose changes with each character. In stories like Green Liquid Soap, it becomes intimately entwined with the emotional life of the characters.

As a storyteller, Brown alternates between the first and third person. He plays a delicate game: never fully revealing the inner workings of his subjects yet providing enough detail to make their actions credible. While some of Brown’s characters will elicit compassion, others will make the reader squirm. Everyone is flawed and all of their experiences are too real to be ignored.

Brown is a powerful and eloquent writer. He chooses words that fit snugly in the characters lives. His sentences come rapidly and are packed with hidden punches and obvious intent — he makes no apologies and he is candid in his delivery of very real situations.

Brown writes for impact. Readers may be able to put When Jupiter’s Aligned with Mars down but they will not be able to shake off its effects. It is a book well worth reading.