A review by Kit Moss
New Lives, by Anel Viz
Silver Publishing, August 2012
ISBN: 9781614955597 (e-book) – $5.99
ISBN: 9781614957621 (print – release date TBA)
One thing you can count on with Anel Viz is that he will stretch definitions in any of his works, and “New Lives” is no exception. Is it short stories or a novel? Yes. Is it whimsical or a dark exploration of gay life? Yes. Is it erotica or literary fiction? Yes. In short, Viz will present the reader as well as the literary critic with expanding his or her understanding of the genres.
“New Lives” begins and ends with the story of Otis, a young man who comes from a tiny town in northern Nevada called “Paydirt”. We at first learn about his childhood and his growing awareness of sexuality, initiated by an older man, through to his decision at 26 to go to LA and become a gay porn star. This is the first “new life” we encounter. Next we meet Randy, a trucker with an altruistic concern for young gay drifters, whose principles about not getting involved sexually with them are broken by Jared, a hitchhiker. Randy knows Jared needs a stable life, and though he could provide it in his unofficial safe house in Cleveland, his relationship with Jared makes that impossible. A chance encounter with a ranch hand appears, at least on the surface, a solution to the problem. Jared gets a “new life”. The scene shifts radically to Lawrence, an erotic art collector, who meets an appraiser of the same with whom he shares not only an interest but attraction. A burglar provides the crisis that forces Lawrence into his own “new life”. Through more connected stories we wind up back at Otis, now a successful gay porn star alternately known as Pierce Rodman and Rodman Pierce. Yes, there is a connection between each and every one of these stories, a sort of love story of a unique and unusual kind.
How readers will interpret this book is as individual as the readers themselves. Some will find Otis’s isolation and lack of belonging along with the violence Jared has known in his young life, coupled with the predatory or simply disgusting characters of Joe and Skeeter, to be quite dark and depressing. This reader, however, found more of a theme of second chances, of hopefulness, kindness and even whimsy. Otis dreams big. Jared’s survival instinct steers him to find kindly protectors. Lawrence is able to let go of his rather monastic life to find love. There are characters who embrace the best in others and one whose patience and optimism brings him to his deepest desire, figuratively and literally.
It seems rather redundant to point to Viz’s writing style with anyone who is familiar with it. He is far more than a competent writer, and the more you read his work the more you recognize the wry, even ironic smile lurking behind the professionalism. It is a kind if somewhat amused or even skeptical view of people who struggle through their lives. You see this in his portrayal of characters whose motivations are as pure as they are self serving. Jared for example is an opportunist, attaching himself to the strongest person he can find at the moment but also able to give of himself what the other needs from him. Otis’s innocence and self-assurance brands him as a rube, but it also makes his fortune and that of those who work with him. There is charm within Viz’s characters’ personal quirks.
Though as mentioned above some may find this story — or these stories — leaves an acrid taste in their mouths, this reader laughed aloud at many clever observations and lines. Perhaps if anything this reader’s experience reveals the inexactness and unreliability of reviewing in general. Not only is critical skill not universal, neither is taste or insight. We encourage all to take a look at this challenging book to discover something about themselves as intellects and also human beings.
Buy it here
Nan Hawthorne is a novelist specializing in GLBTQ historical fiction. Her reviews appear not only in Wilde Oats but on the GLBT Bookshelf and Historical Novel Society’s website and elsewhere. Her skills as a music broadcaster, artist and web site content developer find their outlet in a variety of projects and sites. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.