Dale Chase’s short-story collection delivers messy queer sex, predominantly between gay men and roused phantoms. If the Spirit Moves You is fun and features prodigious men often blessed with great endurance. Unfortunately, the book suffers from repeated themes, musings about the afterlife and a wonky vocabulary.
Were these stand-alone stories, such faults would go unnoticed. However, almost all of the eight pieces fall prey to ghosts declaring their nether regions “viable” ad nauseam and the departed pondering how they can affect the living. Can they touch them, or stay in corporeal form all day? Characters seeking a good time are typically — and understandably — obsessed with spectral bodily fluids. More precisely, can a red-blooded queer man feel the residue after his phantom boy-toy has ravaged him?
In Chase’s universe, sex is possible even with invisible supernatural lovers, creating some neck-contorting conundrums. In the crackling story “Stacks,” the ghost of a failed writer covets a handsome (alive) young writer. But, instead of dispensing advice from the afterlife, he offers the younger man a quickie. Another story, “Homeowners’ Nightmare,” follows a couple haunting their old home, either dispatching new residents they don’t approve of or having dalliances with them in the shower or while they sleep. In each story, the ghosts are amusingly bawdy. Like most apparitions in this collection, they never discover why they’re still on Earth, which may stymie more curious readers.
“Jack-in-the-Mist” similarly features a deceased lover returning from a shipwreck. Robert Winnick seeks out his former lover, Ned, who must grapple with what Winnick has become, a pale-faced apparition the locals decry as inhuman. Can Ned reunite with Winnick, despite universal condemnation of their romance as against the laws of nature? “Jack-in-the-Mist” thus elevates erotica to an allegory for coming out with your relationship and embracing the other, or the otherworldly.
The drawback, of course, is that not all the tales in Spirit elevate gay erotica, although they certainly entertain, despite the sometimes tedious and often unanswered philosophical ramblings of phantoms. The ghosts all possess a similar nihilism to that of Anne Rice’s early vampires, in the sense that they know only as much about the afterlife as the living.
A sense of whimsy and sexual electricity pulses through the deceased, and often the living men, defying fidelity, an ode to the carnal act, a sort of “I Sing the Phantom Body Electric.” Often the bizarreness of Chase’s ideas is better than their development, though. “The Object of My Affection” stars a fainting couch as the centrepiece. The couch, undeniably the most unusual character of the lot, seduces a protagonist while his boyfriend is at work. Eventually, all the hero wants is to immolate himself in sexual gratification.
Although not all allegories, as gay erotica, the stories succeed with their macabre sexual entanglements. In short, you can visit them for the fleeting pleasure, but don’t expect your supernatural hookup to leave visible after-effects. In moderate doses these spirits, much like another brand of spirits, are quite fun. In excess, however, they can cause pangs.