Chaos, confusion and contrition: ‘You’re Pretty Gay’

❉ Queer writer Drew Pisarra unveils a work that is both startling in its ambition and sparky in its prose.

This is no time to be neutral about gay literature. Everyone from Oscar Wilde to Jamie O’ Neill has offered their perspectives of a life misspent among heteronormativity. Queer literature has grown to include such titles as Vada Magazine and Gay Times, each opening up a window to the worlds of the LGBT contingent. And now there’s poet and monologist Drew Pisarra, unveiling a work that is both startling in its ambition and sparky in its prose.

You’re Pretty Gay, Pisarra’s most recent work, is being published by Chaffinch Press, an Irish publishing house that specialises in idiosyncratic, albeit incendiary, material. That the book should be published in Ireland is strangely fitting, not only because it tips its hat back to Dublin born raconteur Wilde, but also serves to congratulate the country that voted for Marriage Equality in 2015.

Straight from the title – You’re Pretty Gay – Pisarra means business, and the collection, rich as it is in nuance, conjures a world where chaos, confusion and contrition exists for the lead as they carry themselves through the shifting, changing landscapes. It’s too easy to compare the book to Dubliners (Pisarra, like Joyce, chooses to convey much of the drama as an internal dialogue), but the chapters, creations and arcs certainly come together as a form of emotional resolution, a la The Dead. And yet this isn’t ‘Portrait of The Artist As a Gay Man’, but rather a narrative technique from which Pisarra can unveil his unvarnished truth with the flairs, ferocities and flourishes needed to bring it to life.

Drew Pisarra. Photo: Steven Burton c/o Cafe Royal Cultural Foundation.

Broken up into a series of chapters, the story charges through the motions with a number of colourful headings. There’s Flashes of The Future, compiling a silhouette  of jokers and kings waiting for their Queen; there’s Holy Schtick, demonstrating the significance of clothes, as if thrown into epiphany; most tellingly, Shadow of Myself illustrates a child thrown out of their domicile for a life of uncertainty and trepidation. Pisarra writes with elegant, even beautiful, prose, positing this world as a place of transition, temptation and theatre. In every sentence, the words carry with them a weight that invites readers, regardless of their sexual or ethnic persuasion.

The structure feels pleasantly Joycean, but Pisarra writes with a directness that is often that bit closer to Irvine Welsh to Joyce. Sex, in all of its permutations, waltzes into the conversations,  as per this following exchange:

“He was pretty and stupid.
This I know. Because he ran away when I told him:
“Hey, you broke my cock.””

The language, coarse and challenging as it is, brings added pathos, just as the world that it builds feels like one that pivots somewhere the realities of the Edinburgh writer, and the life Pisarra views on a daily basis. Somewhere between these realities comes the familiar strains of Whitney Houston’s sombre I Will Always Love You, as the narrator salutes the vocal prowess of a singer taken far too soon. You and us both, kid!

❉ Drew Pisarra – ‘You’re Pretty Gay’ (Chaffinch Press) is out 25 June 2021 and currently available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Booktopia, and other distributors. Click here to pre-order from Chaffinch Press.

  A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Eoghan Lyng is the author of ‘U2: Every Album, Every Song’ which is out now and available from Sonicbond Publishing, RRP £14.99 (ISBN 1789520789). Follow him on TwitterVisit his homepage. 

Author images: © Steven Burton. Used with kind permission.

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