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Writers explore gay male desire in new anthology

I Like It Like That launches in Montreal on Sep 28

Skip the cookie-cutter, generic porn imagery. When I Like It Like That: True Stories of Gay Male Desire launches in Montreal on Mon, Sep 28, listeners will get an earful of compelling, intimate details not often found in mainstream erotica. Hot but smart, passionate yet reflective, the collection, published this fall by Arsenal Pulp Press, presents work by both new and seasoned writers, delving deep into their erotic memories to tell true stories of sex and desire. The launch features readings and an artist’s talk by local contributors Daniel Allen Cox, Christopher DiRaddo and Mark Ambrose Harris, as well as Ottawa’s Nathan Burgoine.

“I’ll lose cool points here,” says writer and bookstore manager Burgoine, “but I was embarrassed at first when I started writing this. I’m a storyteller at heart, but this felt a little more blush-worthy,” he says of his story about his first sexual encounter with a young man.

Not all the stories focus on a physical encounter. DiRaddio’s story is more about emotional desire, “about speaking up for what it is you want,” he says. “Wanting so much to talk to someone you are attracted to, but not being able to.”

Harris says that writing his story, which is about his limited access to images of man-on-man action as a young queer, “was a very revelatory process. The more I wrote about scrambled porn, the more I remembered about my experiences. In some ways, I felt like I was tapping into body memories, remembering feelings and senses, rather than actual events. So I tried to write from that place, that wild-eyed excitement of a young queer seeing gay porn for the first time.”

The book aims to showcase diverse manifestations of male desire, while exploring queer male culture. And what culture is that, exactly?

“It’s one that is different, strange, exciting, and puzzling,” DiRaddio says, admitting, “I don’t think I understand it at all. But I think that’s part of the job. It’s in our nature to ask questions and explore our condition.”

Burgoine has another take. “Here in Canada,” he says, “I would say the queer male condition is one of change. In my life, I’ve seen such amazing strides — gay marriage, for one — and seeing a new generation of queers come forward without the same overwhelming ignorance and self-doubt I saw in my own youth is fantastic. It isn’t gone, I’m not that blind, but that I’m only speaking of twenty years of change astounds me.”

Harris sees change as well. “To be honest, I’ve never really felt like I play the ‘male’ part all that well. I work in a book store, and every once and a while a parent will tell their child to ‘ask the man,’ where book XYZ is. And every time, I feel a pinch of surprise when someone refers to me as being a ‘man.’ Though I certainly fail at getting into the ‘straight male’ category, I often feel like I don’t pass the ‘gay male’ test either. Which is why I suppose I like the term queer so much. It feels like it doesn’t have a resting place, like it’s always moving and changing, and that’s ok.”

“I read the book cover to cover,” Burgoine adds, “and came away from it with a greater range of perspectives on gay desire, and what that has meant through a fairly rich range of culture, generation, and experience.”

As for what he hopes readers take away from his story, Burgoine says, “I think that readers should learn that you should always pay attention in French class, as it might score you a really hot guy.”

The Montreal launch of I Like It Like That: True Stories of Gay Male Desire, edited by Richard Labonté and Lawrence Schimel, takes place on Mon, Sep 28 at 7pm at Casa del Popolo, 4873 St Laurent.